When it comes to running a business, it is important to ensure that all those involved feel they have a voice and can contribute to the overall success of the brand. This was precisely the focus of Wild Birds Unlimited’s 2019 annual Enterprise Leadership Conference (ELC)—one of the largest the brand has ever held. The conference as a whole had a guest count of 400 at the conference itself and 130 vendors, including 40 brand new vendors, in attendance at the proprietary trade show that occurs in conjunction with the ELC every year.
Franchisees, stakeholders and leadership from the brand gathered together in Grand Rapids, Michigan in June to regroup, reflect on the previous year’s performance and introduce new initiatives to drive the brand to new heights. This year’s ELC centered on the theme “One WBU, Stronger Together,” showcasing just how strong the company is when each and every franchisee and employee work in sync to demonstrate the brand’s core values and deliver great customer service and support.
“We wanted to make it clear to our franchisees this year that we wouldn’t be where we are today as a company if it weren’t for them,” said Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Operating Officer, Pat Perkinson. “Our CEO, Jim Carpenter, gave a really great presentation to energize franchisees and emphasized that they are the heartbeat of Wild Birds Unlimited. From there, the conference only continued to build excitement around the brand and where we are heading as a company.”
The Wild Birds Unlimited team has a great history and relationship with franchisees across the entire network, ranking #2 overall and #1 in the retail industry in the Franchise Business Review’s annual Franchisee Satisfaction Awards. With this in mind, the brand finds it important to ensure it continues to stay up to date with current trends and changes within the industry in support of its franchisees.
“As retail is a dynamic industry with lots of changes, there are many things we as a company need to do to assist our franchisees,” said Paul Pickett, Chief Development Officer for Wild Birds Unlimited. “This includes making updates to some of our technology, introducing new systems, new products and more. We believe strongly that a well-trained, high-performing team is key to implementing our initiatives and we are continuing to enhance capabilities across the board every year. At the recent conference, we charged our franchisees with taking a look at their own business to see if they have the right team members to implement these systems and be as successful as they possibly can be.”
WBU also unveiled new technology for customer surveys allowing franchisees the ability to track staff performance and gather information on how to cater to the needs of their individual retail customers.
“In addition to the official conference we also held a trade show for a day and a half,” said Perkinson. “We had well over 100 vendor partners who set up booths with proprietary items specific to Wild Birds Unlimited and allowed franchisees to conduct third and fourth quarter buying, attend special shows and buying programs, as well as get a front row seat to unveilings for new products.”
WBU also put into action their dedication towards community support through a volunteer project with this year’s conference partner, the Blandford Nature Center, located in Grand Rapids.
“We coordinated with a number of our vendors who donated product to go out to the nature center and we donated a feeding station area and setup, including bird baths, feeders, hardware systems and bird food,” said Pickett. “We also worked with their team to install a new bird feeding station for the space there and provided some additional labor including mulching, weeding and more to help with Wild Birds Unlimited’s ongoing mission of connecting people with nature.”
Beyond the chance for the brand to highlight updates for the company with franchisees and take part in community initiatives, the conference was also a time to highlight the great work of franchisees from across the network. Such was the case with franchisee Laura Fleming, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Medford, OR who was honored with the “Friend of the Environment Award.”
“The Friend of the Environment Award is given each year to the WBU store owner that best represents the mission of bringing people and nature together,” said Fleming. “I am honored to have been selected this year, as the award really signifies community involvement and environmental stewardship which are two things that I have a great passion and dedication for.”
Beyond the honor received by Fleming, Cheryl Miller and the rest of the team at the WBU location in McKinney, Texas took home the award for “Staff of the Year.”
“Miller’s team called ‘The Bird Crew’ is made up of the most amazing and loyal people,” said Pickett. “The Bird Crew sets the tone for our culture in the shop and makes the joy of bird feeding and our customers’ experience the objective for every decision they make. The team truly follows ‘Dee Dee’s Top 10 Customer Touch Points.’ Every customer is greeted in five seconds and they know their job is to make sure every customer has an amazing experience.”
In addition, Leanne LeBlanc, Manager of the Barrie, Ontario store was honored as “Manager of the Year” after an exceptional year leading her team with the strong direction of the owners of the Barrie, Ontario store, Kristen Martyn and Cameron Hogarth.
“LeBlanc has superior people skills, excellent problem-solving and communication skills, bookkeeping skills and the ability to delegate,” said Pickett. “She has really embraced taking her management skills to a whole new level and brought the team to meet a new standard in 2018.”
Pickett shared that LeBlanc has impacted her store’s growth in many ways, including working on staff training with respect to coupons and POS procedure, as well as effectively pricing product and properly calculating a landed cost. “She is also highly skilled in establishing the best method of shipment to ensure that they pay the lowest shipping and brokerage fees to keep costs as low as possible,” said Pickett.
With this year’s Enterprise Leadership Conference in the books Wild Birds Unlimited is looking towards another great year of continued growth and success.
“We have had a record year in sales and profitability; numbers are very strong,” said Pickett. “Our franchisee satisfaction ratings continue to be at all-time highs and we are dedicated to continuing our mission of bringing them together to be North America’s No. 1 brand for bird-related products and food.”