Month: August 2016

Engaging your Franchise

fast food franchise

It’s no secret that employee retention in franchises can be difficult and disheartening. According to the National Restaurant Association, the annual employee turnover rate in 2015 was 72.1%, compared to the total US private sector rate of 45.9%. In 2007, the restaurant rate was as high as 80.7%. In the auto industry, another franchise-based business, turnover among sales consultants was 66% according to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2014 Dealership Workforce Study.

In the quick service industry, turnover cost per year are $12,000 – $15,000 per location. These numbers emphasize the importance to  focus efforts on building and retaining a workforce with lower turnover. But we know budgets can be tight – a raise for everyone and free college tuition is not always in the cards. So how do we motivate, recognize, and inspire? We’ve learned that a little bit can go a long way.


One of the easiest way to reward employees and – perhaps more importantly – foster a sense of brand pride is through high-quality gifts and promotional products. Let’s look at Google. Throughout their summer of employment, interns are gifted with quarter-zip sweatshirts, water bottles, notebooks, hats, pens, and the like. Getting cool branded gifts instills a sense of pride in the company as well as a sense of appreciation. One thing you do have to be careful about – the quality of the products and the quality of the design. Anyone can slap a logo on a sweatshirt and hand it out, but that won’t guarantee anyone wants to wear it.


Chances are, you or someone in your office has a plaque hanging on their wall or an award sitting on their desk. “4th Quarter Highest Sales.” “Customer Service Award.” Why do people keep these and display them where everyone can see? To keep it short – it makes them feel good to be recognized, and to have others see that they’ve contributed to the company. Making employee recognition a standard part of your year or quarter can go a long way in keeping your employees happy and motivated. Well-designed plaques and awards presented with a gift card won’t be forgotten. 


When you have high-volume salespeople you want to reward or franchise owners you want to recognize for their outstanding accomplishments and revenue, one of the most memorable rewards is an incentive trip. In a study by The Society of Incentive Travel Executives, incentive programs aimed at individual workers increased performance by 27%, and programs aimed at teams increased performance by 45%. In an incentive for franchise-managing partners we manage, winners were chosen if they were in the top ten percent of all stores. These top performers earned a trip to the beautiful Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya in Mexico for a few days of relaxing, rewards, and team building – and came back refreshed and motivated.

In franchise operations, employee retention doesn’t have to be low if motivation and engagement are high. Through several levels of gifts, recognition and incentives, it doesn’t have to be complicated – it can even be fun.

Storytelling in Your Events


When you think about meetings and events, logistics often come to mind first. Certainly those must be outstanding, but something often forgotten about is the story. Stories are not just in books and movies; they are what we experience every day, drawing us in or tuning us out of everyday life. The story of your event is one of the most important elements to meeting your objectives.

A well-formed story is often why we remember some things vividly while forgetting about others. If a book was just a list of the things that happened in the character’s day, we’d forget it in a second. But if we’re drawn into their life with exposition, a climax, and a conclusion, we become invested the tale. So don’t simply approach your event in terms of what needs to happen, think of it in terms of parts of a story. This is where we believe your brand and the strategic purpose of your event can come together to create a signature experience. Look at the difference between these two event flows from the point of view of the attendee:

1: I went to an event. There were decorations. I had food. There was a speaker. I went home.

2: An invitation arrives in the mail for a brand summit. My interest is immediately piqued – what is a brand summit? I get to the event and notice the convention center is transformed. In the evening, food from each of the countries our company is based in come out. We eat family-style and enjoy the conversation. Suddenly, the lights dim. The CEO comes out for an interactive presentation, and I follow along on the app on my phone. We discuss the challenges we face and how we as a united family will each do our parts to conquer these mountains. I hear how other people, just like me in our company come up with amazing ways to defeat some big hairy goals each day. I go up to my room for the night and I am surprised to find a gift in my room – a company-branded leather notebook along with a glass of champagne. When I leave the next day, I excitedly read over my notes planning how to present to my team and help them share in the future vision when I get back.

Which of these compelled you more to read? Which one would be more interesting and engaging for you to attend? Was it the one where things just happened, one after another, until the event was done? Or was it the one that began with something unexpected and put the attendee in a space they had never been in before?

When storying your event, there are a few key things to keep top of mind if you want it to be truly memorable.

Beginning, middle, end.

Boil down any story in the world, and you’ll be able to break it into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. You should aim to do the same with your events. Draw the attendee in with a solid beginning – get their attention. Is there a kick-off party or a welcome dinner? Then, determine what you want the attendees to take away from the event and devise creative ways set up that information from the start and carry it through. What are the goals? What do you want them to feel? Start with those questions and create solutions from there. Finally, create something memorable for the end where attendees can wind down and re-group from the event, leaving them with a positive impression.

“Make me care.”

Andrew Stanton, a writer and director at Pixar, says “The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.” Nothing could be more true when it comes to events. You could set up an extravaganza with all the bells and whistles, the best food, and the most astounding entertainment and it will fall completely flat if it has nothing to do with the story you’re trying to tell. People won’t just show up because something is cool, they’ll show up if something means something to them. If you’re telling the story of a brand of automotive, for instance, forgo the limos and town cars for transportation and instead employ vintage models of the automotive brand – tell the brand’s story.

Use all your platforms.

Stories today are not just told around a campfire – they’re in books, on screens, in phones, and countless other media. In your event, don’t confine yourself to the venue or the hotel. Your story lives in the collateral and printed material your attendees receive, it lives in the app you developed for the event, it lives in the customer service of the people answering the registration hotline. Every aspect of the event needs to tie back to the story you want to tell.

Storytelling isn’t another industry buzzword to keep abreast of – it’s a reminder that every event needs to make the attendee feel something – because when you feel something, you remember it.

Back to School, Back to Work – Planning Around Life

You’d think that one of the most demanding parts of planning an event would be sticking to the budget or managing food and beverage. But one seemingly innocuous aspect takes more time than you’d think – finding a range of dates that works for everyone. Not just the hotel and flight schedule, but the attendees, their children, their school and work schedules, and their busy lives and variables to this specific task. We chatted with our most seasoned incentive planners to get their take on what to avoid and what to remember when planning around everyone’s schedule.

Keep important school dates in mind

We’ve had a lot of experience planning family incentive trips, and we know how complicated things can get if you don’t plan the correct dates right from the beginning. Even though incentives are generally a trip free of cost for the attendees, that doesn’t mean that they can totally put their lives on hold, pull the kids out of school, and rearrange their busy schedule just because it’s not on their dime. With this in mind, for summer incentives, plan for weeks in the middle of summer, and include a full weekend so mom and dad don’t have to take too many days off of work. If you are in the school year, you know those weeks where holidays and breaks fall will be hot travel times – book extra early to get the perfect destination hotels.

Know the company

Companies can have different fiscal years and internal schedules that may or may not be known to the public or planners. Some take the whole month of December off for holidays, some schedule a week every year for company meetings, some may participate in corporate athletic events and company picnics that limit some weekend. Though this is a slip-up that would be caught early, it’s better to be proactive and ask for important company dates throughout the year so you can plan around them.

Get feedback

If you’ve been working an annual incentive for a few years, chances are you send out an attendee survey at the end of the trip to get feedback on the location, the service, and the like. Consider adding a comments section asking how the dates and times worked for them. While you can’t please everyone, you may find some trends in the feedback and incorporate that into your planning for the group’s next incentive.

As a planner, you certainly can’t plan around everyone’s individual schedule. But you can make it easier on a group to travel – especially with children – by paying attention to universal flow of life events. By putting the attendees first, and not the hotel or resort’s schedule, you’ll offer more ease, peace of mind, and ultimately, fun.

Hot Gift Trends from the Atlanta Gifts Show

Atlanta Gifts Market

To get ahead of the trend in gifts, sometimes it pays to travel. We made our way to Atlanta for the Atlanta International Gifts and Home Furnishing Market, one of the largest wholesale markets for products and gifts in the world. It’s here that buyers and retailers meet, connect, and choose merchandise for the upcoming months. So naturally, it’s where we go to find the highest-quality, unique vendors for our gifting experiences. Check out some of the best ideas from the Atlanta Market below.

1: Location-based gifts


When your attendees travel memorable places, they’ll appreciate a memorable gift that reminds them of their trip of a lifetime. Consider custom-made jewelry, cork stoppers, cufflinks, or boxes made with a map of their destination. And when they’re headed back home, consider the popular, comfortable, and cute “home” tee, with the word “home” overlaid over a graphic of their home state.

2: Gourmet snacks and drinks


Anyone can go to the store and grab some popcorn and chocolate – but these crowd-pleasers take a high-end turn when they’re hand-crafted with the finest ingredients and customized to your attendees’ liking. From unique cocktail mixes to small-batch popcorn in every flavor you can think of, don’t underestimate the power of a well-chosen snack.

3: Personalized fragrances


One of the best ways to make a gift stand out is to personalize it. And one of the most memorable ways to personalize something is to have your attendees do it themselves. Several companies now offer fragrances designed to be mixed – and even include recipe cards so your attendees can remember their favorite scent blend.

4: High-quality essentials


There’s not always a need for the trendiest gadget on the market – sometimes, simple and necessary are best. When choosing bags, notebooks, passport holders and the like, consider high-quality leather goods proven to last. To add some pizazz, find a vendor that can customize these goods for you – or even work the event to give your attendees a full gifting experience.

5: Travel kits


Whether you’re sending an attendee home or preparing for their arrival, a unique travel kit is a fun, personal, cost-effective gift. To spice things up, consider a pocket cocktail kit. While on the plane – just add spirits!

The gift landscape changes and evolves continuously. But attending the latest gift show made it clear that customized, hand-crafted, and unique are the biggest trends going right now. There are lots of ways to approach this to make any receiver feel appreciated but it all starts with focusing on spending a little time thinking about them – and that is a trend that will always remain consistent.

An Olympic Feat

olympic stadium

The primary focus of the Olympics is all on the sports. The different countries, the athletes, the spectacle! But when we watch the games, all we can think about is what goes on behind the scenes. The Olympics are certainly the Mount Olympus of event planning, and while we had no part in planning them, we can offer a little insider knowledge on some of the many logistical challenges of planning an event the size of the Olympic Games.

1: Transportation

…And we don’t just mean to and from Brazil. Aside from the complex logistics of making sure athletes from 200+ countries get to Rio and back, an entirely different challenge presents itself once everyone has arrived. Around 10,500 athletes are expected at the Olympic Games, and we can guarantee you that few of them brought their own cars. In our experience, mass transportation for more than 1,000 people starts to get tricky very quickly. Especially at one of the largest international events in the world, you can’t guarantee than anyone speaks the host language or your language, so clear, eye-catching visuals are a must. We’d recommend coach busses fully wrapped with the Olympic logo and colors looping continuously between the Olympic village and the venues with ID and badge checks at every stop (time-consuming, we know, but security is paramount with that many people). We’d also recommend a staff member stay in each coach bus at all times. Outsourced bus drivers may say they know the route when they don’t, passengers may have questions, and it adds a knowledgeable presence in an otherwise frenzied few days. The Olympic event planners will also likely need to have a very large fleet of private cars available at any time.

2: Lodging

These Olympians aren’t going to be staying at the conference hotel around the corner – they live in a temporary community constructed specifically for them – the Olympic Village. Much like a hotel, the Village is designed to meet the guests’ every need with secure rooms, gyms and spas, and plenty of food and drink. Unlike a hotel, the Olympic Village will have tall security fences, more than 500 security personnel, designated places of worship for every faith and creed, a 24/7 cafeteria, and a host of diplomatic headaches when planning where each country should stay in the Village. While your everyday meeting or event may not come with that level of complexity, focusing on all of the unique needs of your guests and not just offering a place to sleep is an approach that carries across to any event.

3: Security

Other than the athletic events, security is far and away the biggest piece of any large-scale event like this. With thousands of athletes and tourists in town, keeping everyone safe and secure is a high priority. Since extra security personnel will need to be brought in to supplement the local police force, it’s crucial that all parties communicate openly and often. Use trusted contractors with relevant experience – and don’t forget to stress that they must be friendly and polite! For athletes and attendees, security measures go a lot more smoothly when everyone knows what’s going on and what the expectations are – preferably ahead of time. If cell phones are not allowed in a certain venue or area, let people know well in advance and be sure to set up a cell phone valet to keep belongings secure. If metal detectors will cause long lines, set up water stations and light entertainment. Give everyone as much information as you can and you will empower staff and attendees to stay secure and have a great time.

4: A/V and Technology

Sometimes it’s a pain just to get the TV in the conference room to work. Running multiple A/V setups in different venues is likely the most technically challenging aspect of the Olympic Games. With everything televised and broadcast on social media in real time, one slip-up can become very noticeable. Aside from hiring an A/V team you trust, it’s important to do a full run-through several times as well as provide exceedingly detailed show scripts. If you give your team all of the relevant information you have, you empower them to solve problems as they arise rather than having to make multiple phone calls just to reach someone who knows the answer.

5: Zika

You saw this one coming, right? It’s not all fun and games at the Olympic Games. For every event – especially the events that require travel – it’s a good idea to check for any travel and health advisories and plan accordingly. As Zika has spread through south and central America, we have begun including Zika precautions and advice in every pre-trip packet if a group is going to a destination where Zika is present. The planning team at the Olympics has a monumental task in making sure that the appropriate precautions are taken (i.e. spraying regularly for mosquitos) and that plenty of nets and mosquito repellant are available to anyone that needs them.

When planning a large-scale event – even if it’s not the Olympics – you’re going to have a lot of balls in the air. Through it all, remember to surround yourself with staff you trust and give yourself more lead time than you think you need. Thinking through and visualizing every detail is a crucial skill in an event planner’s arsenal, and you won’t want to come up short for time when you get down to brass tacks. And if you’re having a stressful day, just remember – at least it’s not the Olympics.