A Look Back at IFA Conventions – Many Fond Memories Shared!
A few years ago, I started a discussion on the IFA Linkedin group about the then upcoming IFA Convention. I inquired as to who would be attending the event, and what they were hoping to bring back to their franchise organizations. Many franchise professionals shared their reasons for attending which ranged from seeing old faces to building relationships to improving franchise sales to learning more about social media. All great reasons. But one response in particular really shined through. It was a response from franchise veteran, Michael Seid.
Reflecting back, I know many smiled as I did when reading his response. Actually, it was his personal recollection of how IFA conventions have evolved since the first convention and his reference to people and events that made it special.
Well, as this year’s IFA convention in New Orleans quickly approaches, I thought it might be inspiring and thought-provoking to revisit Michael’s response and share it once again. Enjoy!
“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.”