IFA Supplier Forum: Advancing IFA Goals and Initiatives
By Larry Weinberg, CFE, Chair IFA Supplier Forum Advisory Board
The IFA, or International Franchise Association, is an association by, for and about franchisors and franchisees – the “voice of “franchising” to a large segment of the business world, policymakers, and legislative leaders. While promoting the interests of franchisors, franchisees, and the benefits of the franchise model, IFA is more than that: the IFA Supplier Forum plays a significant role in the internal operations and external success of the association.
The IFA Supplier Forum is sometimes referred to as the third leg of the IFA membership stool and consists of those association members who provide services and products to franchisors and franchisees. Due to their commitment to the franchising business model, as well as the benefits they derive from working with franchisors and franchisees, IFA Supplier members are woven into the fabric of just about every IFA program, policy, and initiative.
Structure of the Supplier Forum Advisory Board
The Supplier Forum operates through the Supplier Forum Advisory Board (SFAB), which is comprised of 21 supplier members, representing a wide spectrum of supplier companies. A number of years ago a new structure was implemented for the SFAB, with the creation of operating groups, designed to increase the productivity of Supplier Forum action, provide additional support to the IFA, and spur creativity and engagement in association projects.
Following are brief descriptions of the now six groups, along with their goals and objectives.
1. Government Relations Group
The Government Relations Group, chaired by Nina Greene, a partner in the Miami-based law firm of Genovese Joblove & Battista, is tasked with formalizing the role of the SFAB in increasing involvement of IFA supplier members in IFA’s legislative initiatives, such as through FranPac and the Franchise Action Network.
Supplier members are leaders in FranPAC fundraising, with more “max” donors ($5,000 per year) than any other member group in the IFA, which helped the association break into the top 25 associations in Washington, D.C. with more than $1 million collected in the current election cycle.
2. Communications Group
The Communications Group, led by Lorne Fisher, CEO and Managing Partner of Fish Consulting, has the mandate to consider, plan, and implement an initial and ongoing SFAB communications strategy to IFA supplier members on the purpose, makeup and goals of the SFAB. For instance, for the first time ever this Group will be overseeing the production of an SFAB newsletter, to ensure that IFA supplier members can learn more about the value of their membership and the role the SFAB plays on their behalf.
3. Business Solution Roundtable Group
Amit Pamecha, a founder of FranConnect, serves as the Business Solution Roundtable Group leader. This group is responsible for the coordination of the Business Solution Roundtables during IFA’s Annual Convention.
The BSRs are often the convention’s highest rated programs.
4. Seminars & Speaking Group
The Seminars Group is made up of Lynette McKee and Ritchie Taylor. Lynette is CEO and Managing Partner of McKeeCo Services, LLC, while Ritchie is a Shareholder in the Raleigh-based law firm of Manning, Fulton & Skinner, P.A. Their principal role is to plan and organize the Supplier Forum’s monthly WednesdayWise Webinars, and supplier orientation seminars at the IFA annual convention. Having a good pipeline of topics and an active working group helps to keep these webinars current and popular. The Seminar Group, working with the other operating groups, will be looking for opportunities to create webinars or other programs for suppliers, franchisors or franchisees.
5. Supplier Impact & Growth Group
This Operating Group is chaired by Matt Alden, President of Franchise Solutions. This group’s goals are to maintain statistics on the role of suppliers in the IFA; to consider the use of these statistics to further the SFAB’s goals, and to liaise with other IFA forums and committees so as to increase the number of domestic and international supplier members for IFA.
6. Past Chairs Council
The Past Chairs Council, led by Darrell Johnson, CFE, president and CEO of FRANdata, was created to take advantage of the experience of the Supplier Forum Advisory Board’s past chairmen to focus on long-range strategic planning. Some of the issues on their agenda are operating group effectiveness, coordination with the IFA board, and developing Supplier Forum positions on key franchise topics.
Encouraging Participation and Engagement
One of the consistent themes of the SFAB is “engagement.” We are encouraging participation and engagement by suppliers in various IFA programs, including Supplier Forum-sponsored activities. In addition, we are seeking to have supplier members become more engaged in IFA priorities and legislative outreach. For example, when the IFA requests that franchisors and franchisees participate in state and local functions, lobby to protect the franchise business model at state houses or city council meetings, or promote franchising in their local communities with local public relations and press events, suppliers can leverage their networks of customers and clients by encouraging franchisor and franchisee involvement in public outreach to policymakers. In this way, suppliers become an even more important and stronger third leg of the IFA stool.
There are currently over 680 supplier members from a diverse cross-section of businesses, including consultants, software companies, franchise development specialists, attorneys, marketing and public relations professionals, analytics companies, site development specialists, web designers, accountants, and payment and credit card processors, just to name a few.
Suppliers are critical to the financial health, the operations, and the programs of the association. Suppliers contribute more than $1.6 million in membership dues and more than $2.5 million in other revenue, including convention and other program attendance fees, sponsorships, exhibitor fees, and advertising.
Suppliers are involved in all facets of the IFA, from planning programs and conferences to holding membership in and chairing various committees and task forces, to membership on the board of directors.
At all levels and in all organizations, franchising involves developing and nurturing strong, mutually beneficial relationships. The IFA Supplier Forum is one of those connectors that fosters positive franchise relationships and opportunities for franchisors, franchisees, suppliers and the IFA as an organization.
For more information about the IFA and franchising in general, visit the IFA’s website at franchise.org.