Things I Heard at IFA 2023
I just got back from this year’s IFA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. The conference was a blast, with a record-breaking attendance of 4,200+ people and 300+ exhibitors!
This year, I brought my family along for the pre-conference weekend session and the Women's Annual Leadership Conference. This event was very well-organized and a great start to the conference. My wife and daughters got another glimpse of the IFA, a fun way to show them a piece of my world.
I've been to dozens of IFA conferences over three decades. Over the years, it's evolved, and in most ways, it has gotten incrementally better each year. There are always great networking opportunities, expert speakers, and fun people. As I’ve said, this is truly the “Super Bowl” of franchising.
I started to take mental notes of things I was hearing from other conference attendees while I was there: conversations I had, things I heard from others, and general information at the event. In this blog, I wanted to share these observations with you. I hope you find it interesting and valuable! (P.S. - if you attended the event, did you see or hear anything that was memorable? Let’s connect, I would like to hear about your experience!)
"Damn, I just got fired by a client!"
I overheard this from one supplier chatting with another. Often, suppliers know each other and share information that isn’t readily available. The main takeaway from this tidbit is to never burn a bridge. This applies to franchisors, franchisees, suppliers, and other players in franchising. By building relationships over time, even if there are periods of not doing business, you build your network, which leads to future opportunities. Be friendly even when things don't turn out as you'd like - being gracious pays dividends! You don't have to be friends with everyone, but try to be friendly with everyone!
"I had an ego once, and I know exactly when I became successful. The day I became successful was the day after I gave up my ego."
I heard this from a mentor of mine, and it’s a good reminder for everyone. Humility and genuine curiosity go a long way in staying valuable and interesting. If you have been in franchising for a while, you have likely encountered one or two successful people with big egos. Your impression of them is probably still sub-standard. First impressions have real, tangible effects on future relationships, so always try to stay centered and humble!
"The culture of this organization was no accident, it was set by the early leaders, including Joe Francis, who spent hours sharing ideas with me. He was my direct competitor and wanted to see franchising win..." - from Michael Seid at the 2023 IFA Conference Prayer Breakfast.
Michael - I appreciate the shoutout for my dad, Joe Francis, thank you for mentioning my parents during your Prayer Breakfast remarks! There is a winning culture of collaboration around IFA, which continues to this day, I’m glad to keep the legacy alive.
"Tell me what makes your brand valuable or attractive for investment.''
This was asked of me by a private equity investor who shall remain anonymous. Personally, I found his question somewhat condescending and off-putting. When I had a chance to explain my background and perspective that I don’t actually have a franchise brand today, I think he finally appreciated I might be more than another private equity "deal" for him to scrutinize and pick apart.
This PE guy had no heart or desire to learn about me or the culture of any possible brand. He only wanted the financial details on EBITDA, margins, and the related valuation multiple. He had never met me, didn’t know me, and expressed no interest in getting to know me. One could say that he was focused on deals, but not on people.
This was both sad and a disappointment. It made me think about what motivates him: greed, ego, or something else? In any case, these are terrible motivators for making investment decisions. Next time, I hope he softens his approach - not everyone you meet is “for sale” or another deal!
"Drew Brees is a regular guy, and he seems smart, capable, and impressive as a franchise business owner.”
After we saw Mr. Drew Brees speak at the conference, I heard this from another attendee. Mr. Brees shared his story, who he’s invested in, and how he's a part of so many brands and organizations. His strategy for finding brands, seeing opportunities, and utilizing operating partners allowed me to learn that he’s a great investor and leader. I think he understands the true value of franchising as a way to grow a brand and his wealth and impact. This was one of the conference's highlights, and it was great to hear from him.
"The IFA major awards are a big deal..." commented one of the attendees of this year’s event. I always find it interesting to hear from people recognized for their work and contributions to the IFA and franchising industry. It’s always inspiring.
"How did he do that, that was amazing!” said a speaker after watching an illusionist pull off some entertaining and head-scratching tricks. The illusionist’s show was a fun and exciting part of the general session.
"High profile is one thing; high performance is another." Just because a brand enjoys positive PR and successful media pushes doesn’t mean it’s run efficiently. The real results - unit sales, franchisee success, etc. - are more important than the “next big” news story. It’s always important to do your due diligence and investigate up-and-coming franchise brands before you commit!
The Main Takeaways
These quotes are just a tiny sample of what I heard at this year’s IFA Annual Conference. There’s always too much to remember! Thank you to everyone I was able to meet and catch up with - it was a pleasure seeing everyone.
If you made it to the conference and we could not connect, let’s set up a call. I really enjoy talking with others in franchising! If you didn’t make it to the event, don’t worry. There’s always next year. I strongly encourage everyone in franchising to attend this main event, even if it’s only once. The benefits and opportunities always exceed the costs.
Thank you for reading, and please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime with franchising questions. I am happy to be a resource, anytime.