Simon Sinek and Beyond: Our Top Takeaways From IFA2020

Simon Sinek and Beyond: Our Top Takeaways From IFA2020

“The goal is not to beat the competition,” author Simon Sinek told a rapt crowd at the International Franchise Association’s 2020 conference, “but to outlast them.”

Sinek’s keynote address was just one of many inspiring sessions at the nation’s largest franchising conference, which was held this year in Orlando. More than 3,500 people packed into a ballroom to hear Sinek talk about leadership, success and business.

Drawing on colorful examples from history, industry and his own career, Sinek said that the business world seems to employ a finite mindset – think about how often businesses talk about winning and losing — while playing an infinite game, one in which the goal is not to finish first but to be ahead of the other players.

Life is infinite in that it goes on without us, he said. “Once you’re born, you’re a player … Living with an infinite mindset means you work to leave the world a better place.”

Competition can be fun, but this is not football, Sinek said. “The problem with playing an infinite game with a finite mindset is that it leads to a decline in trust and innovation.”

And innovation, as speaker after speaker drove home at IFA, is a must in 2020. To innovate, they agreed that businesses must collaborate, adapt to change and embrace technology.


The comeback stories told at this year’s IFA were epic, and the common thread was that successful brands brought all stakeholders along for the journey to the top.

Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer at KFC, talked about the brand’s lowest point 10 years ago, when its franchisees were so unhappy with the direction of the company that they sued the franchisor. Hochman knew the brand needed to get back to what made it great to begin with, so he brought back buckets, the iconic slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” and even Colonel Sanders (played by Darrell Hammond).

Hochman credited the success of the re-colonel-ization of the brand to careful alignment and collaboration with franchisees. “They were on board for the entire journey,” he said. 

George Chanos, author of “Seize Your Destiny,” revived his Tedx Talk on advances in artificial intelligence, but he noted that the most valuable work today is being done by teams of people. “The most sought-after skill today is being able to work with others, something machines can’t do.”

Adapt to Change

All franchises have had to adjust to customers’ changing demands. Mike Stone, president and CEO of CertaPro Painters, said by the time customers have made an appointment online, they have thoroughly researched the company and are ready to buy. Systems have to keep up with the marketplace, and he recommended that before change is implemented, franchisors communicate how the change is mission-critical and how it will benefit franchisees and others affected.

In addition to changing demands from customers, Marco’s Pizza is battling challenges from competitors and third-party delivery services. To be able to respond more quickly, Marco’s is experimenting with “ghost kitchens,” pod units that house kitchens close to neighborhoods, as well as pizza robotics. 

Embrace Technology

Technology has changed every aspect of franchising. Jennifer LoBianco, chief marketing officer of Huntington Learning Centers, noted that an integration of technology and marketing has led to the marketing department driving decisions on technology. “Marketing and technology used to be like church and state,” she said. “But now the CIO is my best friend.”

She added that it’s important for franchisors to take the lead on innovative systems and processes. “If franchisors don’t drive change, franchisees will implement their own changes,” she said.

Technology is also helping franchises devise new business streams. Scott Fischer of Dippin’ Dots took the helm as CEO after the company had declared bankruptcy. Concerned about the seasonality of the brand, he looked for creative ways to diversify the company’s risk.

He learned that the same technology that creates the flash-frozen beads of ice cream could be used to freeze pharmaceuticals, Beyond Meat burgers and more. He launched a new arm, Dippin’ Dots Cryogenics, which is now bringing in more revenue than the ice cream business.

Even though the company’s financials are sound today, Fischer keeps the budget very tight. Still, he has instituted a framework to consider new opportunities as they arise. “Innovation is important, but ultimately, the market dictates acceptance and adoption,” he said.