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last updated 18/03/2024

Top US names for NZ franchise conference

last updated 18/03/2024

March 2024 – International visitors will take centre stage at connectXperience – the 2024 National Franchise Conference

Two of the biggest names in US franchising will be in Tauranga this July to participate in the National Franchise Conference.

Mary Kennedy Thompson is Chief Operating Officer of Neighborly, one of the world’s largest home services companies with 19 brands and 5,800 franchises serving over 10 million customers across 9 countries. Those brands include Mosquito Joe, Mr Rooter Plumbing, Real Property Management and Window Genie.

Mary served eight years in the US Marine Corps as a logistics officer. She entered franchising almost 30 years ago as a multi-unit franchisee at Cookies by Design, leading the company in market penetration and sales, and earning numerous top-performer awards. After selling her businesses, Mary joined the corporate headquarters to build Cookies by Design’s field support programme, eventually leading the brand as its president. She joined Neighborly in 2006.

The USA’s International Franchise Association (IFA) awarded Mary with the William Rosenberg Foundation Leadership Award in 2023 for her outstanding contributions and leadership in advancing the mission of the IFA Educational Foundation. She currently serves as an IFA board member as well as being the 2024 Chair-Elect, and will talk about Leading with Purpose.

Matt Haller is President & CEO of the International Franchise Association. Under his leadership, IFA has seen annual double-digit revenue increases that have led to a significant increase in member value as a result of new programmes and services to support franchising.

Matt continues to defend the franchise business model vigorously through IFA’s advocacy, taking on the tough challenges facing the franchise community. Through lobbying, coalition building, grassroots, research, and communications, Matt and the IFA government relations team have a long-standing record of protecting franchising. In recent years, they have successfully staved off the joint employer threat, negotiated a major compromise to protect franchise businesses in California, and ensured franchises were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief efforts during the pandemic.

Learn from the best

'We are delighted to be hosting both Mary and Matt at the National Franchise Conference,’ says Robyn Pickerill, CEO of the Franchise Association of New Zealand. ‘It’s a rare opportunity for franchisors, master franchisees and franchise advisors to discuss the challenges and opportunities expected over the next few years, and to learn from those who are leading the way in the USA.’

The 2024 Conference will take place from Sunday 28 to Tuesday 30 July at Baypark in Tauranga. This year’s theme is connectXperience – where making connections and sharing experiences take centre stage. Earlybird tickets go on sale on 29 April.

Apart from the US visitors, keynote speakers will include Greg Nathan, the man who literally wrote the book on managing the franchisor/franchisee relationship. There will also be round tables, panels, networking opportunities and workshops catering to differing areas of interest for franchise support office personnel. 

‘The Conference is your chance to engage with industry leaders and like-minded professionals,’ says Robyn. ‘With years of collective franchise knowledge, each connection is an opportunity to gain valuable insights. Emerging franchisors, this is your chance to connect with experienced franchisors and advisors and get answers to those challenging questions to help you on your way.

‘Expand your network, hone your skills and immerse yourself in professional growth at connectXperience 2024.’

Last year’s Conference was attended by over 200 people, and more keynote speakers and topics will be announced in the coming weeks. Go to for more details.

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