What’s important to franchising’s future? Leaders share insights at NFC16

Be resilient. Have a go. Make constructive change. Be inclusive. Those were some of the key messages for the franchising community that emerged from the franchising sector’s annual convention.

Innovation was the theme at the National Franchise Convention 2016 (NFC16) but the importance of inclusiveness and culture was also highlighted.

Speaking at the opening of NFC16 in Canberra, Franchise Council of Australia executive chairman Bruce Billson told more than 600 delegates that franchising is still a robust environment that the FCA will continue to nurture and develop for those who are invested in the franchising model.

“I’m incredibly optimistic about the sector,” Billson said.

He suggested that innovation is the ultimate platform for new thinking.

“Innovation is about an idea, or a possibility that leads to refinement or development… new ways to help our customers, new ways to enter the market. If there is a better model for implementing innovation than franchising, then I don’t know what is. You need to take in that customer facing wisdom and turning it into new opportunities,” he said.

The convention offered both inspirational speakers and practical insights into business and legal issues.

At the legal symposium which preceded the convention the hot topics were the incoming Unfair Contract law and the question of joint liability and how far the role of franchisor responsibility extends in franchisee employment issues (covered by accessorial liability).

This was a subject picked up by the Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, who spoke about this to the broader delegate audience on the Monday.

Billson acknowledged that the issue is one that affects and concerns the encompassing community.

"It’s all about creating a more supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, where enterprising men and women know the ground on which they stand and can make good decisions,” he said.

Political strategist Peta Credlin, former chief of staff for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and now a Sky News contributor, set the tone for the conference at the breakfast forum.

She also highlighted the value of franchising and small business as a route to a career for women, particularly in the digital age.

Going into business, like entering politics, is tough, and women can be their own harshest critics, she believes.

“Self-doubt in business can really hold us back,” she said.

Her advice for small business owners: “Be resilient. In business and in politics you are there to get things done, break down road blocks and meet commitments.

“I’ve always said success is persistence and talent in equal measures, with a bit of luck thrown in.”

Credlin also highlighted the value of failure in business.

“Failure is not a bad thing. You can surprise yourself if you put your hand up and have a go.

“I wouldn’t have got anywhere without being brave enough to fail.”

Delegates heard keynote presentations from Zambrero founder Dr Sam Prince, Minister of Small Business Michael McCormack and Fastsigns CEO Catherine Monson.

The convention program also featured concurrent sessions showcasing big topics in franchising including brand protection and risk mitigation and how to recruit franchisees.

Tuesday’s two final keynote speakers brought quite different experiences to their sessions but both Megan Quinn, co-founder of Net-A-Porter,  and David Morrison, Australian of the Year 2016, and former chief of the Australian Army, focused on the role of change and offered valuable insights into leadership, innovation and commitment.

Quinn talked about constructive anarchy and the importance of diversity.

“Diversity is an opportunity, not a challenge and it should be embraced.”

She suggested an over-reliance on systems and processes limits the capacity for business to generate goodwill.

“Empathy and compassion are hugely important,” she said.

Morrisson stressed the fundamental role of culture in bringing out the potential of any organisation with his catchcry of “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

He left the audience with a question: “What is the legacy you are going to leave?”