In August, I became Chair of the Forum on Franchising. I am mindful of the rich legacy that precedes me in this position. From the immediate past chair, Joe Fittante, through the past chairs with whom I have had the pleasure of working, Ron Gardner, Jack Dunham, Dennis Wieczorek, Steve Goldman, Susan Grueneberg, John Dienelt, Rick Asbill, Shelley Spandorf, Brett Lowell, Rupert Barkoff, Andy Selden, and Lee Abrams, all have made their mark on the Forum. Their insights, dedication, and plain old hard work have raised the bar for the Forum and for each successive Chair. I am humbled, but motivated, by that precedent.
Our actions are guided by the mission of the Forum: “to be the preeminent forum to study and discuss the legal aspects of franchising.” The Forum’s goals to achieve this mission are: to provide high quality educational programs and publications on franchising; to stimulate discussion of the legal aspects of franchising; to promote full and equal participation of diverse members and women in Forum activities; and to enhance the professional growth of Forum members. We have already taken many steps to ensure that we continue to uphold this mission and these goals.
Last year, under Joe’s leadership, the Governing Committee prepared a five-year strategic investment plan designed to ensure that the Forum continues to uphold its mission and goals while using its resources to benefit its members. After months of discussion and redrafting, the initial practical strategies of the Five-Year Plan are being implemented. I want to explain a few of them in this column.
Incentives for Newer Members
The Forum is continuing its first- or second-time attendee/under 36 discount for our Annual Meeting. Several years ago, we identified the “graying” of the Forum as one of the main challenges in maintaining a vibrant group of franchise practitioners in the future. Lowering the cost of attendance at our annual signature event appears to be one of the steps we can take to attract and keep younger members. We need new members to sustain a succession plan, and we want to encourage their participation.
We have converted, and now offer, the majority of our publications as e-Books. We are one of the first groups in the ABA to do so. Of course, many of our members will continue to enjoy our books and monographs in paper form, but they now have the option of accessing these materials online as e-Books as well. This includes our newly published franchise textbook, Franchising: Cases, Materials, and Problems.
Annual Meeting Innovations
This year, we are placing all of the Annual Forum materials on a USB flash drive, rather than on a CD. We also will continue to offer the app for the Annual Meeting. The USB flash drive and the app, along with our e-Books, allow us to reach all members of the Forum with our excellent, well respected publications while using the most current media.
To help us reach other potential members, the Forum has engaged an outside marketing firm to produce advertising and promotional pieces and provide consultation regarding marketing approaches. We believe there are practitioners who could use our assistance -- the solo practitioner who is drafting her first FDD, or the opposing counsel who does not understand what a financial performance representation is, much less the problems associated with it. The Forum has many benefits to offer these lawyers. We’d like to identify and reach them.
More International Programming
We are considering adding a more robust international component to our Annual Meeting. We are testing the waters for this by holding a dinner on Tuesday night, prior to the International Intensive at the 2013 Forum. If you sign up for the International Intensive on Wednesday, October 16, please sign up for the dinner on Tuesday night.
Enhanced Activities at the Annual Meeting
Finally, we have allocated additional funds to underwrite enhancements of certain of the activities at this year’s annual meeting. These include the Thursday night event at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter®, the Wednesday night Welcome Reception, and the food service during networking lunches on Thursday and Friday.
All of these projects and initiatives are designed to ensure that the ABA Forum on Franchising is “the preeminent forum to study and discuss the legal aspects of franchising.” Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions.