NFC16: Alive and buzzing


Imagine the scene – over 500 delegates walk through the open glass doors with a smile, excitement and anticipation evident on their faces. The clink of coffee cups against plates hover in the background as handshakes are made and friendly laughter bubbles from a far off corner, the sound of soft shuffling feet moving past. Not far, exhibitors in the hall continue to set up their stalls and talk to their team, getting ready for the busy day ahead; meeting people from all over Australia and creating new networks for the future ahead.


The inaugural National Franchise Convention (NFC16) of 2016 was attended by over 500 delegates and held in Canberra this October with an astounding program for delegates, concluding with the MYOB FCA Excellence in Franchising Awards Gala which recognised exceptional performers within the franchise sector.

Opening the NFC was Bruce Billson, Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia.

“I’m incredibly optimistic about the sector,” Mr Billson said. “Never has there been a more significant opportunity for us; even with the challenges of the economy, people still have that sparkle in their eyes and fire in their belly for being in their own business.

“We know that most people contemplating entering into a franchise – a quarter of them are husband and wife – and they’re looking at us to be as optimistic and ambitious as they are, and we are. But we need to keep sharing the story of why the franchise model is a great platform for enterprise success.”

The joint employer liability was an important topic and Natalie James from Fair Work Ombudsman provided further insight into the concept and what it means to Australia. The FCA has taken a dedicated proactive approach to informing and supporting participants in the sector during the NFC16 and Mr Billson acknowledged that the issue is one that affects and concerns the encompassing community.

“It’s all about creating a more supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, where enterprising men and women know the ground on which they stand and can make good decisions,” he said.

Aptly themed ‘Innovation meets Opportunity’ the program included inspiring keynote speakers such as Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia and The Naked CEO, Megan Quinn, co-founder of luxury goods online fashion retailer Net-A-Porter, Dr Sam Prince, Founder of Zambrero and humanitarian aid worker, Australian of the Year 2016, Lieutenant General David Morrison as well as Small Business Minister, Michael McCormack to open the keynote sessions.

Peta Credlin, Sky News Contributor and former Chief of Staff also attended and spoke to the audience receiving a great reception. Growing up in a family that owned smallbusinesses themselves, Peta knew first-hand the challenges and rewards of families that greatly supports the local economy and believes conferences like the National Franchise Convention are so important because it fosters a community where knowledge is transferred and experiences are shared.

“I think conferences like these are really important for people in franchises because you need all the support you can get to get your businesses off the ground and make it a success, and you really have to come here to build a network and participate. Ask a stupid question, because there is no stupid question, there is someone in the room that’s gone through the same experience that you have. Come away from it with a network and a support system when you’re back in your own business.” Ms Credlin said.

Catherine Monson, CEO of Fastsigns USA was delighted to be in Canberra to present to the delegation and was an enthusiastic supporter of the conference.

“I’m really thrilled to be here at the FCA National Franchise Convention and here’s why – it’s an opportunity for me to learn and for me to get better, the advice I give to my friends and certainly to my team members is to be at every single session that you can, take great notes, meet as many people as you can, collect their business cards… and the week you get back, reach out to the people that you’ve met,” she said.

Ms Monson is no stranger to conventions. Speaking to thousands of people each year and inspiring them all, she speaks with the grace of a professional and the tenacity of a successful CEO at the top of her game that turned the business around when the economy was at its lowest, which is why she thinks innovation is such a topical issue.

“We live in a time that’s so exciting, because technology is changing so quickly that we have opportunity to do amazing things for our brand and to serve customers better, so technology is definitely a driver…we take a look at the competitive landscape and make sure that we position ourselves way ahead of that.

“When I think of the challenges within franchising to get adoption of innovation its always getting your franchisees to do that – and here’s a great example with Fastsigns. We’ve been working very hard to get our franchisees in digital signage… it looks like a big LCD board, and there’s been a lot pushback. It’s an important innovation because we’re seeing huge growth in digital signage and we’ve had to really work, push, prod, encourage, even incentivise them with rebates to take that scary step to digital signage, so that can be the challenge…to get people to adopt those new innovations, but it can be done.”

The Franchise Council of Australia also honoured franchising’s best and brightest at the MYOB FCA Excellence in Franchising Awards Gala Dinner with Poolwerx taking out two major awards, Established Franchisor of the Year and Stephen Hall winning Field Manager of the Year.

Founded 24 years ago, the business has evolved from a man-in-a-van operation into a model that supports big businesses with over 106 partners operating close to 100 stores and 300+ vans.

“I remember when I was nine years old and I knew in my heart that I wanted to succeed. I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted success.” Mr O’Brien said.

As innovation was the theme of the National Franchise Convention, which the awards were a part of, Mr O’Brien had some key messages for what it takes to be ahead of the crowd.

“Having a culture of innovation is not enough, you also need a structure and strategy for innovation, having rewards for innovation, having people and the environment in which it’s pretty cool to make mistakes and to push the boundaries. Sometimes mistakes are good.

“If you don’t take your franchisees, or their staff or your staff along for the ride, the innovation dies on the vine. So you must really have an inclusive process on bringing people into innovation, so that they feel a part of it. Communicate it well and train them well,” he said.

Although Poolwerx took home two outstanding awards, Mr O’Brien stayed humble and acknowledged his team.

“Taking out the Established Franchisor of the Year is certainly a nice pat on the back for a job well done but I don’t claim the win as my own because none of the success we have generated would be possible without the sum of all our Poolwerx family,” Mr O’Brien exclaimed.

It seems like their strategy is on track, as Poolwerx continues to pave their way into international waters, with a recent expansion into the USA 18 months ago in five states. The Franchise Council of Australia welcomed a new inductee for 2016 into the Franchise Hall of Fame, Murray  d’Almeida, who formed the Retail Food Group and is Chairman of BPS Technology Limited.

Murray d’Almeida has been involved directly and indirectly in the Australian Franchise sector since 1978 and became a member of the FANZ in its second year of inception. Speaking to the delegates, Mr d’Almeida said that being recognised as an integral contributor to the sector was an honour.

“Being inducted into the Franchise Hall of Fame is particularly important – because it’s recognition from your peers. Fundamentally in any sector, whatever you do, peer recognition is more important than any other recognition.

“I started franchising by accident when I was 15. I was in fact, franchising and I didn’t know it. I had a chain of stores, and thought I would get greater productivity by involving the stores managers in the profitability. So that developed into a system. Someone said to me, “How long have I been in franchising?” and I said, “Is that what I’m in?” It was a surprise to me.”

Mr d’Almeida had the following tips for young entrepreneurs and those new the sector.

“Work hard. Use your ears and mouth in the same proportion. Find a mentor, listen to them and never stop learning. If you keep listening to them, you will be a success.”

The NFC also showcased NextGen in Franchising, a great initiative to support young entrepreneurs with a business model ripe for franchising. The Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in attracting and developing future generations of franchising entrepreneurs.

The NextGen in Franchising Global Competition provides the crucial link between future and established generations of entrepreneurs. It incentivises young people to take an active interest in the FCA business community and is a major FCA investment in creating an innovative environment for their professional development and growth.

NextGen in Franchising is the beginning of an evolving dialogue with young entrepreneurs to understand their overall professional development needs and their business goals to empower them as business leaders for the future.

Three finalists from Australia competed to win a chance to represent Australia in 2017 in Las Vegas, at the NextGen competition at the International Franchise Convention and be mentored by one of the FCA’s Hall of Fame members. Finalists included Roll’d and Real Property Photography, with Salts of the Earth winning the coveted prize at the MYOB FCA Gala Awards night.

A total of 14 Excellence in Franchising Awards were presented on the evening, which was proudly sponsored by MYOB. Outstanding individuals and businesses were recognised across a range of functions including franchisees, suppliers, support staff and franchise systems.