IFA Convention Helps Office Pride Area Developers See Franchising’s Big Picture
Annual event changes scope and understanding for franchise system’s leaders.
By Todd Hopkins
Each year while attending the International Franchise Association’s annual convention, listening to the speakers, sitting in on the round tables and just taking time away from the daily business to focus on the future of the franchise brand we are building, I find myself wishing our area developers were with me hearing what I was hearing. Normally, I attend with one other member from my team.
Over the years, our area developers have often got so caught up in growing and leading their own franchises, that they didn’t have much time leftover to invest in the area development. It has been hard for them to mentally step back from a successful franchise that is providing a great income, to focus on an even bigger future. That all changed when they joined me for the 2015 IFA convention in February.
I had presented the idea of piggybacking one of our area developer meetings with the convention a year earlier. Everyone agreed that we should try this for 2015. The IFA staff was gracious enough to help us secure a meeting room in the MGM Conference Center.
All was set. As we got closer, we sent the ADs’ registration and hotel information. They would be paying their own way. My goal was for them to invest in this experience, get there and focus on achieving a return on investment. As much as we have a great, loving culture, when it became time to book the flights, I started to get a little pushback from some of our best people. “Are you sure this is worth the time and money?” was a prevailing theme. In the back of my mind, I was hoping this would work as well as I knew it could.
We showed up in force with four members of our corporate staff and eight area developers. We established a plan to divide and learn as much as we could and to gather as a group afterwards and share. On the first morning, I started a group text and quickly shared which session I was attending and later a benefit I received from it. Then others began to share. The focus had already shifted from time and expenses to education, benefit and the future. It was working.
There were almost 4,000 people attending and our team could easily go the full day without seeing each other. The group text messaging was the key. It created huge positive momentum. As the IFA wrapped up and we moved into the Office Pride meeting, I realized this whole experience had been a huge intellectual capital boost for our leaders and our brand. Southern Indiana developer Fred Paris said, “It was very exciting to meet and gather information from so many professional franchisors. This was one of the best uses of my time all year.”
Area developers started seeing the big picture more and it changed their scope and understanding of franchising in a very positive way. Even the two of us on staff, who normally attend, learned more because we were able to discuss and share what we were learning immediately with others from our brand.
Bottom line, it worked. The payoff has been huge. I can see a commitment to exponential growth that was getting derailed before by franchise operations. And the best part, at our area developer continuing education meeting in May, everyone voted to go to the 2016 IFA convention in San Antonio and to extend our private meeting afterwards by a day to allow more time to fine tune business plans and create action items from the information learned. Here are just two of the very positive comments I received from key Office Pride developers who attended:
“I attended the IFA for the first time this year and found it to be a very worthwhile experience. It greatly enhanced my perspective on the franchising world and candidly, a reinforcement of the Office Pride brand and how well we are handling our business. The speakers were first class (and then some); the roundtables were amazing as we were able to dive into “best practices” discussions with many highly successful franchise leaders.” – David Stein, Tyler, Texas
“I went to the IFA with about five challenges I was facing in order to reach my goals and improve my franchise sales. I was hoping to get ideas and suggestions to overcome some of the obstacles, and was I greatly surprised. Not only did I learn proven methods to overcome my original challenges, but I walked away with so many contacts with experts in the industry that I have been on fire ever since. The IFA was my first major step to move my business to the next level. Needless to say I am very excited about IFA 2016.” – Troy Hopkins, Huntsville, Ala. and Nashville, Tenn.
I’m grateful to IFA for all the hard work that goes into putting on a successful convention and for the overall positive energy it generates for franchising. It certainly is no longer about just the franchisor, but the area developers, area representatives, franchisees, vendors and all who contribute. It is about franchising and ultimately how to make the world a better place, something we all want to be a part of.
Todd Hopkins is founder, president and CEO, Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services, Palm Harbor, Fla. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.