A premier opportunity to highlight your business around the world

Whether you're a franchisee or franchisor, IFE brings the right mix of people, concepts and education together at the hottest event in the USA

Franchising's oldest and largest showcase, the International Franchise Expo, begins its 18th run in Washington DC on 20th March and this year should prove to be anything but typical. As the US capital, DC brings together countless countries and people from around the world and, as a result, has always been the ideal location to host the nation's pre-eminent international franchise event. This year even more so, as the historic inauguration attracted global dignitaries and leaders to DC.

With more and more people turning to franchising as a way to take control of their own careers in an uncertain economy, nearly 10,000 investors are expected to walk through the doors of the Washington Convention Center throughout the three-day event. This year that will include representatives from more than 60 international delegations.

Last year's IFE attracted more than 14,000 visitors, including 1,200 international participants and 300 of the top concepts in the country. 'The IFE is part of a select group of US-based events that the Department of Commerce endorses for its International Buyer Program,' says Tom Portesy, President of MFV Expositions, which organises the event. 'IFE serves as the host to delegations from around the world. We are proud to support the international relationships that benefit our exhibitors.'

With hundreds of exhibitors confirmed, there will be no lack of options for international prospects searching for concepts. 'We exhibit at the IFE primarily because of the great international exposure,' says Shane Connell, Franchise Sales Director for Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems. 'We're placing an emphasis on our international growth and need to be at IFE to meet with the decision makers that attend the event.'

IFE offers unsurpassed international franchise opportunities and consistently attracts quality foreign buyers, investors and distributors. 'We exhibit at the IFE to sell franchises,' says Peter Holt, COO for Tasti-D-Lite. 'We think that this show is a premier opportunity to highlight our business opportunity for this market and around the world.'

Franchisors credit the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a seemingly endless parade of domestic and international prospects as the reason that the IFE has remained the franchising premier event after almost two decades. One concept, Bishops Barbershop, chose to launch at the West Coast Franchise Expo last year. 'Our primary goal at WCFE was to meet potential franchisees,' says Leo Rivera, Founder, President and CEO of Bishops Barbershop. 'In today's economic uncertainty, working for a corporation is no longer the traditional safeguard it once was. People are now reaching for the personal empowerment, freedom and financial opportunities offered by owning their own business. Franchising is the most attractive option for aspiring business owners, because it provides them with the ideal combination of entrepreneurial spirit and proven systems.'

The concept received such a strong response at WCFE that officials plan to exhibit at IFE in March. 'We had a great response to the Bishops concept at WCFE and attracted many qualified prospects,' adds Rivera. 'The show also proved that we could effectively attract the type of people we are looking for, who can be part of our brand expansion and business growth.'

Whether you are attending IFE as a current franchisee or franchisor, or a prospective party, the weekend offers unprecedented symposia to answer your questions about the industry. Courses for potential franchisees include:

  • How to Finance Your Franchise: This seminar will explore financing opportunities available through the SBA programme, equipment leasing, necessary preparation steps to attain financing and how to look attractive to lenders.
  • 10 Things No One Tells You When You're Shopping for a Franchise: This panel explains why franchise prospects have the upper hand in the franchise search process and reveals what really happens when prospects contact a franchise company. Panelists will provide tips for dealing with salespeople and brokers and how franchise contracts may be changed in your favour.
  • Use Your IRA or 401k Money to Start a New Business: Learn statutory ways to move money locked in retirement accounts directly into a new or established business. This can be done without distributions, taxes, penalties or the use of loans. Emphasis will be placed on other subjects such as ways to counter the negative tax effect of being a C-corporation and exit strategies.
  • Choosing the Right Franchise: This seminar is about taking a completely different approach to finding a business. Instead of finding a business to fall in love with, it will discuss a proven strategy to help find a business that you can manage, market and promote.

Visitors will benefit from courses such as:

  • Structures and Operational Strategies for Successful Expansion within the USA: This panel will explore the successful expansion of a franchise network. Topics include business and legal issues relating to the development and implementation of a franchise expansion programme; developing an effective and fair franchise relationship structure; legal compliance and more.
  • Exploring Master Franchising as an International Growth Strategy: Master franchising remains the most popular method of international franchising. This seminar focuses on the basic components of a Master Franchise model, as well as the advantages and challenges in using Master Franchising as a growth vehicle.
  • Using the Internet to Develop Sustainable Franchise Sales: The programme will explore the best way to position information on your website, how to respond to internet leads, as well as the tools and techniques to maximise the use of third party sites.
  • How to Find the Best Franchisees When you Go Abroad: This session will address how the top franchisors find their franchisees, area developers or master licencees in foreign countries. What are the best sources of information? The most effective approaches? The most reliable and affordable techniques of due diligence?
  • Operations Manual: The Foundation to Consistent Execution: Presentation will include how to document your business's processes and procedures and create a user-friendly Operations Manual.
  • The FDD for Overseas Franchisors: This workshop will answer the FAQs regarding the FDD as well as offer tips for preparing the company for the US market.
  • Global Franchise Expansion: Strategies for Lucrative and Planned Growth: Panelists will address the most common business and legal problems affecting international franchising.


If you're attending the 2009 IFE as a franchisor, it's imperative that you maximise your time and space at the event. For exhibitors, that may mean months of planning and preparation for a successful event. Here are tips to ensure you're ready for the show:

  • Bring the right staff. A flashy booth can only take your concept so far. Make sure your booth is well staffed with knowledgeable people to make the most of your space. Encourage your team to rehearse and practice the pitch delivery. It's important to keep it short. If you feel the attendee's attention starting to drift, it's time to wrap it up.
  • Make the booth stand out. The booth is likely the first thing a prospect will see at a trade show, so pay special attention to the setup. Make sure your company logo is on full display. Don't let passers by have to search to find your logo and signage. Displays, walls and carpet should all coordinate, not clash. If possible the colours of your booth should embody the image your brand conveys. Also, size matters. A booth that's 200 square foot will stand out more than 100 square feet, which means you draw a larger crowd.
  • Be available for questions. Staff your booth so that there are a minimum of two people working at all times. Be sure to give staff members a break every few hours. A tired staff can mean missed opportunities. The best system is a steady rotation to keep your message fresh and prospects interested.
  • Create an effective follow up system. Arrive to IFE with an effective system for following up with prospects. Attendees are likely to speak with many concepts over the three day event. Make sure your company stands out even after they return home. Assemble a lead sheet during the show and be sure to follow up with each person in a timely manner after the event. Being proactive is the best way to keep a lead alive.

Now's the time. Make 2009 the year you transform your career. Attend an upcoming franchise expo and found out how to take control of your future.