Published March 5, 2014

The Five Most Important Things We Learned at IFA

Our team spent most of last week in New Orleans at the IFA Convention, so I asked them to dig out from their beads and give me the best tip they took away from being there. Just like the conference itself, there’s something for everyone in their responses:

On Ensuring Franchisees Succeed (from FBR CEO Eric Stites):

Make sure you collect balance sheets from your franchisees, in addition to P&Ls, and share the data across your network. Very few franchisors collect financial statements from franchisees, and even fewer collect balance sheets. A franchisee’s numbers on their P&Ls can look great, but they may be over-leveraged, or taking too much cash out of the business, which will only show up on the balance sheet.

Basic financial education should be a mandatory part of all franchisors’ initial training, and franchisees should have a solid understanding of both their P&L and balance sheet–as well as how cash moves through their business. Key metrics like cash on-hand, receivables, debt ratios, etc., (not just gross sales) should all be carefully monitored by field support staff and/or the corporate office to make sure franchisees maintain a healthy business. Target ratios/metrics should be shared with all franchisees in the network to help them understand the key financial drivers.

This basic financial education should start with candidates (before they become franchisees) to help ensure new franchisees have realistic expectations for the ramp up of their business, as well as their long-term growth and financial opportunity. Financial transparency should become part of your company culture. Your franchisees will perform better as a result!

On Leadership (from FBR president Michelle Rowan):

Mary Kennedy (of Mr. Rooter) used the analogy of a relay race to describe leadership. If you surround yourself with a great team, they are ready to take over for you when you pass the baton. But if you keep hanging on to the baton once it’s passed, you end up following them around. I’m trying to pass the baton more in 2014!

On Social Media Strategy (from FBR marketing coordinator Jay Metzenroth):

Before starting a social campaign, know where your audience hangs out on the web.
There are a multitude of social platforms out there; your brand doesn’t need to be on all of them. Find out where YOUR target audience hangs out on the web! Before beginning a social campaign ask yourself these questions: Who do we serve? What is the goal we are trying to accomplish? How do we achieve that goal?

Make sure the content you are sharing engages your brand’s target audience. Do they prefer informational content? Educational? Entertaining? For example, a food brand will get better engagement on an Instagram photo than a business coaching brand will, but a business coaching brand will get better engagement on a LinkedIn update than a food brand. Context matters!

Most of all, remember YOUR unique brand story and incorporate it into your social presence.

On Leading, Selling, and Parenting (from FBR client consultant Jamie Lavigne):

My biggest takeaway from the IFA was a statement I’ve heard before: You have to say something 7 or 8 times before they hear you once.

The first time I heard this, I shrugged the statement off. The second time, I perked up, thinking, “They already said that.” The third time, I realized how true it really is—in sales (and getting someone to respond), in franchisee/franchisor relations (and in getting them to follow your system), and in raising kids (and getting them to abide by your rules). By the 4th and 5th time I heard this statement, I was shaking my head in agreement with everyone else. I’m living proof that people don’t really hear things until you repeat them over, and over, and over again.

On Conference Attending (from FBR’s editorial director Molly Rowe):

This was the first time I attended IFA strictly as an exhibitor and not an attendee. Although I missed some of the formal “educational” content, going session-free reaffirmed my belief that the best networking and educational opportunities happen OUTSIDE of the conference agenda. I walked away from this year’s IFA declaring it the best one yet in terms of conversations and new contacts—most of which happened in the hotel gym, the Starbucks line, the lobby of the convention center, and over a spur-of-the-moment mid-afternoon margarita with strangers. For some people, sessions and roundtables are a great way to connect, but for someone like me who’s more comfortable chatting in a less formal setting, the best way to attend a conference is, well, by not.

About the Author: Molly Rowe

Molly Rowe is the former Editorial Director at Franchise Business Review and reported regularly on top franchise opportunities and the latest trends in franchising. Molly oversaw Franchise Business Review's research and the publishing of FBR's annual Top Franchises Guide, Top Low Cost Franchises Guide, and many other specialty franchise reports.
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