Franchise Update Leadership & Development Conference Main Stage
Published October 24, 2019

Creating a Culture of Growth

4 Takeaways from Franchise Update’s Leadership & Development Conference

When asked which events I think are a “must attend,” Franchise Update’s Leadership & Development Conference is always at the top of the list. It provides a great opportunity for franchise development executives and leadership teams to connect with each other to discuss challenges and best practices, and this year’s general session “Develop a Culture of Growth” had three organizations share their take on how to do that RIGHT. It is worth noting all three brands are FBR Franchisee Satisfaction Award Winners as well, so not surprisingly, some common themes emerged:

1. Relationships Are the Cornerstone of Healthy Franchising

At Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Cheryl Fletcher, SVP of Franchise Development, said developing a culture of growth is all about relationships with franchisees. They build every relationship around three key mantras: communicate, show you care, and make corporate decisions based around profitability.

Charles Watson, CEO of Tropical Smoothie, added that they are in the business of supporting franchisees, NOT in the restaurant business. He looks for franchise experience in his corporate team hires, and talks to franchisees and leaders they worked with in the past to make sure their mindset is “franchisee first.”

As he put it, your development team dates your franchisees, but it’s your operations team that marries them. Get your team aligned on the long-term relationship and set it up for success right from the start.

2. Aligning Operations and Development

Paul Pickett, Chief Development Officer at Wild Birds Unlimited, stressed the importance of alignment from the top down when it comes to bringing in candidates. When development teams bring on franchisees that don’t fit the culture, it can create conflict with the operations team and destroy the culture at the support center, making growth unsustainable. . At WBU, the operations team gets final say whether someone comes on board.

Jim Carpenter, Wild Birds Unlimited’s CEO, shared how he drives collaboration and alignment. They name their home office “the support center” to make sure everyone is clear their role is to support franchisees, regardless of department or title. The WBU support staff understands the financials of the franchisor is dependent on strong franchisee financials, so corporate staff is bonused on entire revenue growth (stores added or closed impacts this) and profitability. And each employee’s performance review includes key metrics from their FBR franchise satisfaction results.

3. Culture Above All

At Puroclean Systems, Tim Courtney, VP of Franchise Development, also emphasized the value of a “franchisee first” culture. He uses personality assessment tools for candidates to help evaluate if they are a good fit for the brand, and works with his counterpart on the operations side to help them in coaching and supporting the franchisees once they are on board. Having a meet the team (or discovery) day is an important part of showing the Puroclean culture, and includes executives in those visits.

Puroclean President and COO Steve White agrees with Peter Drucker that culture eats strategy for breakfast – every day. There are no corporate hires unless they meet with Steve. To be clear, he doesn’t make the decision on the hire, but he sets the expectation of the Puroclean culture: This is a team sport, and they all work together to support franchisees. At the “meet the team day”, candidates meet every team member who is in-house that day. Steve is committed to showing they are there for the franchisees every day, all the time.

4. Focus on being a “How did we do?” culture.

Asking for feedback and communication can help you measure and adjust along the ebbs and flows of growing and supporting a franchise systems. Wild Birds Unlimited has a “how did we do” culture – they ask this of franchisees, and of each other with the support team.

Jim Carpenter said this is even more important when dealing with change management, which tends to be a constant within franchise systems if you are focused on growth, and ways to get better. Jim explained it’s important to communicate the WHY when you implement change: what’s in it for the franchisee, and HOW it’s going to be done. Share test results, and continue to ask “how did we do?” in communicating the change, rolling out the change, etc…

Charles Watson wrapped by reminding the audience that you are good at what you are focused on, and you are good at what you invest money on. Take a look at what those priorities are for your team, and how the franchisees would view the top initiatives you are focusing on.

And what happens when you ask “How did we do?” and you don’t get a good response? Steve White believes you just have to listen. Let them get it off their chest, ask if the person that blew it apologized. And if not, can you apologize for that? Focus on relationships and be accountable for promises, even if they were made by others/predecessors.


We have been attending the FLDC for 15 years, and the fact that culture took center stage at a Development conference shows the positive shift in our industry to do things right for all stakeholders. You simply cannot sustain, or grow your brand, without feedback from your franchisees. If you aren’t involving your franchisees, or want to understand how FBR can help you take your current feedback and do more with it, we want to talk more about your business. One place to start is with this free report card: Rate your system based on how you think you’re doing in areas like culture and franchisee support. Then, let us help you measure how you did and how you can create or improve a culture of growth in your system.

About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, the former Chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee. and a Certified Franchise Executive. She is the recipient of the 2022 Crystal Compass Award, has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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