Structured, collaborative conferences and conventions have the potential to ignite the spark a franchise system needs to get to the next level.
There’s arguably nothing more important in the franchise space than continued education. As consumers, technology and the economy change, so too must brands—and their franchisees, which is precisely why every franchise brand should have an established annual event for its entire franchise system.
All owners and their spouse or management should attend the annual franchise conference.
In order for a franchise system to grow in step with a brand, information sharing and relationship building is paramount, regardless of what stage a franchise brand is at in its growth trajectory. One of the most tried-and-true means of establishing a forum for this relationship building is through an annual conference or convention. While these events are not new, what your franchisees get out of them certainly can be.
Why Annual Events Matter
Annual events are one of the most efficient and effective means of imparting the very education capable of propelling a brand forward, so long as time spent with the franchise system is structured optimally. They show your franchisees that you value their opinions and that your relationship is indeed a partnership, and endeavor that boosts their confidence and bolsters unit-level economics and validation, in turn.
If you’re an emerging brand with only a handful of franchisees, don’t overthink it—an event can be as simple as setting up a dinner where everyone can get together and share ideas. The most important thing is that you’re getting the opportunity to meet with your franchisees to build relationships and convey best practices that aid in your collective early-stage growth.
Contrastingly, if you’re a well-established franchise brand, the opportunity to get senior leadership together with most of your franchisees is minimal throughout the year. As such, establishing annual events, such as conferences or conventions are an excellent means of connecting with franchisees. They can hear directly from brand leadership where the brand is going, who is manning the ship, what the vision is and what the plan is to get there.
Getting everyone in the same place and on the same page holds particular value and benefit to a brand. Being all together has the potential to make an impact on a system much more than an operations team member visiting a franchisee on location. Annual conferences and training events get franchisees excited to build their business, and the enthusiasm generated reliably leads to an increase in same-store sales system wide in the immediate aftermath.
Leadership should provide vision, performance metrics, brand updates and new information to engage … [+]
Structuring Annual Events to Achieve Maximum Benefits
So, how can franchisors plan annual events so their franchisees capture the information necessary to push the brand as a whole forward? It’s less about tropical destinations and expensive dinners then it is about round table discussions and learning sessions, outside speakers and leadership presentations to get a brand’s entire system moving in the right direction.
When it comes to conferences and conventions specifically, round table discussions hold particular importance, both in breaking up wall-to-wall days of speakers and in addressing pertinent topics with peers in small group settings to talk through challenges and share best practices. While certain agenda items should certainly be brand-specific, there’s many a round table discussion topic that is applicable to nearly every franchise brand, regardless of size, investment level or industry sector. Some of these evergreen subjects include grassroots marketing tactics; improving same-store sales; and how to better operations, to name a few. Round table discussions also tend to pay dividends on the idea generation front that stand to benefit the entire system, too.
Break out sessions and round tables help franchise owners brainstorm, talk with suppliers and learn … [+]
Franchisees also stand to benefit from the opportunity to hear from industry experts outside of the walls of their given brand during annual events, as well. These speakers can (and should) span a slew of disciplines, prioritized by where franchisees could use the most guidance in a given year, whether that be in understanding the value of PR, bettering local marketing, or the importance of customer service, among others. These speakers provide a natural continuation of and reinforce the education franchisors are likely already implementing, just from a different voice, which can oftentimes make all the difference.
The final, crucial element of any annual event is a ‘State of the Company’ address from a key member of the leadership team. Depending on the size of a franchisor, this may come from a brand’s founder, CEO or president, or it may come from a key member of the management team, depending on the subject of the address. For instance, a VP of Operations could present on emerging sales trends or new product rollouts in the year ahead; a brand’s director of marketing could show an inside look on the strategy behind any new initiatives being implemented going forward; or the sales and development team could present on goals the company has achieved and where it’s heading, illuminating brand development as a whole.
Regardless of which route a franchisor chooses to take, all must exemplify where the brand has been, how it got there, and where the vision plans to take it, leveraging leadership as motivation every step of the way.
Ultimately, annual events are what you make them, and the franchisors that treat such gatherings as vital connection points with franchisees are in the best position to reap the benefits found in future growth.