Another Multi-Unit Conference in Hideous Las Vegas

Yes, I hate Las Vegas. There I have said it. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being pulling out your own fingernails with a tweezers, a conference in Vegas ranks number 3 for me.  And I am hoping this is my last trip there--I will have a life sized puppet made of myself and have my VP Samantha Amato drag it around there next time.  I don't walk much faster than that anyway.

And while I am at it WOW--United Airlines First Class is number 4 on my list.  How about NO CLASS.  Another 3 hour unexplained delay. The plane was lost, or broke or was out looking for the Malaysian airliner, or whatever they can dream up.  So it wasn't a long enough grueling conference--we had to add another 3 hours sitting in the $550 yearly membership United Club which i use once a year so that's $550 a visit.  Hmmmmmm. I have to take another look at that.

Hope you all think about the following.  Book the earliest flight you can on ANY airline. Sleep at the airport on a bench if you have to. Get Obama to give you a TSA pre-check by offering to tweet good things about him. Do whatever you have to to cut hideous business travel in half.

UGH--I have an hour left to unwind maybe.  Then bed.  Monday I intend to find out just how many multi-unit franchisees stopped at all my clients' booths.  So glad I helped sponsor another dinner for all attendees who don't even know who is paying their bill.   30 years of that too.  GOOD TIMES! 




LinkedIn--Biggest Poacher of Employees?

I do find it flattering when Weber-Shandwick or Ketchum emails my staff members and asks them if they are interested in talking to them. Flattered....but not happy.  

This happens to SandersonPR all the time--and for years either the person took the other job and moved on, or they let me know about the email and I matched the offer if they got one.  Or I said-"Hey, that would be great for you!"  Translation...let them train you some more.

But usually there are only offers after I have sweated blood and tears training the person and getting them right to the place they need to be before an offer rolls in for them.  I am known to be a pretty tough PR woman who turns out amazing PR people.  That is because if they don't dazzle me in 3 months they are gone. Sorry, that's just the way it has to be. You have to be VERY smart in several different areas to practice public relations well.

Now enter LinkedIn, an Open Forum for poachers!  After one of my VPs was plucked up by a big company in Chicago, I checked her LinkedIn page. Lo and behold, she discussed all of her hobbies and goals, one of which was climbing the corporate ladder. Say what?

Is it only me or do I feel like the kids between 23 and 28 feel a wee bit entitled to their jobs, and sometimes act as though they are doing ME the favor? Just sayin'.  I guess it all depends on when you were born, or what you were born into.

Our young people have not seen any hard times in this country. Oh yeah, it's likely that recession in 2008 did little to affect their lives. Maybe Mom and Dad had a few investment issues, but pretty much these kids haven't lived through wars, poverty and Iots of hard work on the farm.

Do yourself a favor. Check your employees'  LinkedIn pages. Sometimes they say right on there that they are looking for "career opportunities".  What the hell do they think you are giving them?

Off to Multi-Unit Owners Conference-Who Are These Guys?

Everyone in food franchising knows who these guys are. They are the sharp food service operators who not only own several units of a brand, they own several units of several brands!

In the past 15 years or so of attending Franchise Update functions, I have been looking for these guys.  And talking to them. Most of them don't do the stock market, their stock market is a restaurant portfolio full of terrific brands that compliment each other.

One company really working this group and hitting the jackpot is LA based Pizza Studio.They have 175 units in various stages of development with some of the biggest players in this segment.  Their pizza concept, top your own, isn't the only one of its kind--but it clearly has something that is attracting heavy hitters.  One reason may be the guys behind it.  Samit Varma is pretty much a genius, former ballistic engineer in the Navy and at a heavy duty venture capital firm after that. Ron Biskin has 30 years in the food industry helping guys like Wolfgang Puck figure out franchising.  

So it's no surprise they are cleaning up in this segment.  Have a Happy Easter all.  


Virtual Offices--How to Make Them Work

Who wouldn't love to work from beautiful Boca Raton Florida?  For one, I am the youngest person at my Whole Foods. Well, that's not true but if someone's younger they are usually just visiting parents and grandparents here.

Now having said that I am still a very active, like crazy, PR woman who has sometimes withdrawal of sorts if I can't find my cell phone for 40-50 seconds and/or talk to my office at least twice a day.

The rational me knows someone will call me and let me know if Chicago is wiped off the map by the perpetual global warming crises that appear to keep occurring there. Here's the pattern.  Snow, snow and more snow.  Next day 2 degrees.  Warm up to 28. Snow, snow and more snow. Next day 2 degrees.  You get the picture.

But down here in semi-sunny Florida even the bad weather is good compared to Chi-town-and as I sat one day pondering how it could possibly be -20 in Chicago on a Monday when it was 80 degrees here (that's 100 degree difference in a 1600 mile stretch people!!) I also started thinking seriously about how I could open an office down here and do the Thursday evening commuter thing--loving airports and airlines as I do :-).

I do have several enjoyable clients I can commiserate with when I am down here so there IS a possibility we will be a dual office soon. Can't say bi-coastal, even though that sounds cooler!

When To Say NO to a Client!

New Business.  We just love it. It's the cause for much excitement in any marketing or PR firm, ad agency, law office.  Pretty much everyone likes to win new business.  

But after 30 years as a franchise PR specialist, I have learned to ask myself "Is all new business worth the 'high' you get from winning it?" And moreover, are all clients worth keeping because you can't part with that fee?

The answer, I promise you is NO.  

Here are some reasons to turn down a possible new client and/or fire an old one. 

  • At the first meeting they already know more about your business than you do. Or they think they do.
  • As happened to me recently, they are horribly rude to one of your references.
  • You see them treating other vendors, employees or franchisees badly.  They will do the same to you.
  • They try to get your price down once you have set a reasonable fee for what they need.
  •  An existing client is always going around you to one of your staffers for "extras". 
  • They are extremely demanding and their expectations are out of control, yet they have no idea how you do what you do.
  • They are never available and blame you for not delivering.
  • They are consistently rude and nasty to you or your staff.
  • They are consistently late with payment.
  • You have a gut feeling they are just "sketchy".

I feel I have touched on all major reasons but if you have other bullet points or perhaps a different point of view please do share.  

We all have to deal with difficulty in life.

But I have found that sometimes the drain on your energy and emotions can be much more damaging than having to cut out a couple of expenses here and there.  

Then again, 30 years in one demanding business like PR can be akin to being repeatedly pelted with hail!


Franchise Update Conference and Other Get Togethers

After 21 years of representing the West Coast Franchise and other MFV expos,  this PR lady is taking a break. I attended my own charity function, the Friends of Conservation Ball held in Chicago on Friday evening (the 18th).  I hated skipping it last year to cover the press booth in Anaheim.  Even though the Expo is this weekend, working on the Ball has taken any extra time.  Besides when the WCFE was in LA we got to go to the cool shops and Mr. Chow's for dinner. I miss taking my hard working IFA gal friends out in LA.

It's just time for some of us to move on and experience new things. This charity is near and dear to me.  Founded by the lovely Jorie Butler Kent of the Abercrombie Kent family, this is a win-win charity like no other. 

Native Maasai warriors are trained in an academy to protect the wildlife and the reserves, helping to preserve endangered species in Africa.  They get jobs, animals get protection--what's better than that? 

Several fabulous trips were auctioned off and as you can imagine no one can handle them like Abercrombie Kent--so I bid on the game preserve trip into South Africa and got it!!  Can't wait to cover another item on my bucket list. 

The week before I attended the Franchise Update Conference as I have also done since 1991.  They always pack a lot in to the 2 days and one of the highlights was trying to understand the real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort. He clearly made money as fast as he talked!!  But if you could get every third sentence it was a lesson.  Let's see if Leo DiCaprio talks as fast when he plays him in the Martin Scorsese film coming out.   

Also spoke on a panel about content marketing--did the PR bit and it was time to enlighten people about the shrinking media out there and why controlling your own content and messaging is so important in these times. 

They say people always end up showing their stripes.My buddy Zeke the Zebra showed his proudly last Friday at the ball.



The Media has Changed. Get with the Program.

An article I just wrote that was published on LinkedIn last night can open your eyes to the ugly truth.  Yes, the media is not only changing--it HAS changed already and not just a little bit. 

The impetus for the article was the frequency of questions we received about this newspaper and that newspaper and why they don't want to do a story on say....a 5th store opening.

Well firstly that's not news.  But hey I have only been doing this for 32 years and it wasn't news 32 years ago either.  But the frightening update on the major newspaper layoffs and bankruptcies can be found here in my article.  The downside--no reporters to come to events. The upside, we can be in charge of all the content.   Read all about the bad news here but stay tuned for the good news in upcoming posts!




World Franchise Associates, an international franchise development, marketing and media company, is hosting their next World Franchise Convention in conjunction with the Middle East & North Africa Franchise Association (MENAFA) Oct. 29-30 in Dubai. The company has six events planned for 2014, including four in partnership with the MENAFA.

Founded by Paul Cairnie in 1998 and headquartered in London and Chicago, WFA enables franchisors to enter new international markets by assisting them in identifying qualified candidates wishing to invest in a franchise system as an area developer, master franchisee, or multi-unit or multi-country franchisee. WFA regularly hosts one or two day events in different countries, bringing together American franchisors seeking partners and qualified candidates seeking investment opportunities. At the events, franchisors have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with prospective franchise partners and participate in panels and presentations on the future of their company’s international development. 

“We are a sales organization that gets deals done,” Martin Hancock, CEO of WFA, explains. “There is no better way of bringing together franchised brands and investors.”

Clients for WFA consist of companies in most franchising sectors, especially food, hospitality, retail, and service, and include brands such as Conde Nast, Earl of Sandwich, Joe’s Crab Shack and Smoothie King.

“Food concepts are still the most popular,” said Hancock, “But we are also seeing strong interest in service brands from operators looking to diversify their portfolios.”

According to recent reports, the global franchise industry will be worth $5 trillion by 2020 and 50 percent of the top 200 franchised brands’ units will be overseas within a decade. The struggling economy in the United States coupled with increasingly saturated markets has caused brands to look elsewhere for revenue and growth opportunities.

 “The Middle East is an exceptional market for multi-unit and multi-country franchise agreements,” Hancock said. “There is a very high demand for American brands in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan as well as in emerging markets like Oman, Morocco and Tunisia.”

The WFA has also seen increased interest from Russia and East and Central Europe, as well as South and Central America, particularly Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

WFA services are paid for through a success fee. There is also a marketing fee that covers building the franchisor prospectus and profile as well as inclusion in all WFA marketing activities. That marketing fee gives the franchisor a presence at all WFA events for one year, including a guaranteed presenters spot. For more information, visit



Pizza Wars! It's ON.

The winner? My money is on the best leadership.  Yes, yes there is always a proliferation of concepts once one succeeds and gets some press there are new ones popping up on every corner.  Remember Dinner by Design?  One New York Times story and 20 other people thought they could create this same dumb idea and franchise it.  In case you don't remember, this was a concept where they encouraged women to come there one day a week and fix meals for the whole family for 5 days.  Yeah, I can do that at home for a lot less dough.   

And speaking of dough, pizza is the new darling of the fast casual world--burgers were there last year.  Now choose your own toppings is the way to go..and it's only natural that we stubborn know-it-all Americans want to take control of our own pizza-dammit!  We'll decide what's good on there.

And it IS good. The latest and greatest is The Pizza Studio, based in the Kardashian land of Calabasas, and with their first location at USC. They are my predicted winner. Mostly because the two men running it are each rocket scientists in their own areas of expertise. One is a genius, an engineer from the military who then went into the world of venture capital with Anthem, a top VC firm, and the other a brilliant restaurant brain who has been involved with some of the top restaurant franchises and in on some of the most interesting changes and acquisitions in that world.  If I buy a franchise, I want really smart people to be running the show.  Period.   


LA Business Journal last week. 

LA Business Journal last week. 

Why Tom Wood is the Coolest Guy in Franchising

Tom Wood, CEO, Floor Coverings International Chairs October Franchise Development Conference

First-Ever Chair Named for Franchise Development Conference

Tom Wood, President and CEO of Floor Coverings International, has been named the first-ever Chairman of the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference, now in its 15th year. The conference will take place October 9-11 in Atlanta at the InterContinental Buckhead. This year's theme is "Fast Times @ Franchise High."

"School is never out for the pros," said Wood. "So if you're serious about building your brand, don't miss this must-attend event. The pre-conference workshops are nearly sold out."

"Tom is a seasoned professional in growing franchise systems," said Therese Thilgen, CEO of Franchise Update Media Group. "He knows the formula for building attractive franchise programs and recruiting qualified franchisees, having accomplished this for several franchise brands through the years."

For more information about the conference, visit or call 800-289-4232 x216.

Tom Wood's Message from the Chair

My first day in franchising came in May 1985, when I was a young college student. I had no idea where that decision would lead. After all, it was just a summer job! It turned out to be a great decision, introducing me to the world of "franchise development and growth through the addition of new franchisees" - something many of us still refer to as franchise sales.

The world has taken many twists and turns since then, constantly challenging those of us in "franchise development and growth" to innovate, improve, or be left behind.

One reliable way we stay ahead of the curve is to attend the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference every fall. Together we create the world's largest group of franchise development professionals, all gathered to learn, share, and commune. It's a chance to meet with other "forward thinkers," put our heads together, and look for ways to improve ourselves, our teams, and our brands.

What can you and I look forward to at this year's event? A lot! Beyond the excellent speakers, sessions, and panels featuring new and refreshed content dealing with today's needs, there also are opportunities for:

  • Experienced CEOs to meet with fellow CEOs and press each other on the constraints and opportunities they're facing.
  • Newer franchise development executives to participate in basic skills sessions focused on the fundamentals of franchise sales success.
  • Sales managers to work on leadership skills to improve the performance of their teams and to review some groundbreaking research that gets to the very heart of motivating and coaching outstanding sales talent.

And of course there's more - from inspiring keynote speakers to engaging educational sessions on how to build appropriate content, leverage technology, and attract the best candidates for our systems - as well as business solution roundtables and plenty of time to meet with your peers and solution providers and potential partners.

One of the most interesting things about such a large group of talented sales professionals coming together for this conference is seeing how some of the greatest and biggest egos in our business interact, share, and work together. Let's face it. We're in sales! We like to close transactions, and to do that we must have supreme confidence in our own abilities and the systems we work within.

This October 9-11, more than 400 supremely talented and confident franchise development specialists will converge in the same place, in the same rooms and hallways, and for the same reasons: to learn, to share, and to stay ahead of our competition.

I look forward to seeing you at the opening of the event, and to how we all respond to the many opportunities this conference provides. I hope you'll join me in making this the best event yet, stretching our individual skill sets to new limits and challenging our peers around us to do the same.

See you in Atlanta!

Tom Wood, President and CEO, Floor Coverings International

For more information about the conference, visit or call 800-289-4232 x216.

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Multi-Unit Conference-More of the Same

How much can we talk about mobile apps?  At the Franchise Update Consumer Marketing Conference held in Atlanta on the 24th and 25th of June--we did more talking about it.  More talking about social media. More talking about PR.  Mostly talking about whatever the 150 sponsors were selling!

Every conference it gets tougher and tougher for a franchisor to get a moment's peace.  They are being hounded left and right by every 24 year old that just got hired and is trying to prove him/her self to the new boss--usually a vendor saying "show me how great you are kid".  

Also as a vendor, you pay a large chunk of change for these sponsorships and when there are many more vendors than franchisors--well that's NOT a good use of dollars.  Not to mention whichever sucker pays the most gets their pick of round table to lead.  Still not thinking it's worth mega-thousands.The events can be fun--you get to have drinks with your old pals and whine a bit, gossip a bit--but in the end are we getting business?

We are getting to go through the nation's most hideous airport--Atlanta's Hartsfield, where every security line looks like they just had a bomb threat.    

Happy 4th all! 



Welcomemat Services CEO Hosts Panel at Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference

Tough economic times have business of all sizes struggling to grow and succeed. Brian Mattingly, CEO of Welcomemat Services, was a panelist at this week’s Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference in Atlanta, Georgia where he discussed ways of acquiring and retaining customers.

The panel addressed topics including how to identify, find and capture new customers who are most likely to become loyal and provide ongoing revenue to local businesses.

“Finding the right customer is the first step in customer retention and long-term customer relationships. Because of the recent recession, many consumers have become deal seekers. These consumers hardly ever give their loyalty to any brands and will also be the first to leave negative comments on websites and social media sites. It is important for local businesses to think about this prior to running heavy discounting strategies,” Mattingly said.

Welcomemat Services is a franchised marketing strategies and technology company providing monthly direct-mail packages to new movers. Welcomemat Services helps local business grow their clientele by capitalizing on advertising to people who are new to the area.

“Research shows one of the few times consumers change habits is right after they move,” Mattingly added. “In fact, one study found 40% of movers change toothpaste brands.”

The panel also addressed programs and techniques companies can use to attract and engage the types of customers who will remain loyal and refer others.

CEO Takes Largest Painting Franchise to the Next Level

Here's the deal.  If you are number one in your category, such as the Number One painting franchise --you'd better be able to keep it up. It's LONELY and scary at the top!  

Sanderson & Associates has had the pleasure of representing CertaPro Painters for more than 20 years.  Sorry other painting companies, but the truth is they are different. Actually the most wonderful management team along with sister companies Floor Coverings International and Pillar To Post, among others, these are some of the hardest working guys and gals around.  More importantly, and crucial for us, is they CARE about their franchisees and help them succeed.    

Rich Wilson started with CertaPro Painters in 2003 and stepped into the presidency there in 2010.  We have seen only good things happening since Rich stepped in and can't wait to see more! Read this awesome profile about Rich.

Military Friendly Franchises Celebrate Memorial Day with National Recognition

In honor of Memorial Day, we would like to take a moment to recognize seven franchises that were named a 2013 Military Friendly Franchise by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs. Liquid Capital of America, Hungry Howie’s Pizza, Spring-Green Lawn Care, Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection, ComForcare Senior Services and CertaPro Painters  were among those ranked in the top 10 percent of all franchises nationwide for their commitment to supporting military veterans interested in franchise opportunities.

While Memorial Day is a time for the United States to honor military members and veterans, the franchises selected by Victory Media do so on a regular basis. Offering veterans who wish to open their own franchise a discount on the franchise fee is one of the measures these companies take to support the men and women who serve our country. For more info on franchises for vets go to and look for the Vetfran program offered by the International Franchise Association and its members.

How are you paying tribute to members of the military this Memorial Day? We would love to hear how your life has been personally enriched by the sacrifices made by service men and women.

Happy Memorial Day all.  Remember.

Happy Memorial Day all.  Remember.

Restaurant Show May be Good for Restaurants but the Jury is out on Franchises

Attended the teeny weeny restaurant show here in Chicago last Sunday. It was 75 degrees and I had been working hard the whole week, traveling, entertaining clients, etc so of course I wanted to work on this lovely sunny day.  NOT! 

But it was interesting seeing the Franchise Pavilion brought to you by Nation's Restaurant News, the venerable trade of the restaurant industry and the International Franchise Association.  I have to say I was so excited to see the Erbert & Gerbert truck--it was so cute I wanted one to go in my backyard. If you attended or exhibited, let me know how you did there! 

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Wholesome Tummies are Really Yummies!

Debbie Blacher knows a thing or two about a thing or two--mostly how bad obesity has become for kids--not news but not over either!  As a former Mom of a young kid--I wish I had had any options. I remember telling my daughter in freshman year of high school--"you need to join the cross country track team".  She gave me "the look". The look is like I have 2 heads or I am wearing something of hers.

My point was if you develop lifelong habits early it just becomes, well, your life.  This is what Debbie Blacher thinks too. Her goal is clear: to make sure kids everywhere have access to fresh, nutritious food. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed – right now, one-third of American kids are overweight or obese, and 50 percent of Americans are projected to be obese by 2030 if current trends continue. And since most of America’s 60 million school-age kids consume half of their daily calories at school, healthy eating habits must be addressed both at home and in the classroom. But that’s easier said than done because most school lunches are less than ideal. Greasy pizza, tater tots and cookies are the norm and healthy options like fruits and vegetables are often so overcooked and unappetizing that most kids just throw them away.

And so far, the Wholesome Tummies model has been a success: the corporate location opened in 2007 and franchising began in 2010. Since then, Wholesome Tummies has expanded to 10 locations throughout the country, with plans to double that number in 2013. Long-term goals call for 250 locations within the next five years. Debbie below in her delivery van.

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What Does it Take to Run a Fitness Franchise?

Brian Cygan is the founder of Lake Zurich, Ill.-based fitness chain The Exercise Coach.

Brian Cygan is the founder of Lake Zurich, Ill.-based fitness chain The Exercise Coach.

Fitness franchises are nothing new: from big-box gyms to smaller niche studios, it seems like there’s something for every kind of client. But running a fitness franchise requires more expertise – you need to be a health nut to run a gym, right?

Not true, at least according to Brian Cygan, founder of up and coming fitness company The Exercise Coach. He’s looking for franchise owners that fit the same demographic as his preferred clients: people frustrated with conventional exercise norms who don’t have the time or ability to spend an hour doing high-impact gym workouts every day.

The idea is that the people who do best as Exercise Coach franchisees are the ones who would get the most out of it themselves – to Brian, a sense of entrepreneurship and a desire to give back to the community and do something meaningful are more important than fitness expertise.

And so far, targeting that demographic has paid off – The Exercise Coach, based in Illinois, started franchising in 2010 and has already expanded to 16 locations across the country. Brian hopes to have 250-300 locations in the next five years.

You can read more about Brian and his plans for the franchise at The Daily Herald and the Lake Zurich Courier