"Scaling Success" FLDC hits Atlanta for record-setting event
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"Scaling Success" FLDC hits Atlanta for record-setting event

“Our theme, ‘Scaling Success,’ encourages us to reflect on what success truly means in the context of franchising. It prompts us to consider how we can expand our businesses while staying true to our core principles and serving our communities with integrity. It challenges us to think about adapting to the ever-evolving technological landscape, consumer preferences, and economic realities.

“Throughout this conference, we will hear from some of the brightest minds in franchising who have mastered the art of ‘scaling success.’ Our speakers will share their experiences, insights, and strategies that have propelled their brands to new heights. They will discuss the challenges they’ve faced, the lessons they’ve learned, and the innovative approaches they’ve taken to thrive in an ever-changing world.

“We will also explore the crucial role that leadership plays in scaling success. Effective leadership is the compass that guides a franchise system through growth and challenges alike. It’s about empowering your team, fostering a culture of innovation, and leading by example. We will delve into leadership strategies that can help you drive your franchise system toward sustainable success.

“In addition to the enlightening sessions and workshops, this conference provides a unique opportunity to network and connect with industry peers. The relationships you build here can be instrumental in your journey to scale success. So, make the most of this time to share ideas, collaborate, and forge partnerships that can help shape your future in franchising.

“As we embark on this exciting journey of exploration and discovery, I encourage you all to approach this conference with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and embrace change. The franchise landscape is evolving, and those who are adaptable and forward-thinking will be the ones who continue to succeed.”

Tim Courtney, 2023 FLDC Conference Chairman and VP, franchise development at PuroClean

With the above words, Conference Chairman Tim Courtney helped layout the theme and purpose of the 2023 Franchise Leadership & Development Conference (FLDC) to a packed room of attendees in October. The industry’s signature franchise development event at the InterContinental Buckhead north of Atlanta once again delivered tightly focused content, dynamic speakers, and a Networking Area packed with exhibitors. This year’s event, executed in tandem with IFA, set an attendance record with 615 franchisor and supplier attendees.

Each year the FLDC raises the bar. This year was no exception. The focus was, as always, on franchise growth and development. Meeting rooms and hallways were packed as franchise development leaders and their teams filled the general sessions and breakout session rooms to overflowing. Experienced sales and development pros led information-packed sessions that were characterized by audience-panel interaction and engagement. Relevant and timely topics were discussed throughout.

The keynote speaker was Jeb Blount, a bestselling author and a sales, leadership, and customer experience expert who fit right in with the other sales-minded executives in the room. His central message focused on how doing a better job of listening to prospects can result in improved understanding and increased sales.

The Networking Area (exhibit hall) was sold out with booths overflowing into the hallways. Attendees had numerous opportunities to socialize and talk business with their peers. Exhibitors and suppliers were on hand to discuss solutions, strategies, products, and services to help franchise businesses grow.

The conference was backed by more than 90 sponsors, including Platinum Sponsors, Unleashed Brands and AnswerConnect. Gold Sponsors were Hot Dish Advertising, Leasecake, FranConnect, BoeFly, and Atmosphere TV. The STAR Awards, in its revamped presentation, was sponsored by ApplePie Capital and 919 Marketing Company.

First Day

A continental breakfast greeted attendees first thing each morning at the conference.

First up was the all-day “CEO Summit” exclusively for franchise CEOs, presidents, and founders. The summit focused on three main themes:

  1. Franchise development (lead acquisition, conversion, and economics)
  2. Operational and brand integrity (process adherence, brand consistency, and culture)
  3. Financial and scaling challenges (self-funding, ROI optimization, and franchise finance)

The day’s sessions featured a panel of experts for each theme, followed by group work for each of the tables. Participants were presented with challenges and reported their observations and solutions.

A special afternoon session, “ChatGPT: A C-Suite Crash Course,” featured a fast-paced presentation and Q&A into this game-changing technology by Conor Grennan, dean of MBA and graduate students and head of generative AI at the NYU Stern School of Business. Grennan, who also is the official instructor for LinkedIn Learning’s “AI for Business,” gave a rapid-fire overview of the current state of AI as it applies to business today, focusing on practical strategies to increase productivity.

He said AI adoption by businesses has three levels: learn, execute, and strategize. Comparing AI and its variations to electricity, he said, “AI can do anything. It depends on your problem.” He added that “AI is a solution without a problem” and that it doesn’t so much replace jobs as it does tasks. For more about Grennan, visit www.franchisedevelopmentconference.com and click on “Speakers.” The CEO Summit was sponsored by 919 Marketing, Careertopia, and MSA Worldwide.

Elsewhere, two educational tracks offered the first of several breakout sessions throughout the event. During “Growth Track: Create Your 2024 Growth Plan,” panelists discussed data, territory selection, growth strategies, and single- and multi-unit expansion strategies. “We have to be future-seeking,” said Shannon Iverson, VP, franchise growth for Marco’s Pizza. “It’s critical that you all have brand vision. What is the vision? Where do you want to go?”

Meanwhile, a packed room showed up for the “Lead Generation & Recruitment Track: AI & ChatGPT—The 5 Hot Tips & Tricks for Today & How to Use Them.” It was one of several discussions about AI and ChatGPT during the conference.

Next was “Growth Track: Franchise Sales Basics,” which covered creating an effective franchise sales program that identifies and qualifies prospects and turns them into active leads. The panelists’ companies use a variety of ways to attract leads, including websites, brokers, portals, and referrals. Not every tactic works for every company. Albert Hermans, VP, franchise development for Floor Coverings International, said the best approach is to “double down on what works.”

Across the hall was the “Lead Generation & Recruitment Track: Build Your Lead Generation Plan & Budget,” which dealt with how to build a recruitment budget that gets the message to the right prospects with the right frequency and evaluate the results.

Following a lunch break, afternoon breakout sessions resumed. “Growth Track: Access to Capital in 2024” examined ways to assist franchisees who are struggling to access capital. “If you haven’t brought your bank to discovery day, do it,” advised Kelly Crummer, senior director for franchising for Firehouse Subs.

Nearby was another room full of people eager to hear about the often-controversial topic of brokers. The “Lead Generation & Recruitment Track: Leveraging Brokers and FSOs: Are They Right for You?” session saw panelists and audience members share their own experiences and the pros and cons of working with brokers and FSOs. 

A meet and greet for first-time attendees and the conference advisory board began the remainder of the day’s social and networking activities. An opening cocktail reception in the Networking Area gave franchise executives an opportunity to visit with the exhibitors.

Second Day

This day began with a general session where FLDC Chairman Courtney got things going with his inspiring talk from the stage.

Next up was a full political and legislative update from IFA President & CEO Matt Haller. The IFA has been a defender of franchising for decades, and he noted that the industry can count on the organization continuing its mission. Haller spoke about IFA’s recent advocacy wins before explaining three key areas the organization was now focused on. He said the National Labor Relations Board’s final joint-employer rule was back on the radar so was activity with the Federal Trade Commission’s Franchise Rule. He also pointed out how California’s new AB 1228 law will protect California restaurants from the harms of AB 257 (the FAST Act). 

Diane Phibbs, Franchise Update Media’s executive vice president and chief content officer, and Paul Pickett, chief development officer at Wild Birds Unlimited, then took the stage to deliver an overview of the 2024 Annual Franchise Development Report (AFDR) and Mystery Shopping survey. For a decade now, the report has documented the best and worst of franchise development, providing insights into best practices and helping franchise development executives and teams benchmark their sales and recruitment budgets—and results—against those of other brands. (For more on the AFDR, go to Page XX. For Mystery Shopping results, go to Page XX.)

That was followed by a general session panel, “How Today’s Franchisors Are Using Technology & AI in the Franchisee Recruitment Process.” Panelists discussed their views and experience with AI tools. Joe Malmuth, chief franchising officer of Batteries Plus, said that using AI tools had led to more development deals for his brand.

“Think beyond ChatGPT. There’s a lot more to these tools,” Malmuth said. Each member of the panel had a chance to share ways they have used technology and data analytics to enhance their development and recruitment efforts.

Following a short coffee break, keynote speaker Jeb Blount took the stage. Blount is a bestselling author with 13 books under his belt. He’s also an expert and thought leader on sales, leadership, and customer experience. He discussed how it takes a certain mindset to be successful in sales before diving into the main theme of his message, listening to prospects.

“It’s important that you listen ... show me you know me,” he said. “Influence is derived from what you hear, not what you say.” Listening and paying attention builds trust and a good emotional experience. “That is the best predictor of outcome,” he said. 

Blount’s talk was followed by lunch in the Networking Area and another opportunity to rub elbows with fellow franchisors and suppliers.

Afternoon breakout sessions featured: “Growth Track: Tools to Secure Financing/Franchisee Packages,” “Lead Generation & Recruitment Track: Identify & Qualify a Lead,” and “Technology for Growth Track: Tools for More Effective Selling.”

The afternoon general session featured a state-of-the-industry report from FRANdata President & CEO Darrell Johnson. He gave a quick overview of the economy in general and how it is impacting the franchising space today and how it might in the future.

“Consumer credit card debt is rising,” he said. “The U.S. economy continues to grow at a modest pace, but the probability is tilted more toward a recession

in 2024 than soft landing.”

As for franchising, Johnson said, “With the exception of fitness and beauty & spa, all other franchising categories have seen a negative year-over-year change in foot traffic and consumer demand.”

He encouraged franchisors to adjust their prospect cash reserves criteria to reflect uncertainty, help their franchisees find motivated employees and create an ownership pathway, and expand their lending relationships.

Jeb Blount then returned to the stage for a Challenge Workshop. Following Blount’s explanation of “micro-stories” (telling a compelling, engaging story that gains attention and evokes emotion in the other person), franchisors worked in groups around tables to develop their micro-stories to compete with other tables. 

The afternoon wrapped with a series of breakout sessions, including “Growth Track: Scaling Growth in the Current Environment,” “Lead Generation & Recruitment Track: Recession-Resistant Brand Positioning,” and “Technology for Growth Track: Efficiencies to Support Franchisee Unit Growth.”

The day wrapped up with a reimagined STAR Awards, held annually to recognize excellence and achievement in franchise development. A festive atmosphere—and an open bar with a variety of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres—welcomed attendees to the ballroom. The winners of this year’s STAR Awards were celebrated for their many successes. (Find out more about this year’s winners on Page 36.)

Final Day

This year’s conference wrapped up in the morning of the last day by offering two sessions, “Build Your 2024 Execution Plan” and “Growth Track: 2024 Planning for Multi-Unit Recruitment.” Attendance was strong even though the STAR Awards extravaganza celebration had taken place the previous night.

Raving reviews

“FLDC is my absolute favorite event of the year. I learned so much my first year and really leveraged all the notes and the great relationships in the development community,” said Scott Temme, director, franchise development for HoneyBaked Ham.

“The educational sessions were well done as always and very informative. The CEO Summit was fun, interesting, and informative as well. Always my favorite of the year,” said Pete Baldine, president of Moran Family of Brands.

“The conference was the best one yet by far! Everyone loved the new STAR Awards format, and the general sessions were very well received,” said Joe Malmuth, chief franchising officer for Batteries Plus.

“It was really great to be part of the conference. I enjoyed the cadence of the conference and the topics,” said Amber Burke, chief operating officer for Burn Boot Camp.

Plans are already under way for the 2024 FLDC, which will take place October 16–18, 2024, at the same venue in Atlanta. To learn more about FLDC and register for 2024, visit franchisedevelopmentconference.com.

2023 FLDC Conference Numbers 

Total Attendees 615

Franchisor Attendees 400

Franchisor Brands 300+

Sponsoring Companies 92

Franchisor Profiles

By Title

21% CEOs/Presidents

38% CDOs, EVPs, SVPs, VPs of Franchise Development

33% Directors/Managers of Development

8% CFOs, COOs, CMOs, CFOs, Brand and Marketing Managers

By Category

Service (Territory) 32%

Service (Brick-and-Mortar) 25%

Food 27%

Retail (Non-Food) 11%

Retail Food   5%

By Investment Level

More than $1M 15%

$500,000–$1M 20%

$250,000–$500,000 24%

$100,000–$250,000 20%

$50,000–$100,000 15%

Less than $50,000   6%

By Number of Units

More than 1,000 11%

501–1,000 10%

251–500 10%

101–250 23%

26–100 23%

Less than 25 23%

By System-Wide Gross Sales

More than $100M 41%

$81M–$100M 3%

$61M–$80M   7%

$41M–$60M   6%

$21M–$40M   9%

$9M–$20M   11%

$1M–$8M   16%

Less than $1M   7%

Published: February 11th, 2024

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