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Money Talk

From finance tips to family at Franchise Times’ annual confab



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The Franchise Finance & Growth Conference had the best of both worlds: Attendees were in Vegas without feeling like they were in Vegas, thanks to the classy, casino-free digs at the Four Seasons Hotel. However, all it took to be back in Vegas was to open a nearby door to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

This year’s conference, held April 24-25, had extra substance, featuring the first Franchise Times Dealmakers awards and honoring 11 companies and individuals at a special reception the first evening of the conference. Six of the dealmakers—an equal number of buyers and sellers—gave their perspectives on the whys and hows of the deal the next day on two panels.

Also new this year was an international session on taking your concept overseas. Moderated by Philip Zeidman of DLA Piper, the panel shared what it takes to launch both a smaller concept and a large one. Jeff Sinelli, founder and CEO of Which Wich, a sandwich concept based in Dallas, said that within five years, “I think our international system will be bigger than our domestic.”

For Denny’s Senior Vice President of Global Development Stephen Dunn, it’s an investment to go overseas and you’re “not going to grow money off trees” for a long time. “We only look at people in our targeted footprint,” he said about prospective partners, because those are markets where they know they can develop a supply chain to service the restaurants.

The opening presentation at the conference  recalled the good times in franchise finance, those heady days before the economic crash of 2008, and the hangover that followed. A Franchise Times survey found that 60 percent  of respondents are doing more now than before the collapse to help their franchisees gain financing, and detailed their activity.

Some systems lend money directly to franchisees, others guarantee all or parts of loans, and still others create a lending program with a financial partner in which prospects are pre-approved for loans.

Golden Corral, for example, has a rare program in which general managers are able to qualify for ownership if they meet performance metrics over a five-year period. Wild Birds Unlimited offers a variety of tools to its franchisees, from a relationship with a company that provides personal guarantee insurance to assistance to prospects in writing their business plans.

Comedian Louie Anderson gave the keynote address, in his signature melancholy style. He was one of 11 kids, growing up in Minnesota, so he had to stand out. “Every single thing we do is a result of that family,” he said.

Anderson recalled his father as an All-American World War I and II veteran. “That’s a lot of pressure on a fat kid,” Anderson said. “I heard all the time, ‘You’ve never been to war.’ I was 8” at the time, he said. But his family, like every person’s, is central to who he is today. “The stuff you think is important is almost never important,” Anderson said. (See more conference coverage on pages 38 and 41.)

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