A Historical Look Back at the International Franchise Association
A Historical Look Back at the International Franchise Association

International Franchise Association Chair Melanie Bergeron discusses how the association and the convention shaped her into the franchise industry expert she is today

The International Franchise Association (IFA) Convention is one of the largest events in the franchising industry. In its 56-year-old history, the Convention—designed specifically for franchisees, franchisors and supplier partners— has served as a forum to build, inspire and enrich relationships and ideas with likeminded people throughout the industry. With this year’s Convention in San Antonio on the horizon (February 20 to February 23), here’s a look back at where the IFA and the Convention began and why they both matter.

The IFA started in 1960 as a meeting between a small group of entrepreneurs to discuss the state of franchising. Thanks to the Cold War, the world during that time was changing at a rapid pace, and the group was worried this would affect their businesses. The discussion between the entrepreneurs came to an abrupt halt as Dunkin’ Donuts Founder Bill Rosenberg slammed a $100 on the table and demanded they needed to start an association to deal with political and legislative matters. It was then and there the IFA and the Convention was born.
Originally based in Chicago, the IFA decided to pack up and move to Washington, D.C. in 1968. IFA President Al Lapin, Jr. brought on Philip Zeidman of Brownstein, Zeidman and Schomer to help serve as counsel for legislative matters. Lapin believed this was the first step for the IFA to become more involved in legislative matters in Washington.

The IFA now called Washington, D.C. home, but it still suffered some growing pains. The IFA was feeling the effects of the social, political and economic changes the 1970’s presented. Sonic Board Member Robert Rosenberg, who served as Dunkin’ Donuts CEO from 1963 to 1998, said the ‘70s were the IFA’s “adolescent” phase.

“It was a very difficult time and it was unclear how it was all going to turn out,” Rosenberg told the IFA. “To our credit, franchisees and franchisors alike, we were able to pass through this period of awkward growth without doing undue harm to the constituents affected.”
Over the years, the IFA continued to fine tune the way it would help educate franchise industry experts. In the 1980’s the IFA developed several educational programs and conferences to help franchisors deal with issues related to management and operational issues. During that time the IFA saw those programs grow from six in 1982 to 65 in 1987, and there are still more being added.

The IFA continues to grow, offering more resources, investment and educational opportunities for those in the industry. The Convention is one of those resources, and the 2016 edition shouldn’t disappoint.

The IFA is estimating 3,500 franchise professionals will attend this year’s Convention, and it is sure to be a prime time for professional development and learning about new industry trends.

The event is also a place where emerging and experienced brands can partake in roundtables and symposiums to learn more. One such franchise industry expert who has grown professionally because of the Convention is IFA Chairwoman and TWO MEN AND A TRUCK International, Inc., Chairwoman Melanie Bergeron. She attended her first convention in 1996, and she soaked up everything the Convention had to offer. She said there is a wealth of knowledge to glean from the Convention and she hasn’t missed one since 1996.

“When I attended my first Convention, it was overwhelming. There was an abundance of information I couldn't get enough of,” Bergeron said. “Through the Convention, I learned about several groups, and it eventually led me to join the Women's Franchise Committee. Then, I was asked to join the IFA Board of Governors—the educational branch. From there I started working on my CFE—Certified Franchise Executive. I have said yes to every opportunity to speak or be involved with the IFA. I was all-in from day one.”

She went on to say the Convention is a perfect event for anyone in the industry, regardless of background and experience.

“I can't think of a more valuable resource than the Convention. It is ideal for networking, learning best practices and learning about the political climate that affects your business,” Bergeron said. “It does not matter what industry you are in, franchising is its own proven business model and it speaks to all industries.”