Dorian Gonsalves reflects on the importance of face-to-face networking now that restrictions have lifted…
Two years after the first lockdown was implemented, it is a great pleasure to know that Covid restrictions have finally been lifted. After a nail-biting wait, it means that on 17th March we can once again look forward to attending Belvoir’s Annual Conference and Awards in person rather than virtually. This is always no-expense spared event, offered entirely free to our franchisees, and means a great deal to everyone concerned.
After months of careful planning the team at Central Office have put together a packed programme of speakers and activities throughout the day to help inspire, motivate, and support franchisees under the theme of “Reset for Growth” so that they are fully ready and prepared to transition from the uncertainty of the pandemic into a period of stability and sustained business growth. I am sure this year’s Conference will be even more special than usual as for many of our franchisees and suppliers it will be the first opportunity for them to meet up in person after a two-year break. It is remarkable how quickly everyone adjusted to communicating via Zoom and Teams, but I am sure you will agree that there really is nothing to compare with face-to-face communication. Although we managed to hold our Conference in March 2020, it was just days prior to the first lockdown, and there were already some feelings of anxiety, with people urged not to shake hands or get too close to each other. The ability to meet up and actually shake hands with colleagues, rather than the rather odd elbow bumping that never did feel quite right, makes you realise how much the little things matter, both in everyday life and in business.
As a business model, one of the many reasons that franchising is so incredibly successful is because franchisees are never alone to deal with challenges. I have always thought that being an independent trader must be quite a lonely occupation, particularly during times of crises such as the global pandemic that we recently experienced. Being able to pick up the phone and speak to colleagues within the network, as well as relying on the support of Central Office to keep everyone up to date with fast changing information, gave franchisees a massive advantage. We do have regional network group meetings for franchisees throughout the year, and of course these were offered virtually throughout the pandemic, but this year’s Annual Conference provides a great opportunity for franchisees to physically meet up and network with colleagues from all over the country. It also provides an opportunity to chat with valued suppliers who can share new initiatives that may be of benefit. The atmosphere at the event is always optimistic, but this year, after a two-year absence, I am sure everyone will be keener than ever to make the most of everything that the Conference has to offer.
In addition to the Conference, which this year will be held at Coombe Abbey Hotel in Coventry, we also invite franchisees and partners to stay on for Belvoir’s Annual Awards. The Awards are again provided entirely free of charge, including accommodation, a five-star meal with champagne reception and after dinner entertainment. Belvoir recognises the huge importance of celebrating the achievements of our top performing franchisees and their teams, who work tirelessly to build successful businesses. Last year we still recognised those achievements with a virtual award ceremony, but the chance to meet up and experience the event together as a group will, I am sure, be greatly appreciated.
There is no doubt that hosting a National Conference and Annual Awards ceremony is a costly event, but I believe that the benefits are huge, and the long-lasting impact in terms of improved business growth for franchisees makes it very worthwhile. No matter how long someone has been a franchisee, and Belvoir has some franchisees who have been with the business for over 20 years, everyone who attends the Conference is guaranteed to leave with some new nuggets of information that they can share with their teams, which will ultimately lift their business up to a new level of performance. You can’t put a price on that.