No irony here: Wild Birds Unlimited’s annual conference turns its focus on computer screens to better focus on backyard bird feeding
Wild Birds Unlimited’s Enterprise Leadership Conference was held June 25 to June 30 in Indianapolis, IN, the home base of the franchise. The conference is held there every other year, rotating out with another North American location.
According to the franchise, the goals of the conference were four fold. First, the brand aimed to build upon and further enhance its strong sense of community. Second, the goal was to help franchisees understand and get excited about the new ecommerce platform, My WBU Store. Third, the brand as a whole wants to continue to ignite each owner’s passion for being a local backyard bird feeding expert and to bring joy to every customer. Lastly, the team wanted the owner community to understand the impact of the WBU transformation project that was executed in 2017 within the company’s Franchise Support Center staff.
“The attention that our franchisees gave to the education we provided from start to finish was amazing. They showed their appreciation for the efforts our Franchise Support Center team made to ensure the content of the conference focused on the future success of the WBU franchisees. The entire group stayed involved all the way to the very last session on the last day,” said Manager of Franchise Development Lisa McGill.
The conference featured two keynote speakers. The first was David Payton, Vice President of Marketing of FedEx Services. FedEx Services is WBU’s ecommerce shipping partner for the My WBU Store omni-channel initiative. The second speaker was Cameron Kessel, a Brand Strategist at Google.
“The energy in the room was palpable because of the excitement around our new omni-channel strategies,” said McGill. “The biggest news of the conference is that WBU is moving from alpha to beta testing with My WBU Store. This platform provides a direct online store for each franchise location, and we had over 100 of our stores sign up to be in the queue for beta testing. We hope for all stores to be fully onboarded to the My WBU ecommerce platform in 2018, which will provide each franchise with their own online store for their customers to shop directly with them offering added convenience when they are not able to make the trip to the store.”
Highlights of the week included a bird nature walk, a service project at Eagle Creek Park, and a lunch networking event to discuss the launch of the My WBU Store initiative. The brand also had two full days of educational sessions focused on the individual needs of its local store owners as well as a fireside chat with its executive team and the franchisees.
WBU’s vendor mart took place the last two days of the conference. One hundred thirty-nine vendors set up booths for WBU franchisees to shop special discounts and buying deals from core hobby product suppliers, gift and garden vendors, and North American artisans.
“The purpose of our vendor mart is we want our franchisees at least one time a year to have the opportunity to touch and feel full product lines as opposed to just viewing a catalog,” said McGill. “Vendors come and set up booths with beautiful wares that are very exclusive products for stores. Franchisees get special deals for placing orders during the conference.”
Among the many awards given out, two standout awards were the Franchisee Honor Award, given to Susan Maranhao of Sudbury, MA, and the Friend of the Environment Award, taken home by Kevin and Linda Pillow of Kerrville, TX.
Over 80 percent of WBU’s franchisees attended the conference. It was the highest rated conference in WBU’s history according to feedback from franchisees, who reported that this conference had the highest value to their business in the conference’s history. WBU also achieved its best ever rating under the categories of “the staff made me feel welcome” and “they care about me and my business.”
“Attending the WBU Enterprise Leadership Conference is a key value. Franchisees come to our conference, and they leave so energized. They focus on business and get excited about the future,” said Paul Pickett, chief development officer.