Driving Brand Renewal

Friendly’s Comeback Efforts Will Be Among a Host of Expo Programs

WMBExpo600x250When John Maquire spoke with BusinessWest late last year, a few months after taking the helm at a very troubled Friendly’s Ice Cream Corp., he was quite blunt when assessing what had happened to one of the region’s most well-known brands — and about what needed to happen next.
“In a nutshell, I would say that Friendly’s has lost its focus on what really makes it special,” he told the magazine. “It’s lost its perspective on who the customer is and what is the best way to deliver for that customer, and, most importantly, what gives us credibility with our customers.
“There is no quick fix to any of this business,” he went on, referring to the complex assignment of turning around the company’s fortunes. “It took a long time for Friendly’s to lose its way; it’s going to take some time for us to find our way back.”
At the Nov. 6 Western Mass. Business Expo at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, Maguire will give a candid and in-depth look at how far he believes the company has come in those efforts to find its way back, initiatives that have included everything from new menu items to redesigned restaurants. He will be one of many area business leaders — and possible future leaders — to take center stage (officially known as the Show Floor Theater) at the Expo for special presentations designed to inform, entertain, and, most importantly, inspire.
Also on the schedule (see details on page 15) is a comprehensive look at the complex and potentially far-reaching legislation that has come to be known as Obamacare; a presentation from one of the region’s most colorful — and successful — business owners, Paul DiGrigoli, that he calls “Beyond an Entrepreneur”; and a pitch contest and demo day that will feature 10 aspiring entrepreneurs trying to sell a panel of judges on their ideas.
“It’s going to be a day of learning,” said BusinessWest’s associate publisher, Kate Campiti, referring to the Show Floor Theater presentations, but also a wide range of other programming slated for this, the third Expo. “There will be so much for business owners and managers to think about when it comes to running their ventures and taking them to the next level — whatever that may be.”
Indeed, the Expo will also feature 12 educational seminars, with titles ranging from “The Future of Sales” to “The Emerging Workforce”; from “Am I Wasting Money and Time Doing Social Media?” to “Effectively Reaching the Hispanic Community.” There will also be a breakfast program, hosted by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, featuring Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company and the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Program, and the November luncheon of the Professional Women’s Chamber, featuring Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon and now an author and motivational speaker.
“People will want to block off that entire day if they can,” said Campiti. “There will be exciting, informative programming going on all morning and all afternoon.”
The pitch contest is a new concept for the Expo, and it will present an opportunity for the attendees to understand the important work being undertaken by a group called Valley Venture Mentors, she added. Formed nearly three years ago, the VVM, as it’s called, was created to provide startups with much-needed mentoring and multi-faceted support aimed at helping them navigate the whitewater that often claims many business ventures trying to get off the ground.
The contest, which will feature current VVM participants and alumni, will showcase some of the many interesting new business concepts that may eventually be cultivated into successful, job-creating ventures, said Scott Foster, an attorney with Springfield-based Bulkey Richardson and co-founder of VVM. Judges will score the pitches, and the contest’s audience will have a chance to vote for their favorite online.
Meanwhile, DiGrigoli, a national motivational speaker, will target his remarks to those who are already in business and facing the challenge of getting to that proverbial next level. His talk will address everything from the “five major mistakes entrepreneurs make” to how to “murder your business.”
McGuire, who will take to the podium at the Show Floor Theater at 10:30 a.m., will discuss how Friendly’s lost its way — and eventually was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy — but will mostly focus on the future and what he calls the “five key drivers of brand renewal.”
For more information about the Expo or to register for the event, visit www.wmbexpo.com or call (413) 781-8600.