Recently, on the International Franchise Association group on LinkedIn, I posted the following discussion, “The 50th Annual IFA Convention in San Antonio is less than three weeks away. Will you be attending? If so, what do you hope to bring back to your organization? If not, is there a specific reason?”
Many franchise professionals responded and explained why they would be attending the event. Most of the responses centered around sharing ideas and building relationships. Sure, some mentioned exploring new opportunities with potential and existing clients, but we are all in business to make money, right? But in addition to generating new business, almost all that responded were looking to interact with fellow franchise professionals. Hopefully, long-term relationships will be established over time and the franchise community will continue to evolve and strengthen.
One of the responses was from franchise veteran, Michael Seid. He stated that he had been going to IFA conventions for 25 years. I really admired the fact that he had attended these events for over a quarter of a century! Think about all that has changed in 25 years. Just think about the technological changes that have occurred during this period of time. I mean no one was walking around the IFA event in 1985 with a cell phone, right? How about a laptop? Could anyone have even imagined the internet and email? Heck, fax machines were barely around in 1985, albeit the ones that were used that ridiculous paper that always seemed to roll onto to the floor and under a desk… just out of reach.
Yes, times sure have changed, but the love and passion for franchising apparently has not. It’s just been passed onto people like Michael Seid. By virtue of his responses to my original discussion, and subsequent question, “I’m curious, what was the convention like back in, what, 1985?”, Michael takes us down memory lane and does so in such a dignified manner and with genuine sincerity, that he really seemed to pay it forward. For the benefit of all within the franchise community, I am honored to share his response below.
“1985 was in Miami if I recall and that was not my first so it may be longer than [25 years]. If I recall the attendance at my first convention was measured in the hundreds – not like we have now in the thousands. It was a much different association – we have come a long way with programming and content and member services. A lot of the founders were still around. I just got a great biography of Joe Francis from The Barbers who was very active years ago. If you did not know Joe you missed a great man – really a fine individual who went out of his way to give guidance to anyone who asked for his help. His son is still very active in the IFA. It’s a great quick read if you have not seen the book. Joe is gone 15 or more years.
The culture of the IFA has not changed. You can still corner an experienced member as a new comer and they seem always to be thrilled to mentor and give advice. I remember asking Fred DeLuca a question when I was new in the association and he spent two or more hours giving me his advice. That has not changed at all as most members today will do the same for a new comer.
Looking back at what has changed – No franchisees back then. That was a major difference Steve Lynn and Jim Bugg made that happen). No PAC to speak of (Sid Feltenstein changed that). No franchise appreciation day (Bernie Browning‘s idea). No Education Foundation only an education committee (I think Sid Feltenstein is also responsible for that). No thought of diversity or minorities in franchising (Ron Harrison). No VetFran (Don Dwyer‘s idea during the first gulf war). No Second Tuesdays (if it was not Lane Fisher and Scott Lehr then they were responsible for making it grow as it has). Who would have thought we would be looking at using franchising to provide products and services to the poor in the emerging markets and yet today we have the Social Sector Franchising task force. No CFE (John Reynolds). No one would have thought of a franchisee ever being chairman (Steve Siegel was the first and Doc Cohen the second). No franchisees or suppliers forum leadership on the board (Joyce Mazero if I recall was the first Counsel of Suppliers chair on the board and Jeff Kolton was the second – although we had no vote then. Supplier membership on the Executive Committee did not exist (I had that privilege when I was supplier chair to be the first because of Gary Charlwood).
I remember the IFA chair years ago saying that he would never let a mattress salesman (his word for suppliers) ever being on the board. Suppliers got a board vote when Gary Charlwood was chairman). No suppliers elected to the board in their own name for six years (I was privileged to be the first and Lane Fisher the second). No women as chairman (Joanne Shaw was the first and Dina Dwyer the second). No major investment in research (Mike Isakson). I think Jim Amos when he was chair actually creating the first IFA long range strategic plan. When Don DeBolt became president of the IFA we were near bankrupt and look at the great financial condition we are in now (Russ Frith as Treasurer did an amazing job). We did a lousy job in lobbying years ago and now we have a huge public affairs team. We dealt with Coble and LaFalce holding hearings on relationship laws in Congress and those days are gone.
Yes a lot has changed over the years. We owe a debt to a lot of some very smart folks who were in the leadership back then who kept adding great elements to make the association better. Along the way we had some who were less than stellar also but for the most part, we have been fortunate by those who chose to be in the leadership. Lets not forget the amazing job Debbie Moss has done in growing and professionalizing the convention supported by a really professional team of staff.
Still with all of the change, growth and the better financial condition of the association, the culture of the IFA has not really changed. I expect that many of the members/leaders from years ago who have not been active in the IFA will be at the 50th anniversary. Some of them will be surprised and pleased how far we have come.”