Franchise Update Magazine Issue II, 2013 - Page 27

Grow Market Lead slow housing market, and weak consumer confidence, he said the economy is improving “slowly and fitfully.” Addressing the paralysis in Congress, he made what he called a “bold prediction” that Congress will strike a grand bargain this year on the economy. Citing Winston Churchill’s observation that the U.S. will do the right thing—only after exhausting all other possibilities—he added that if the Congress acts decisively, consumer confidence will improve in the coming year. If not, he cautioned, 18 to 36 months of further uncertainty are in store. The outlook for franchise lending is good he said—as long as franchisees are top performers or associated with top-performing brands. He noted that with many private equity funds nearing the end of their run, transfers and M&A activity will increase, providing plentiful opportunities for larger multi-unit organizations to acquire units from smaller (1–3 unit) franchisees. In summary he said, “It’s a period of slow growth, but the economy is improving.” That was followed by the announcement of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine’s 2013 MVP Award winners (see sidebar, page 21). Most dramatic presentation Thursday morning’s general session saved the most dramatic and moving for last as Mark Kelly, former astronaut and Navy pilot, and husband of former U.S. Congress member Gabrielle Giffords, took the stage for an inspiring “The power of the human spirit is an incredible thing. Gabby reminds me every day to deny the acceptance of failure.” ­­— Mark Kelly keynote speech. He told tales of his aerial combat and space missions with a behind-the-scenes look at what happened—and what could have happened. He called every successful launch of the Space Shuttle (he went up four times) a “minor miracle,” and said that at takeoff the Shuttle “is like a butterfly bolted to a bullet.” At takeoff, the Shuttle accelerated from zero to 17,500 mph, creating tremendous g-force stresses. Re-entry is no picnic either: temperatures reach 5,000 degrees and astronauts must wear a liquid cooling suit to survive. In between, though, up in orbit, he said, “It’s amazing to see this big blue marble floating in the black.” Kelly also shared the heroic story of his wife Gabby, who was shot in the head at a political rally in her home district near Tucson in 2011. Kelly said Giffords—who at 26 was CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses, a 15- unit automotive chain founded by her grandfather—has been strong and determined throughout the ordeal, and he spoke of her bravery in facing what appears to be a lifetime of rehabilitation. Kelly said that every morning as his wife heads out the door to rehab, she looks at him and says, “Fight, fight, fight.” He said her attitude remains a daily inspiration to him. “The power of the human spirit is an incredible thing. She reminds me every day to deny the acceptance of failure.” At the conclusion of the general session, franchisees gathered for roundtable discussions, each with a different topic and hosted by a subject expert. This format, offering something for everyone, allows small groups of people to discuss specific strategies, tactics, problems, and solutions. Topics included technology, customer retention, new store openings, and a perennial challenge: finding and keeping great employees. Attendees then moved on to lunch and more networking in the Expo Hall. After lunch, attendees gathered for the final general session of the conference for a panel about private equity funding and its role in franchising. The panel included successful multi-unit franchisees Aziz Hashim (4 restaurant brands), Rob Branca (Dunkin’ Donuts), and Gary Robins (Supercuts), along with two brand executives, Kathleen Gilmartin, CEO of Interim HealthCare, and Jim Lyons, COO of Quiznos. The conversation ran the gamut from the pros and cons of PE money to due Franchiseupdate I ssue I I , 2013  25