Diversity on Display at IFA
Two days into my third trip to the IFA annual convention in Las Vegas, I’ve once again seen the remarkable diversity representative of the amazing, global shifts underway in franchising. And I’m not just saying that because it was part of my presentation on the first day.
That speaking engagement was the 26th annual Elements of Successful Franchising before a packed room full of franchisees and franchisors discussing trends in the industry—largely. More than ever, a good portion of the money and investment in franchising is happening overseas, and there’s no better place than the IFA to take in the diversity of this crazy industry.
Our conversation was dominated by the ongoing international shift for U.S.-based franchisors, especially some of the largest and oldest brands in the industry. Afterward, I joined the sea of attendees snaking their way through the back corridors of Mandalay Bay toward the general session luncheon upstairs. Such massive crowds, especially confined inside a building by hallways and escalators, tend to freak me out—but I had to marvel at the diversity around me. This event and industry draws a truly modern crowd, the full complement of genders, ethnicities, nationalities and economic backgrounds.
Walking into the expansive dining hall with massive video screens and thousands of people, I was taken by the numbers of people I’ve come to know in this industry. Of course, I couldn’t actually see any of them as I searched for a table. A person can quickly embed themselves in the franchise industry; I look forward to seeing so many people as I worm my way deeper into the industry.
Rather than just old white guys, which is the franchising cliché, I ate lunch with a remarkably diverse group. This included one of my favorite industry contacts, Galen Welsch, who is the co-founder of Jibu, a clean water social franchise out of Uganda who remains one of this industry’s brightest (and most worldly) stars. He brought a Jibu franchisee named Media Muvuna who’s been with the company for several years. It was her first trip to the United States, and our table collectively marveled at what it would be like to experience this event—and Las Vegas—as one’s first in-person view of the United States.
Listening to Aziz Hashim and Robert Cresanti while lunch was served continued to demonstrate that this industry has transformed itself into a very well run, modern enterprise that knows its strength lies in the foundational promise of franchising as a way to move up for everybody, regardless of your own beginnings in life.
This week has been dominated by intense press coverage of the new, selective immigration ban, and the water cooler conversations at this event reflect the headlines. Seeing such global diversity in person is the ultimate contrast to the newspapers and TV news programs, and I hope that whatever direction our industry and country takes, it encourages the diversity attracted to this remarkable event.