2015 marks the fifth year DDIFO will hold a National Conference and the second year it’s happening in Las Vegas. Executive Director Ed Shanahan is looking forward to the excitement that comes with Caesar’s Palace, not only because of its location on the Strip, but also because of the history and spirit that’s as much a part of the place as the Roman columns.
Shanahan offers Independent Joe these thoughts on what makes a successful National Conference and how it’s programmed to meet the needs of DDIFO members.
IJ: What does it mean to be national conference?
ES: We always talk about Dunkin’s “national footprint.” Well, today it’s really taking shape, so we understand that it is truly important for this organization to position itself as one representing franchise owners in Colorado as much as in Connecticut. The way we see it, there are national issues, there are local issues, and there are local issues with national implications. Government overreach is one example. Something like a Styrofoam ban may only be a local issue today, but tomorrow could well be an issue with national reach. We need to be on top of all of those so our members in all the different regions can look to DDIFO as a source of information that is relevant to their day-to-day business.
IJ: Why Las Vegas in 2015?
ES: Las Vegas is a great choice for several reasons. First and foremost: it is the convention capital of the world. We want DDIFO members to enjoy the benefits of belonging to a true national organization and one of the ways we do that is by hosting it in Las Vegas.
You also have to consider the convenience. Virtually anyone can get to Las Vegas on either a non-stop or a one-stop flight. There is an abundance of hotel rooms at various price points and, perhaps most important, there’s plenty to do when you’re not sitting in a conference room. Our members enjoy taking in shows, or checking out the shops, or trying their hand at the tables. At the same time, many want to share the opportunity with their wives and families, so that makes it appealing to a broad section of franchisees.
But, one of the key ingredients to building a national conference is the willingness to move it around and take advantage of the benefits of different geographies and regions. The Southeast and the Midwest have appealing convention locations that we also want to consider in coming years.
IJ: What makes for great programming at the conference?
ES: The number one thing is that the information is timely. Right now, for example, issues related to the NLRB Joint Employer ruling are coming to bear on different franchise systems and we need to be mindful of what it could mean to Dunkin’ franchisees. Plus, many of our members are also investors in other franchise systems so they really appreciate getting the latest details from respected industry experts.
We also want to offer Dunkin’ franchisees a shared experience. There is great benefit in sharing stories with one another about how someone has handled adversity. And there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in one of our meeting halls for people to soak in. So, whether it’s a panel of franchisees discussing preformatted questions in front of an audience – with someone like Rob Branca leading the conversation – or a group of franchisees talking about an ongoing issue while meeting over drinks at a cocktail reception, attendees have a lot to gain from conversations with the established people in the system and the newcomers as well.
The last thing that’s important is paying the bills. We are fortunate to have assembled a great roster of business members with valuable goods and services to offer. In exchange for their membership fee, we provide them the opportunity to share information about how those goods and services can help a franchisee maximize profits and enhance efficiencies. It’s a win-win.
IJ: Every year the DDIFO board of directors holds its quarterly meeting at the National Conference. Why do you recommend franchisees attend that meeting?
ES: One of the benefits of having a board that is comprised of industry professionals – and not just franchise owners – is that they bring a different kind of sensibility to the business of running a Dunkin’ Donuts. The National Conference board meeting is not only a great opportunity for franchisees to have a say in how this organization is run, it is also a chance for them to gain a better perspective of what board members bring to the organization from their experience in Dunkin’ and their other businesses. I’ve watched as board members offer valuable input for franchisees—regardless of the region from which they come. And, I know the board also appreciates hearing from franchisees with whom they are not as familiar, especially those from emerging markets or who may be new to the system.
IJ: What are some of the most memorable moments you remember from past National Conferences?
ES: For me, nothing can match the true joy that franchisees and their families express at the Hall of Fame banquet. Over the years, we have honored some true giants in the Dunkin’ family and it is so powerful to hear these men and women share their memories about how they got involved in the business and what it’s meant to their families. Even as Dunkin’ Brands expands into a national presence and adds new franchisees to the system, it still feels like one extended family. I never get tired of hearing the old stories and learning how these people have overcome obstacles to build something that not only survives their generation, but continues to flourish because of the same attention to customer service and brand loyalty.