On the 30th November 2020, the bfa held its first ever fully virtual conference and awards. It was a huge, combined effort from everyone in the organisation to pull together all the content (three high profile keynotes, six breakout sessions, eighteen hosted round tables and two live streamed panel debates) that together comprised the conference. There was also an online exhibition, with twenty-three exhibitors, each hosting a combination of live 1-2-1 video chats, embedded video promotional assets and PDF brochures for visitors to the stand to download.
The day was opened by the bfa CEO, Pip Wilkins. Pip referred to the challenges that we had all faced this year, both on a business, and a personal level. She also talked around the ‘Big 3’ goals for the bfa, as listed below:
- Grow – to increase our membership so we are connected with more franchisors and franchisees
- Engage – to communicate and interact more effectively with our members and beyond
- Promote – to positively promote franchising and our members’ activity to the wider business community
Pip’s talk was followed by a fascinating insight to current affairs, in the first keynote from Ben Thompson, from BBC News, who gave a comprehensive overview of the current business landscape. He spoke about ways in which we can draw positives from the pandemic, in terms of learnings and changed behaviours, specifically with respect to remote working, embracing technology and supporting local businesses.
Following Ben’s Keynotes, we hosted three concurrent breakout tracks. Ben Brookes from Agency Express covered an insightful session for new franchisors focused on ‘Marketing to Attract the Right Leads’. Angie Coates from Monkey Music covered the Franchisee Focus with her session on ‘Why the Customer is Key’, and Kerry Bhella QFP held a presentation on ‘Renewal Processes’.
Whilst those three breakouts were taking places, the bfa had also arranged for several concurrent round table discussions, hosted by our affiliate partners.
The next keynote was delivered by Cally Beaton. Cally’s experiences in the world of television and media made for an entertaining, humorous, and upbeat presentation. Under the humour however, lay some cleverly delivered, serious points that she made around the importance of being willing to fail, the differences in human perception and the importance of embracing diversity of opinions and perspectives.
We then hosted a panel debate on COVID-19, chaired by Pip and focusing on shared lessons. The discussion specifically honed in on overcoming the occasional reluctance of franchisees to make decisions, diversification, changes to franchise agreements and safety in the workplace.
Following lunch, we went straight back into breakouts and round tables, with the three main tracks hosted by Paul Thompson of Waterbabies (New Franchisor Focus), Mark Llewellyn QFP & Terry Mullen from Revive! (Established Franchisor), and Cath & Mike Chalton from Home Instead. These tracks focused on ‘Recruitment’, ‘Multi-Territory Criteria’, and ‘Taking Your Business from Good to Great’, respectively.
The afternoon debate was our Legal Open Mic, featuring an impressive array of legal experts, who covered topics from franchise agreements to brand disputes, trademark queries, through to legal issues surrounding franchisee exit strategies.
The day was rounded off with an excellent keynote from Dame Inga Beale DBE, who spoke at length about her experiences in insurance in the city. As CEO of Lloyd’s of London, she led a digital transformation in the business that required a complete overhaul of the company culture. Moving from an old-fashioned, paper based, ‘old-boys-club’ culture (complete with suits, sexism, and lunchtime drinking), into a modern, progressive, and inclusive digital organisation. It was a fascinating talk and the perfect inspiring end to the day.
Pip closed with summary statements, and the day was ended on a real high. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, although there are always things you would do differently. The association is extremely proud, not only of our staff, who pulled all this together, but of every single attendee who came along and helped to make this event as special as it was.