New Horizons. FCA 2016 National Franchise Convention.

Under the leadership of Executive Chairman Bruce Billson and CEO Damian Paul, the Franchise Council of Australia’s well-designed social program integrated breakfast forums, panel sessions, round tables, keynotes and the spectacular gala night to maximise sharing of ideas and delivery of a wide range of innovative thinking.

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With more people being employed in small business and franchising, we saw an increased focus on supporting women into the industry, franchise trends, and the big one, learning how to mesh technology with strategy.

In his opening address, Small Business Minister, Hon Michael McCormack MP said statistics from the ABS show 2.1 million small businesses are operating in Australia, employing 4.7 million people.

Innovation certainly did meet opportunity at the 2016 National Franchise Convention. Held in the brisk clime of Canberra, 500+ attendees descended on the Convention Centre for three-days (9-11October) to do what the franchise sector does best: collaborate. To put it in real terms, just over 5% of our population is working in a small business.

Highlight for the franchise sector

Spectrum Analysis Managing Director, Peter Buckingham, sees the National Franchise Convention as the highlight of the year for the franchise sector. “We recognise the political influence we can have with our politicians, and I personally strongly commend Bruce [Billson] and Damian [Paul] on being able to achieve face to face meetings for groups of our members with the most influential politicians in the land,” Mr Buckingham said.

Data and strategy

With statistical analysis, market research and numbers a primary focus, Director for Geotech Information Services, Vanessa Wilmot facilitated one of the 30+ round table sessions held at NCF16, ‘Understanding how to use Big Data in your network’. Designed as interactive discussions,10 attendees per table shared their experiences, gained practical advice and collaborated on some of franchising’s hottest topics.

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When it comes to analysis, she advised franchising companies are making headway using technology, data and strategy, however they are getting caught up in the collection of data and maintaining of data. A statistician by trade, Ms. Wilmot feels like there is still a long way to go.

“I think companies are starting to see the importance of using technology to inform strategy,” Ms. Wilmot said.“There’s been a shift of focus towards strategy, rather than data cleansing and ‘perfect data’ to work with”, she said.

“People are asking, ‘what more what can this data do for me?’

“What I would like to see happen is companies harnessing what the outcomes could be; rather than, ‘this is all too hard”.

Doubt and not knowing what data can do for the company or the questions to ask, remain problem areas for some businesses. “[They] Don’t have time or resources to interrogate data and come up with a strategic result,” Ms. Wilmot said.

“This is something that has come out from the information I heard,” she said. Every company has data available on their customers and sales, which many aren’t using at all. Actionable insight can come from information collected on sales, or even postcodes combined with external data to glean strategic results.

Women in small business

Keynote speaker and SKY NEWS Contributor, Peta Credlin understands the need for franchises owners to gain practical items for their business. She shared with breakfast attendees how her formative years were spent in a family of small business, staffed by four children and faithful employees.“Hard work is the only way to get ahead in small business,” Ms. Credlin said. 

“You take risks to get ahead when you have financial skin in the game,” she said. A passionate advocate for women in small business, Ms.Credlin explained one-third of all small businesses are women starting at twice the rate of men, but, only bringing in half the income. Barriers include problems accessing finance, alongside women not having the confidence to speak up for change.

“Self- doubt, business, politics and personal life can hold us back – it’s a trap for women,” Ms. Credlin said. “You need to be resilient,” she said. “I was the longest serving female Chief of Staff and I look forward to a time when women aren’t written up as tough because they do a tough job.

“My advice to women is to have bravery and back yourself. A strong believer of keeping women in the workforce, she recommended the government needs to make it easier to for women to juggle work and family in order to boost productivity.

Franchising trends

A bastion for trends and research, long standing member of the franchising fraternity, Director Asia-Pacific Centre for Franchising Excellence, Professor Lorelle Frazer mirrored these sentiments as one-quarter of all franchising units are held by women. In the panel session ‘What are the latest franchising issues and trends in Australia and the USA’, Ms. Frazer provided the latest results from the Franchising Australia 2016 survey.

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“The retail sector remains the most volatile with intense competition,” Ms. Frazer said.

“There are more exits than entrants,” she said. The late 1990’s to 2000’s saw very rapid growth, with the last six years showing consolidation, almost reaching the limit the sector can go to. “Because we have a small population we can’t have too many franchise systems”, Ms. Frazer said. “Several will merge or come under one branch or just disappear,” she said.

“There are fewer franchise brands, but they are growing internally, the growth still continues.

“One of the reasons people franchise is to use the capital, not just the “capital” – the ‘human capital’ to expand quickly”. Companies that are unable to expand rapidly need to use their own money, have company owned stories, their own personnel … franchise and human capital helps businesses to expand rapidly and dominate the market. She says, “that is what it is all about”.