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It's getting better all the time

AAFD\'s offering the ticket to ride


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In the past, the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers (AAFD) struggled to fill a room at its annual conference. Not so this year at its 15th Anniversary Leadership Summit and Annual Meeting in Dallas April 29 to May 2.

Record-breaking crowds seems to be the trend at franchise events lately, and the AAFD’s conference was what Chairman and CEO Robert Purvin called “the largest gathering of franchisee associations in history.” About 36 systems were represented at the meeting, according to Vickey Doescher, director of membership services.

“It’s been a banner year, a record year in all respects,” Purvin told the gathering. “We ended the (fiscal) year in the black and retired 20 percent of our debt—which I thank you for because most of the debt belongs to me.”

AAFD experienced a 50 percent increase in revenues, he said, and seven new companies are seeking the association’s Fair Franchising Seal, which is awarded to franchises that meet the association’s Fair Franchising Standards, which are honed each year.

Being flush has allowed the association to embark on its first foray into a professionally run marketing campaign. Steve Dubin of PR Works will be handling the public relations, while Michael St. Jacques is the creative force behind the marketing and advertising.

The gathering always brings together interesting—and sometimes diverse—viewpoints. One attorney who has been around since Minnie Pearl’s name was used to sell franchises said he thought franchising was getting better. This was his first time attending an AAFD meeting, and he publicly thanked Purvin and staff for putting on such a positive, well-run event.

On the other side of the fence, a franchisor told us she believes that if franchising doesn’t change it will be out of business in the next decade.

But that’s really the calling card of the AAFD. During its Standards Day, franchisors, franchisees and the attorneys debate each standard—and as we’ve reported before, it’s often a laborious discussion involving placement of commas or the exact definition of a word. The end result, as Purvin explained it, is for the standard to be one that all three groups can support. After all, if franchising is to be fair, it has to be fair for both sides—and legal.

Franchise laughs

A speakers showcase—an ingenious way to introduce both the concept of making the independent association’s own meetings more professional and to entertain the crowd—kicked off the three-day event. Blanche Powell of Powell Kohne Associates talked about what to expect when working with a speakers bureau and dealing with celebrity speakers. “Celebrities are a great draw (for your conventions),” she said, “but they come with a high price tag…and ironically they’re not always good speakers.”

The three examples of her work that she showcased were: Andy Hickman, who did motivational magic, including remembering almost every audience member’s name from the cocktail reception the night before; Christine Cashen, who told personal stories everyone could relate to for her message of “how to get what you want with what you’ve got”; and David Glickman, who customized his shtick for the crowd. His biggest laugh came from rewriting a best-seller title to read: “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and Greedy Franchisors Are From Uranus.”

After the morning session, an attorney who was instrumental in helping get a rival franchisee association off the ground told Purvin that this was the first time he’d attended a franchisee meeting where he laughed, according to Purvin.

Topics that were of interest to franchisee association leaders included: developing a gift card program, trademark concerns for franchisee associations, HR issues concerning legal liability for employees, branding, exit strategies and health benefits.

Singing in the reign

The highlight of the conference is always the evening banquet where Purvin and company provide the entertainment. There aren’t many chairmen who have the talent—or should we say guts—to rewrite and then sing a medley of Beatles tunes, not to mention to don a Beatles wig and cowboy hat while doing so. But Purvin is known as the Singing CEO—the king of franchise-themed Broadway show tunes—and every year he raises the bar a little higher.

Purvin’s closing remarks perhaps summed up the AAFD’s quest: “Let’s define great franchising. Let’s put it on a pedestal. Let’s drag it through the marketplace. Let’s brag about it. We want to help find it, to help define it.

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