Together is Better: Top Takeaways from the IFA 2020 Convention
Confession time: as a marketer, I’m wary of conference themes that sound overly lofty or jargony—they tend to feel disconnected to the actual conference content or audience.
At last week’s International Franchise Association (IFA) annual convention—my first!—I found the opposite.
In my first few months on the job at AskNicely, being new to serving B2C service, people-powered businesses, I have started to learn a lot about franchises. Every conversation I’ve had with a franchise customer, future franchise customer, or franchise partner has centered around one key theme—relationships. “This is a people-focused business,” they would tell me. “We are in business to impact the lives of our franchisees, employees, and our entire communities.” So it was no big surprise to me that the theme of the 2020 IFA annual conference was “Franchising’s Future Starts With Us.”
This theme rang true in not only the opening and closing remarks (often the only time conference themes are mentioned), but also in every keynote, roundtable discussion, and nearly every 1:1 interaction that I had at the event.
That is why, for my own post-conference reflection, I wanted to share some key quotes that I felt really brought this theme to life throughout the event.
“People make the difference.” - David Barr
The conference was opened and closed by outgoing IFA chair David Barr. Barr introduced the theme of “Franchising’s Future Starts with Us,” and spoke to its personal relevance given that he’s personally worn the three key hats of franchisor, franchisee, and franchise supplier.
Barr’s personal experience and long career in the franchise community made his remarks heartfelt and credible, but his authenticity really hit home for me in his closing remarks when he shared that the name PMTD Restaurants LLC, the organization that he chaired and founded, stood for “People Make the Difference.”
The bookends of Barr’s opening and closing remarks served as the ultimate foundation for and a testament to the week’s theme of “Franchising’s Future Starts with Us.”
“If you want to play the infinite game, you need to build trusting teams. If your employees don’t trust you, your customer, company, and employees will all suffer.” - Simon Sinek
When Chairman Barr introduced opening session keynote speaker Simon Sinek, he said that Sinek had been a top choice to speak at IFA 2020—and he was, in fact, the perfect choice. Sinek’s 2014 TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” has garnered more than 48 million views and centers around the theme of Starting With Why. He is clearly no stranger to the power of mission, purpose, and teams being stronger together.
This came through in Simon’s IFA 2020 talk about playing the infinite game. “If you want to play the infinite game, you need to build trusting teams” Sinek told us. “If your employees don’t trust you, your customer, company, and employees will all suffer.” Again, it all went back to the people at the heart of the work.
“The best way to grow your business is for your customers to do it for you.” - Jay Baer
The exceptionally fun thing about working for a customer experience company in a community like IFA is that people are very genuinely customer focused. More than that, most of them have built and grown their businesses from 1 to 10 to 100+ locations by consistently delivering exceptional customer experiences. This is one of the reasons that the super-session topic “Talk Triggers” by Jay Baer (one of my favorite marketers) resonated so well with this audience.
Baer reminded all of us that “The best way to grow your business is for your customers to do it for you.” He also challenged everyone in the room that “competency alone in business is not enough.” As business owners, we need to deliver different, because that not only delights our customers, but also gives them a story to tell. And that story is the word-of-mouth marketing that can be critical in growing our businesses.
(Personally, I loved seeing our own mini talk trigger at the event: the purple socks we gave away at our booth! So many people sought us out on the tradeshow floor or recognized us at the final bash as “those AskNicely folks with the cool purple socks!”)
“Together is better.” - Chris Fisher
Chris Fisher, President and CEO of Shine Windows, is one of our AskNicely customers who has helped introduce me to the franchise world and franchise values.
When I asked Chris about his key takeaways from IFA 2020, I was not at all surprised when it sat right in the heart of the conference theme values. “We've got lots of customers to take care of, lots of franchisees to take care of, partnerships to be part of. That's really what I'm going away with: we have a lot of people that can do this together. Together is better.”
“What I love about franchising is when I get to make a difference in people’s lives.” - Catherine Monson
At the closing session, incoming chair Catherine Monson, CEO of FastSigns, picked up right where Barr left off as he handed the gavel over to her—ending his term as chair and officially launching hers. “What I love about franchising is that I get to make a difference in people’s lives,” she shared, adding “I get to make deep personal relationships with my franchisees.”
Catherine’s family was in the audience celebrating her first official day in her new post as IFA chair. She also had the support of team members in the audience, holding up MONSON signs (a clever nod to FastSigns), who were loudly cheering her on from the crowd. This made the expansive conference room of thousands feel more like an intimate living room or dining table full of close family and friends. I was new to the mix, but I felt as welcome as the folks who had been in this business 10, 20, 30+ years.
“Welcome.” - Everyone!
I so enjoyed my days at IFA 2020 and am so grateful to everyone for making me and the AskNicely team feel so welcome.
From connecting with AskNicely partners like BetterSoftware to MINDBODY to IFA team members like Lynette James and Radim Dragomaca—as well as customers, franchisors, franchisees, and fellow suppliers—we left the week with lots of new friends and lessons that we took back with us to our team.
I will leave with one of my highlights of the week. As a marketer, I have to shoutout Paychex for having an awesome booth concept: “Take your picture on the cover of IFA Today.”
As I walked by their booth, they invited me to take a picture—but I knew I didn’t belong there alone. So I texted AskNicely customer Catia Morgan, Senior Vice-President of Franchise Operations from The Camp Transformation Center, and asked if she wanted to join me for a picture.
I get so excited when I see the awesome work that Catia and her team are doing to support their front-line teams in delivering the most awesome customer experiences possible. I look forward to the day that they make their way onto the cover of IFA Today, and knowing that AskNicely played some small part in helping them get there.
Because after all, Franchising’s Future Starts with Us!