#IFA2017: Building Connections That Last

by Robert Cresanti, CFE
Each year, the IFA Annual Convention offers high-quality content to professionals in thefranchising community, as well as many intangible benefits such as networking and making deals — it’s a place where business gets done. One of the main reasons I’m looking forward to #IFA2017, which takes place Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Las Vegas right as this issue hits the streets, is the chance to build on the connections and relationships that I’ve made each year at the event. The people I met at my first IFA Convention are the ones I still rely on today, whether it’s franchisors, franchisees or suppliers, and this is a story I’ve heard from others who have worked in the franchising industry for 10 years or more.
To attendees at this year’s IFA Convention, welcome to Las Vegas! The connections you’ll establish here will help guide your business in 2017 and beyond. From timely courses on best practices in the fields of sales, marketing, operations and more, and the ever-popular business solution roundtables to a boot camp for those just starting out in franchising, as well as mentorship programs, ICFE special sessions and more — this year’s IFA Convention has something for everyone, including the opportunity to solidify business deals. There’s also top-flight speakers including acclaimed New York Times best-selling authors Tim Ferriss and Marcus Buckingham, and Anytime Fitness co-founders Dave Mortensen and Chuck Runyon, as well as interactive networking events such as Sunday night’s “The Buzz,” Tuesday night’s “The Bash,” the Prayer Breakfast, and receptions for international visitors and first-time attendees. This is all on top of programming from IFA’s Franchise Education and Research Foundation, which is hosting a Franchising Gives Back community event and the NextGen “Fran-Shark” competition, among other programs. Share your convention experiences using the hashtag #IFA2017 on IFA’s Facebook (facebook.com/IFA.DC),Twitter (@Franchising411) and Instagram (Instagram.com/franchising411) pages, and be sure to download the Convention mobile app, “IFA Connect.”
Franchising is a dynamic business model that provides opportunity throughout the United States and the world. The top priority for IFA in 2017 remains the business model’s existential threat — the National Labor Relations Board’s unworkable joint employer standard. The standard destroys the autonomy for franchisees to run their own businesses, essentially making them middle managers in a larger organization, and causing real damage to one of the primary tenets that attracts entrepreneurs to the underlying business model — the ability to be your own boss. A new Congress and a new leader in the White House represents the first opportunity in a long time to focus on a pro-growth platform. I’m convinced, as are many of IFA’s members, that a rising tide lifts all boats. A pro-growth platform will be incredibly beneficial to moving the business model forward. 
What can you do to help? Join IFA’s Franchise Action Network (FAN), and get involved. With more than 16,000 members and an advocacy captain in all 50 states, the Franchise Action Network is our grassroots effort to impact policymakers at the local, state and federal levels. While there’s no certainty with a new administration, there’s at least hope that some of the more burdensome regulations for small business will be overturned, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime rule changes and joint employer. I urge you to make plans to attend the 2017 Franchise Action Network Annual Meeting, IFA’s Washington, D.C. fly-in, Sept. 11-13. Meeting face-to-face with your members of Congress and staff is truly one of the most impactful ways to protect your business and ensure continued success.
One of the primary themes for IFA in 2017 is educating the public about the franchise business model. IFA launched the @OurFranchise campaign last summer to help change a fundamental lack of understanding that exists about the model. The associated @OurFranchise tour visited multiple areas during 2016, including Chicago, Denver, Richmond, Virginia Beach, New Orleans, Austin, Dallas and Atlanta. We’ll continue to visit cities and towns throughout 2017. The campaign’s website, www.atourfranchise.org, is a resource to educate companies, both franchisees and franchisors, about how to train employees on what the franchise business model is all about. It goes further. The website offers a wide range of resources to help you train franchise employees, tell your story to the media, better explain the franchise business model and quantify the impact of franchising on your local area, as well as state-wide and nationally. @OurFranchise is a way for the average person to talk about how the business model exists in reality — not in the way that someone else might be painting it. Join the effort by telling your story through both FAN and @OurFranchise. The franchising community would love to hear your voice!