Tag Archive: conference

What’s An UNConference?


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.”

Committed to Attend!

Virtual attendance

Virtual attendance

If you have read my previous posts you understand how excited I get about the COMPUTER EXPLORERS annual conference. What you may not realize is the level of excitement the franchisees have to attend. They look forward to the opportunity not only to attend the education sessions but they are extremely anxious to work with their peers.

This year we had several franchisees who could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances. Robin Scott, 2009 Franchisee of the Year and Franchise Advisory Council member experienced a medical emergency the day before her scheduled flight.

One of our speakers, Randy Hall was working with Robin in conference calls prior to conference. Randy got to know Robin and became very fond of her and Robin developed great respect for Randy and his expertise. Both were disappointed that they were not going to have the opportunity to shake hands and sit down together in person.

For every problem I firmly believe there is a solution and if creative enough it can be found. We could have Robin attend conference virtually! Using a laptop with video we connected Robin to sessions and moved her (the laptop) from table to table to work with various franchisees. Randy spoke to the group and engaged everyone participating including Robin! During group working sessions Robin was able to interact with the franchisees and complete the assignment that Randy gave the group.

Robin was a strong contributor and someone we would have missed terribly! It was rewarding watching franchisees run to a laptop to wave, send their best wishes and virtually hug a member of their franchise family.

Conference Eve

Conference Eve Poem
by: Lorri Wyndham
T’was the Night before conference
and all through the halls
The staff was all busy
away from the Malls

Deb & Lorri were posting
all through the night
Video and twitter
hoping all would go right

Lizards & Rocks & Duct Tape
were stacked
to answer the riddles
the Zee’s brains were racked

To the Forest they came
Big smiles on their faces
The speakers to inspire
put us through our paces

Deb will Cry
And so probably Perk
then they’ll go on their way
and get back to work

Countdown begins

The excitement is growing within the COMPUTER EXPLORERS team for the arrival of franchisees in less than 10 days! If you are not a franchisor and never felt the excitement prior to a conference, it’s similar to the excitement that is felt when approaching an annual family reunion.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS is a system of franchisees that have known each other for 1, 5, 15 and even 20 years!  With this history comes an intimate knowledge of franchisees,  rivalries and  friendships.

There will be groups of franchisees that will huddle together and reminisce of previous conferences and events. Stories will be told about the year  franchisees gathered for a group photo and were mooned by a hotel resident. The poor photographer at the top of a tall ladder had no clue there was mooner just below him. It is the best group photo in COMPUTER EXPLORERS history!

There will be stories of the years we conducted Franchise Advisory Council meetings and how the northeast region of franchisees were locked up in a room for hours. There were arguments, tears and  laughter until  the meeting concluded in the wee hours of the morning. (The west and south region of franchisees met and conducted business in less than 30 minutes!)

Some will remember the year the Franchisee of the Year took the microphone and her acceptance speech was almost as long as the conference itself. Very entertaining and heart-felt! The same year another  franchisee delivered a “clicking heels” story that is retold year after year.

So the countdown begins. This year with the implementation of social media so does the taunting. I admit I have really enjoyed posting tweets or Facebook messages providing hints about conference. I have generated interest and intrigued some with messages like “what do lizards, rocks and conference have in common?”

There will be an expectation that 2010 conference will be better than ever. I am confident that the COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team is working as hard as they possibly can to make that happen.

Ten days to go and my extended family arrives! To those franchisors that do not feel the excitement as I do prior to an annual conference, I’m sorry! There is nothing better than the excitement and opportunity to spend time with franchisees.


COMPUTER EXPLORERS group photo at annual conference