Each year, store owners from across Wild Birds Unlimited’s expansive franchise system gather, along with the entire franchise support center team, at the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference to share ideas, learn about new initiatives and connect personally. This year’s conference in Rhode Island just wrapped up, and Paul Pickett, Wild Birds Unlimited’s chief development officer, said it was everything he’d hoped it would be and more.
“The conference is one of the most fun and exciting things we do as a franchise system each and every year, so I always look forward to it, and this year’s did not disappoint,” he said.
This year’s conference featured a number of keynote speakers, all from outside the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise system, including Walter Bond, a three-season NBA veteran and motivational speaker; Michelle Rowan, the president and COO of Franchise Business Review; Tamra Kennedy, a former secretary who worked her way up through the Taco John’s franchise and now owns nine restaurants and Barbara Nuss, CEO of Profit Soup.
Pickett said each of those speakers was a big draw and provided unique and valuable insights for Wild Birds Unlimited owners and corporate team members alike.
“Much of the conference is spent sharing ideas between people within our system, so it’s helpful to get some outside perspective,” Pickett said. “The speakers this year were fantastic. They all have very different experiences, and it was inspiring to hear their stories.”
The bulk of the conference was dedicated to workshops, with both “quick bites” — shorter, single-topic primers — and “deep dives” — longer, comprehensive explorations — which covered a range of topics from customer experience to email best practices to business growth to community relationships. Workshops were led by franchise support staff, store owners and outside of the brand speakers, allowing participants to take invaluable insights from all corners of the system.
The final two days of the five-day conference are dedicated to a vendor mart, where more than one hundred of the franchise’s top and new vendors offer unique buying deals, giving store owners the chance to realize a significant savings in their annual product purchasing expense.
“The vendor mart is a huge opportunity for our owners,” Pickett said. “As a franchise, we have a lot of buying power with our vendors and suppliers, and the vendor mart takes full advantage of that, finding the biggest discounts on products that anyone is going to be able to find anywhere.”
One change to this year’s conference is the addition of region-specific meetings hosted by the franchise advisory council.
“We’re always trying to think of ways to make all the information at the conference as actionable as possible,” Pickett said. “This year, we decided to hold these regional meetings with the advisory council for each region so owners can work through the unique demands of their market.”
Among all the Enterprise Leadership Conference’s benefits for both store owners and support teams, Pickett says the most valuable might just be personal connections the conference affords.
“Reconnecting and collaborating with members of the Wild Birds Unlimited community is one of the best things about the conference,” he said. “It’s very much about camaraderie with the team.”
This year’s event even included an optional early day before the conference, where team members were invited to go on guided birding tours and participate in the franchise’s annual community service project. Pickett says the high attendance at that first day shows you just how excited everyone is to get together.
“We know how much everyone has going on in their lives, and it can be a challenge to take a few days to dedicate to the conference, but everyone is so excited about it, and it really pays off,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to community. I always tell people, ‘if you come home with 20 great new ideas and improve your Cost of Goods sold by taking advantage of deals at the vendor mart, it still pales in comparison to the experience of sharing time and catching up with everyone in the community. That’s the experience that makes everyone in our system excited to come back year after year.”