Walk a mile – or a half mile, maybe a quarter mile – in my shoes
Not traveling makes the heart grow fonder. At least if you’re an editor whose personality profile says she’s better suited for receptions than long, lonely stints behind a desk.
Publisher Mary Jo Larson had a great idea: She would wear her pedometer to the International Franchise Expo so we could see how far we walked each day. The first day we racked up two-and-a-half miles; the second day, a rousing three miles. No wonder we're so tired, we'd say to each other at the end of the day.
Feeling confident of our calorie deficit, we flagged down the server with the hors d'oeuvre tray at a cocktail reception for media. Plus, have you ever noticed servers seem to take it personally if you refuse their food? I also gave myself permission to have a second glass of wine and/or dessert.
Our athleticism ended abruptly when we took a cab ride out to our second stop, the Gaylord National, where the Women's Foodservice Forum was holding its annual conference. Every time we hit a bump, we walked a quarter of a mile, according to Mary Jo's overly sensitive pedometer.
After that I lost all faith in technology. When Mary Jo told me it was a quarter of a mile from our rooms to the general session, I wasn't buying it. I was no longer confident that my legs ached from all the miles I had walked that day. I was starting to suspect my shoes. That didn't stop me from having the second glass of wine or a third course, of course, but I no longer felt it was my just desserts. It was now just "a" dessert, and a calorie-laden one at that. What a different an "a" makes!
Everyone wrestles with names
I saw General Colin Powell twice in three months and his speech was the same – right down to the self-deprecating moments that seemed off the cuff the first time I heard him at IFA's annual convention. The second time was at the WWF – actually it was the WFF (Women's Foodservice Forum), but the former Secretary of State had trouble remembering which group he was addressing – women or professional wrestlers.
Suzanne Sylvester of the Cheeseburger in Paradise chain was backstage when he departed, apologizing for referring to the gathering as the World Wrestling Federation. Don't worry, she reassured him, we act like that sometimes.
I liked the fact that he got the name wrong. If a leader of our country can botch the name of a group paying him a lot of money to speak, then who am I to feel bad when I misspeak or miswrite? If I ever become secretary of state and refer to a national association of restaurant owners as the NRA (National Rifle Association), then – and only then – will I feel the need to do a correction.
Venturing out in the community
I've attended a number of franchise meetings over the past couple of months, but I missed a couple of my mainstays. When reporter Jonathan Maze got to attend the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers annual convention and the IFA Legal Symposium while I stayed back at the office on deadline, I admit I was feeling a little like Cinderella. A Cinderella without the benefit of singing, dancing mice and birds that could edit.
Of course, Jonathan wasn't exactly feeling like Prince Charming. On his last trip he spent Mother's Day in the airport waiting to get a flight out, only to reach his first destination and be told his connecting flight left without him. He finally arrived in D.C., but his luggage didn't. Not trusting the airline to deliver his suitcase in time for the meeting the next morning, he made the trek back to the airport on the train – in the pouring rain. And still I wished it was me.
It's not the program content that I miss, it's the people. Franchising is a small world, and the same people attend the same meetings.
This fact was brought home recently when the Women Venture Franchise Advisory Board met in Minneapolis. I had talked to several of the women on the committee the night before at the IFA's Women's Franchise Network meeting and yet they were up for one more out-of-office experience. Frank Steed of the Steed Consultancy had been at our FFDC, plus WFF, and still he flew up to the Twin Cities from Texas to participate in this new endeavor. OK, so his son lives in the Twin Cities, but that's just a bonus.
Brian Schnell of Faegre & Benson was both a speaker at FFDC and the IFE. When I asked him if he still practices law, he laughed and said not only did he bill hours, he made time for his family. "You have a family?" I gasped.
And, of course, I see Mary Jo Larson – who is one of the driving forces behind this new project to educate women about owning their own business through franchising – every day.
Most of the people assembled were from the Twin Cities, but others such as Lorne Fisher of Fish Consulting flew in just for the reception and half-day meeting. Karn Jilek, a franchisee with Jiffy Lube in Fargo, North Dakota, couldn't attend, so she listened to the entire meeting via phone.
Perhaps if I covered the National Association of Prison Guards, I would be struck by how philanthropic and generous they are with their time and expertise. But since prison ranks right up there with such fears as being homeless or having my roots show in public, I prefer not to report on them.
Franchising really is a wonderful community. The consultants are all vying for the same business, and yet they share resources and break bread together. Franchisors are going after the same franchisees, but they're willing to share best practices with the competition. And, franchisees will take time to hang out on the phone, when they have a business to run. All because they believe in being in business for yourself, not by yourself. And if it works for them, perhaps it will economically empower someone else. I think the community deserves a group hug.
Now get back to work and bill some hours. You have a family waiting at home.