Grow Market Lead Capt. Mark Kelly, keynoter Driving Profitability Multi-unit franchisees bring spirit of optimism to Las Vegas R By Kerry Pipes and Eddy Goldberg esiliency and optimism permeated the air at this year’s Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas March 27–29. In tune with this year’s theme— Driving Profitability—these individuals are not only driven, they believe the best is still ahead. In her opening remarks on Wednesday morning, Franchise Update CEO Therese Thilgen welcomed attendees, saying, “Multi-unit franchisees continue to evolve by facing reality. They’re a resilient group that succeeds because optimism is part of their nature.” That set the tone for the next twoand-a-half days, which were filled with high-octane panels and educational presentations and participative sessions—along with hours of networking possibilities. Once again, the event set several new records. More than 1,200 attendees flocked to Vegas for the event, more than 20 Franchiseupdate Iss u e II, 2 0 1 3 Once again, the event set several new records. More than 1,200 attendees flocked to Vegas for the event, more than 450 of them franchisees. 450 of them franchisees. Thilgen noted that three quarters of the franchisees in attendance said they were looking for additional brands. The sold-out Expo Hall, featuring a record 200 booths, provided plenty of opportunity of all kinds, as well as suppliers offering solutions for problems ranging from social media and mobile to accounting and financial services. Thilgen was followed by 2013 Conference Chair Sean Falk, a multi-unit franchisee with four different food brands. Recalling his years as a U.S. Marine, Falk cited the force’s motto “Semper fidelis” (Always faithful) to encourage his fellow multi-unit operators to choose a brand and believe in it. He also noted some potential threats looming for franchising: the Affordable Care Act, a minimum wage hike, and the increasing cost of fuel and commodities. “As small-business owners, we have no idea how we’re going to be taxed in 9 months, much less 5 years,” he said. “All these challenges cannot be met by raising prices.” He encouraged the audience “to be more efficient, find vendors who can do things better and more efficiently than we can.” And he continued to urge franchisors to develop programs to help their successful franchisees manage more units.