I recently had the pleasure of attending EmployBridge’s convention for the Remedy Intelligent Staffing and Westaff franchisees to present the findings of their annual franchisee satisfaction evaluation. The plan was to add perspective to their data in comparison to the franchise industry, share best practices to be a top notch franchise system, facilitate conversation between franchisees and franchisors on areas of improvement, and help align expectations for the coming year.

I was happy to add to the content of an already strong agenda, and enjoyed meeting the franchisees. Several of them shared openly about  the challenges they had gone through with the previous management team.

Since the merger with EmployBridge in early 2015, franchisee satisfaction has improved tremendously due to the concerted effort by EmployBridge leadership to build trust with franchisees, listen to their feedback, and make them feel like a valued and essential part of the organization. They have successfully used their annual conference as part of that overall effort to foster franchisee engagement.

Here are just a few of the things EmployBridge does that you should consider as you plan your next franchisee conference:

1. Splurge! EmployBridge set the tone by asking the franchisees to pay only their travel expenses to get to the conference; the rest was on them. They selected a beautiful resort,  picked up the room cost, provided sumptuous food and beverage, , and even included a daily resort credit to encourage franchisees to enjoy the spa and restaurants on property – all to show their franchisees how special they are and how much they are valued.

2. Transparency. Being open with franchisees and letting them see “behind the curtain” can go a long way. Here are just a few of the ways EmployBridge did it exceptionally well:

  • Financials: The first session started with the CEO and CFO of the parent company standing on stage and sharing full budget vs revenue for the previous year, and what’s to come in the next year. This included franchise system vs corporate revenues, cash flow status, and areas where additional cash flow would be invested.
  • People: Top leadership from corporate, as well as the franchise team leadership at later sessions, were accessible to franchisees before and after the sessions, and made time for Q&A at each session I attended. If an answer wasn’t known or provided on the spot, it was delegated as a follow up and promised to be answered upon return from conference.
  • Franchisee Survey Data: This was the second year EmployBridge measured franchisee satisfaction. They provided the full survey results to each franchisee, then went through last year’s presentation of what was promised post-survey along with a progress report of what they accomplished AND what was missed.

3. Franchisee Involvement. The first session started with the State of the Union, and ended with a “FranShark” competition. Before the conference all franchisees were encouraged to submit ideas to improve the system. Four finalists were chosen to present their ideas to a panel of judges (which I was lucky enough to be part of), and the winning idea received $25,000 to implement their plan in 2017. The ideas presented were all fantastic ideas to improve franchisees’ businesses and the brand. Everyone had fun hearing the finalists and cheering them on, and the best part is they’ll all benefit from the contest!    

4. Celebrate Success Stories. Franchisees were asked to submit stories for the “Associate of the Year” to recognize employees who contribute to the success of their franchise. The associates were invited to attend the conference, and a video played showing client and staff sharing praise and appreciation for the employee. Finally, the employee came up on stage to accept an award, and received a gift from the franchisor to thank them for their dedication to the business and customers. The employee, franchisees, and corporate staff got to celebrate a success story together, and undoubtedly the experience motivates other employees to win next year.

These four core ideas set the tone of the conference: It was high energy, the franchisees felt appreciated, and they were open and engaged in talking with other franchisees and the corporate team.

Your role as the franchisor is not just to deliver your agenda at the convention, but to ensure there is value to the franchisees to be there. They are taking time away from their business – make sure it’s worth it.  

If you have other ideas that work well at your conference we encourage you to submit them here!  Like our first “Smart Ideas” project last year, we will compile and share them.