by John Francis

Great Times at IFA 2024

Feb 27, 2024 8:21:06 AM

Just got back from a great International Franchise Association (IFA) Annual Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, for 2024. From participating in the IFA’s Membership Committee, I learned that this year's convention attendees numbered 3,800, with 488 first-timers. Great to see the growth! This year was, I believe, my 35th time attending an IFA Convention. I started at an early age with my family’s franchise business, and yes, I'm getting a bit older. I love it!

Special Moments with Family

The highlight for me this year was having my oldest daughter, Lilly Francis, come and attend with me. She is a student at Santa Clara University and was able to join me on Friday night. On Saturday, we attended the Leadership Program together, and she was able to take in the IFA speakers and events on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. She had to go back to school early Sunday afternoon. It was great to be with her and introduce her to the real world of franchising, and of course, many of my friends and connections at the event. We were able to grab a picture of my parents at the IFA Hall of Fame display, which was a special moment. I know Lilly enjoyed it, and I believe this will give her great context for her continued studies at the business school where she is pursuing a finance degree, set to graduate in 2025.

Insights from the Leadership Program

During the leadership program on Saturday, there was a case study conducted on a franchise brand, which happened to be one of my clients, Shannon Wilburn, the Founder of Just Between Friends. The case study explored how Shannon managed to grow her business, the various exit strategies she was able to consider, and how she evaluated those variables and possibilities to arrive at the best outcome for her - which was to sell the business to her largest and very successful franchisee. It was hard for me to not spill the beans during the exercise, and it was a lot of fun to know the situation as I was coaching Shannon all along the way.

At the end of the program, during the big reveal, Shannon and her franchisee Tracy Panase explained the process and shared more insights from each of their own perspectives. One of the slides that was put up as a key learning was “Hire and Trust Key Advisors." I took that personally as an endorsement and felt great satisfaction knowing that I played a small role in helping Shannon achieve a great outcome. I hope other people see that and understand the value as well.

Volunteering and Networking at IFA

Another fun time at IFA for me was volunteering as an ambassador for the new member session later on Saturday. I always enjoy meeting new members and giving them perspectives about how IFA works, how they can get engaged, and where the opportunities might be the best fit for them, whether they are a franchisor, a franchisee, or a new supplier member. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to give back and share my experience and perspectives with those new folks coming along. It's always rewarding and fun.

ZorForum Gathering and Exhibition

Another highlight was when my ZorForum members attempted to get together during the kickoff reception Saturday night. While it was a little bit loud with the cool rock band playing, one of my good friends, Dianne Davis, created a text thread and handheld posters that we used to try to gather the group together. While we only had a few actually make it, we were all laughing and having a great time. ZorForum also had a booth as an exhibitor at IFA for the first time this year. It's great to see that brand growing and expanding with lots of new talent and horsepower involved. Very glad to be part of that organization and continue to provide real value to the members.

Conclusion and Looking Forward

It seemed to me that the IFA conference this year was another good one, with great content, tremendous value, and always excellent networking opportunities. The IFA staff works hard and does a great job! What was the highlight for you?

Please feel free to reach out if you'd like to debrief or if there was something you missed and you think I can help. Happy to connect anytime. Looking forward to next year, when IFA 2025 will be held in February in Las Vegas. I'm sure it will be another great event - see you there!

John Francis

Written by John Francis

About the Franchise Expert


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John Francis is an enthusiastic, engaging business advisor, and an entertaining public speaker for franchise brands because he speaks from experience and he speaks from the heart. Franchising is in his blood, and his parents were true pioneers in the industry, turning their family haircutting business into a 1,000-salon franchise empire. He has been a franchisee and a franchisor, and has a deep understanding of the issues both face. Engage John as an advisor or to speak at your event, and you and your franchisees will learn how to look at your business in new, positive, and profitable ways.

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