This year we (COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team) decided to be very UNconventional in our conference planning. Our system consists of creative, brilliant and successful franchisees. We know that listening, engaging and connecting IRL (in real life) is a once in a year opportunity to learn in a peer-to-peer atmosphere. Top producers are always willing to share their successful business practices and newer franchisees share fresh ideas.

With all of this in mind, we organized a conference where the franchisees will moderate sessions that involve a hands-on, tell your story, share your challenges, brag about the successes and empower each other to charge forward attitude. Participation will be expected. No one will take a back seat as an observer. It  will be a large networking, brainstorming, strategic planning weekend. Certainly, UNlike any of the 26 previous annual conferences.

The 2011 Franchise Business Economic Outlook report indicates that franchise businesses are poised for stronger growth in 2011.  We know that the same old same old isn’t working today. In order to grow we need to look at our current strategies and UNdo old habits.  Now more than ever we need to UNcover new strategies. As a system we need to be UNrelenting in setting ourselves apart from the competition. As a team we will define “the new normal” and leave conference ready to thrive instead of merely surviving. We will discuss what’s working, what’s broke and what needs to be thrown away.

We gave up the expensive entertainment, high cost speakers and extravagant door prizes to cut our costs and pass the savings on to the franchisees. By charging the bare minimum for registration, the franchisees are in a better position financially to attend. When we say there will be no “rah rah” we mean fluffy speeches or UNrealistic expectations for the future.  There will be plenty of rah in our celebrating but a lot of hard work in a short amount of time.

We will go high-tech for little cost. Our keynote speakers will present virtually from Australia! We will use Web conferencing and Video Skype to open the conference. Our business partners are joining us over the weekend as we discuss social media, marketing messages and PR strategies. Franchisees will lead discussions on implementing new programs, how using the tools available affect their bottom line and what accountable action steps are needed to build a positive culture and profitable franchise system.

2010 was a tough year in franchising. When talking with other franchise leaders at IFA I learned that COMPUTER EXPLORERS is not alone. I heard other leaders declare that survival mode is so last year. 2011 is a year of potential and growth. I agree!  It’s especially exciting  knowing that in less than 8 days the corporate team will be strategically planning and charting a new course for COMPUTER EXPLORERS – side by side with the franchisees!

My goal for our UNConference is to be an UNbelieveably successful start to establish our “new normal.”