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Franchising takes the stage as association schools the industry


The International Franchise Association’s convention had  record numbers: Final registration  was 3,540; supplier exhibition booths, 327; and 995 were first-time attendees. Was it the economy—or Vegas?

If after attending the International Franchise Association’s 53rd annual convention in Las Vegas in late February, you left without seeing everyone on your to-meet list, you’re not the only one. More than 3,500 people were wandering the halls of the MGM hotel searching for roundtables, summits, general sessions, concurrent sessions, receptions, the exhibition hall, taskforce meetings and even a prayer breakfast. Good thing there was a long hallway to spread out all those people—and when we say long, we mean a trek from convention hall to sleeping rooms that made even the hard-core high-heeled aficionados switch to flats mid-course.

This year’s headliner was Condoleezza Rice, the 66th U.S. Secretary of State. She told the enthusiastic crowd the biggest difference between being in government and out is now when she reads the newspaper, she can say to herself, “isn’t that interesting,” and then go on with her day because she’s no longer responsible for correcting what’s causing that interest in the world. She won the hearts of the crowd when she proclaimed that No. 1 on the country’s to-do list is getting the economy going again.

Another political speaker bragged about her personal “franchise.” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she was part of  what could become a mayoral franchise in Vegas. She ran for mayor to continue her husband’s vision after he—a mob lawyer—ran up against term limits. “I have four children and six grandchildren,” she said, all who can step in at any time to continue the Goodman dynasty. (Let’s hope they won’t be paid royalty fees.)

In his state of the association address, IFA President Steve Caldeira reported that 80 percent of the political candidates IFA’s FranPAC supported last election cycle won. Another accomplishment was its partnership with the National Football League, “the first time the NFL has ever partnered with a trade association,” he said. The partnership is in conjunction with the Professional Athletes Franchise Initiative (PAFI), which educates former and current players on franchise opportunities.

The Women’s Foodservice Forum sponsored-breakfast brought three brand leaders up on stage to talk about “The Power of Driving  for Results.” Advice from Michelle DiTondo, senior vice president, human resources, for MGM Resorts Int’l included: Never underestimate your power to confuse. “Think through how to communicate your big ideas,” she said.

Michael Powell, president of Ports of Subs, said he was already the father of 28-year-old sons from his first marriage when his third son was born in 2007, just as his business was going down. Being an older father taught him to be “less autocratic, more engaged and more collaborative” at work. He suggests execs look “longer and deeper” at things that come up routinely in their business. He does not, however, recommend having another child to solve your business problems—a comment that drew deep laughter from the mostly female audience.

Thirteen food franchises provided samples of their fare during the Taste of Franchising networking event—everything from cake to subs to pizza.

Advice was flowing like the wine and cocktails at the numerous receptions. Some were sponsored by various IFA groups, such as the International committee or the FranPAC VIP members. Others were by-invitation events hosted by law firms and consultants for their clients and would-be clients. This was not the stomping grounds of the shy.

After four days, everyone should have gone home richer than they came—that is, if they stuck to the IFA’s multi-faceted agenda of educational opportunities and networkings, and stayed out of the casinos.


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