Conferences are about bonding, engagement, empowerment, learning and strategic planning.
In franchising, what we have seen far too often is franchisors putting together conference programs that suit only their own needs and objectives.
What about the franchisees? What can you get out of a conference?
YOU HAVE A LOT TO GAIN
What franchisors need to do is start practicing what they preach when they say “a franchise system is only as healthy as the franchisees who represent the brand”.
As a franchisee there is a lot to gain from attending your franchise conference. Importantly, the conference can kick start the next 12 months in an exciting fashion.
The most important aspect of a conference for a franchisee is to highlight that they are not in business alone. A conference reiterates to them that they are part of a franchise system with like-minded individuals working to make a success of their brand.
You are never alone as a franchisee. Whether you are doing very well in business, finding things tough or even experiencing a small issue, you will find that your fellow franchisees are probably going through or have gone through the same experiences – they are all there to help. This provides you with a sense of empowerment, that you have the backing of a franchise system and all of your fellow franchisees.
Conferences give you the opportunity to listen to and be inspired by some experienced professionals. If you can take one or two positives or learning outcomes to take back to your business following the conference, this is a wonderful outcome.
LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER
Some experienced franchisees may think that they have heard it all before. These franchisees need to stop, accept the fact that you never stop learning and more importantly, give back to the brand and share those experiences with the new franchisees.
New franchisees hang on every word of the more experienced in the system who have been in the system for a while. The best thing about attending a conference is being able to listen to your peers discuss their successes. They might be champions in local area marketing, IT and systems, back office management, staff recruiting and incentives or training – there is always something you can learn from one another.
Obviously, a franchisor is going to want to achieve certain outcomes from the conference; however, every one of those outcomes should be focussed towards bonding, engagement, empowerment, learning and strategic planning for franchisees.
There are many roads franchisors need to take to ascertain the needs of franchisees at a conference.
From our perspective, ensuring franchisee representatives are involved in the initial planning and brainstroming is a fantastic way to start. The obvious choice here is the members of the FAC (Franchise Advisory Council).
We recently managed a conference for Quest Serviced Apartments and began the planning process with a workshop at its FAC Meeting. Representatives from every state were able to have input into the conference program, sharing information in terms of what had worked and not worked in the past and what the priorities were in regards to delivering a meaningful conference in 2012.
Two representatives from the FAC then volunteered to be part of the 2012 Conference Committee, ensuring that FAC discussions maintained momentum throughout the conference planning process. The result of this consultative approach was the best conference ever in the group’s history.
The franchisor was able to deliver a conference that met the expectations of its franchisees, while ensuring they achieved the outcomes they were looking for.
Franchisees were able to head back to their properties engaged, inspired and invigorated. They bonded with fellow franchisees, suppliers and head office staff, took away some great learning outcomes and had plenty to start planning for to ensure a successful next 12 months.
As a franchisee, it is important that you communicate with your franchisor the key outcomes you want to achieve from your upcoming conference. Providing honest, constructive feedback from a conference should pave the way for you in the planning for next conference.
Some key aspects are:
• Relevance, relevance, relevance. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. For example, we all know that the economy is on everybody’s mind right now but too many economists at one conference can end up sounding all the same by the end of it! It is imperative that we go back to the basics and not try and over complicate things. How are we going to achieve bonding, engagement, empowerment, learning and strategic planning outcomes for my fellow franchisees?
• Don’t be afraid to nominate the best of the best of your fellow franchisees and encourage them to drive some key outcomes. As franchisees, we know that we will respond much better to our peers, telling them the rights and the wrongs, than we will a head office person.
A conference is more than a group of franchisees and franchisor staff getting together to celebrate another year in business. Providing the franchisor gets it right, the outcome can be a win-win situation for both franchisor and franchisee.
Amanda Callaway is the Events and Conference Manager at FC Business Solutions. Amanda is a former Events Manager at the Franchise Council of Australia. A member of the Professional Conference Organisers Association, Amanda’s career has seen her responsible
for managing the logistics of more than 170 FCA events throughout Australia annually. She was also responsible for managing international delegations to the IFA Convention and FANZ Convention, whilst managing four conferences for FC Business Solutions in 2012.
FC Business Solutions is the only integrated franchise consultancy focussing on executive recruitment, franchise health checks, public relations & marketing, franchise system development, franchise training, advisory & mentoring, franchise expansion & growth and conference & event management, for the franchise community and other industry sectors.