7 Top Performing Franchise Development People You Never Hear About

Want to learn the most current best practices for franchise sales? Start by getting to know these top performers:

By Thomas Scott and Joe Mathews

The franchise industry is unique in American business; unlike most industries where companies hold tactics and strategies close to the chest, franchise executives are often keen to share best practices.

If you begin attending regular franchise industry events put on by the International Franchise Association, Franchise Update or other trade associations, you’ll see some of the same people on a regular basis.

There’s good reason for this — the franchise industry loves to promote its heroes and, thankfully, there are a lot of amazing entrepreneurial success stories that everyone can learn from. They are generous with their time and worthy of attention.

However, the people you see the most often on roundtables and panel discussions and as speakers may not be the best performing executives in the industry or have the most current advice. One of the benefits of attending conferences, especially the upcoming 2015 IFA Conference in Las Vegas, is meeting other executives and professionals in the hallways, at dinner tables and over drinks.

Truth is, the people who are doing it day in and day out and creating the biggest breakthroughs are rarely asked to be on panels. That’s unfortunate, too — they are often the most up to date source for the most accurate advice.

At Franchise Performance Group, we have the honor of working closely with a large number of executives in franchise development: CEOs, VPs, Sales Directors and even frontline salespeople. Below is our list of the Top 7 Franchise Development Executives you may not know but should. You might not see these people on panels at the IFA but they are creating amazing breakthroughs, are building worthy franchise brands and are definitely people you should seek out for a conversation:

1. Dwayne Tanner, VP of Franchise Development at Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning

DWayne Tanner

DWayne Tanner

Dwayne has a history of winning. He started his career at Taco Bell in 1992, helped that organization open over 1,000 locations, led the franchise development team that created a national brand out of Cinnabon, has been a successful entrepreneur himself and, since 2013, has been winning at Chem-Dry. For the past two years, the carpet-cleaning giant has added over 100 new franchisees and is set to have a record year in 2015.

What’s his brand of genius:
Dwayne is methodical about creating a breakthrough and is meticulous with the details. He’s improved every component of franchise development. He understands that breakthroughs are often created from small tweaks and is restless until he achieves his goals.

Why we like him:
Dwayne is a forward thinking VP of Development. He doesn’t weigh himself down with old-school thinking and doesn’t confuse experience with performance. He thinks strategically and is one of the most adaptable franchise execs we’ve worked with. His decisions are not emotionally based or anecdotal ideas. He bases decisions in accurate data, something we think is essential. Best of all, he is often generous with his time to share his insights on improving franchise development.

2. Josh Wall, VP of Franchise Development for Christian Brothers Automotive Repair

Josh Wall

Josh Wall

In business for over 20 years, Christian Brothers has a unique distinction: they have never closed a franchise. They recently had a record year and the development team won awards at the Franchise Update Leadership and Development Conference in 2014.

In our opinion, this is from the tireless and methodical work of Josh Wall who has shepherded the brand from a small, regional auto repair franchise into a national brand that garners attention at all levels.

What’s his brand of genius:
Josh has what must be one of the more difficult franchise recruitment jobs we’ve encountered: his prospects have to relocate to a totally new city and face a lengthy amount of time — as long as two years — before they can open for business. In addition, Christian Brothers is a faith-based concept which has a culture that not everyone could qualify as a candidate. To obtain excellent results, Josh has to get candidates overcome some big obstacles and he must discern well to recruit only those who fit well within his company’s culture. He’s increased franchise development by at least 300% in the time we’ve known him. He’s quiet and not one to attract attention, but he’s one of the sharpest development executives we know.

Why do we like him:
Josh is respectful to prospects and treats each one as an individual — granting them the opportunity to see if they fit with his brand. He doesn’t see his job as a sifting job. Instead, he engages with candidates and invites them forward in his process. This creates trust and is a model for best handling prospects in the engagement age of franchise recruiting. Want to learn serious, best-in-class recruiting skills? Take some time to get to know Josh.

3. Chuck Lennon, CEO, TeamLogicIT

Chuck Lennon

Chuck Lennon

Chuck rose to his position at TeamLogic from the marketing side of franchising, working with large brands such as Sir Speedy, New Horizons and Franchise Services INC. He’s been in the industry for almost all of his career and knows franchising backwards and forwards.

He took over leadership of TeamLogic IT, a rapidly growing managed IT service franchise, and is guiding it through its growth curve. Within a short period, TeamLogic went from a startup to closely becoming the largest brand in the space.

What’s his brand of genius:
TeamLogic, like a lot of franchise brands, was hooked on broker leads to achieve goals in growth. Up until 2014, TeamLogic had seen anemic growth, and any new units seemed to be at the mercy of the broker networks despite large earnings increases and strong validation. Chuck revamped his lead generation, replaced the key recruiter and implemented a buyer-centric process. The result — from June to December in 2014, TeamLogic closed 17 franchise deals, up from four the year prior. Out of the 17, most were not from brokers.

Why do we like him:
His breakthrough covered three areas: he hired a recruiter who had sales skills and attitudes more consistent with the way prospects buy today; revamped his sales process; launched much more effective lead generation; and managed his pipeline by the numbers. It’s a great example of how to turn a company around, create momentum and make not to over-rely on broker leads.

4. Linda Chadwick, President, Fantastic Sams

Linda Chadwick

Linda Chadwick

Linda is a rock star. She started out as a minimum wage cashier at McDonald’s, worked her way up to Executive VP at Burger King and, for the past year, has been leading a remarkable brand evolution and turnaround at the iconic Fantastic Sams. She’s our role model for female executives, proving there is no such thing as a glass ceiling. There’s just results.

What’s her brand of genius:
Linda has worked in the trenches and understands the enormity of the task in turning a brand around. She has the ability to track progress on more fronts than anyone we know and brings discipline to everything she attacks. Under her leadership, Fantastic Sams has relaunched its development efforts, giving other salon brands a run for their money. She’s breathed new life into the venerable brand and there are signs of progress at every level of her organization. She’s done it with almost no ego. If she doesn’t know the answer or have the firepower, she’s quick to pull in someone who does.

Why we like her:
Linda is a great example of how an executive can use hard work, focus and open mindedness to achieve a goal. We especially like that she doesn’t cling to outdated ways on creating breakthroughs and that she doesn’t think through the strategy at every level. Keep an eye out on Fantastic Sams — its a franchise system to watch.

5. Michael Abt, CEO, Huddle House

Michael Abt

Michael Abt

Michael is no stranger to food after working for a multi unit operator before becoming a Sr VP of Operations at Arby’s. He joined Huddle House as the CEO, inheriting an aging brand much in need of a lift. If you haven’t seen a new Huddle House location, you may not believe how far the brand has come under his leadership. New stores are opening, sales are up and franchise development is working at a rapid clip.

What’s his brand of genius:
Michael is a team builder and has been tireless about staffing Huddle House with the right people in the right positions. The brand needed to improve its relationship with its franchisees, and the best way to do that was merely making them more profitable, making sure they were heard and getting their buy-in on initiatives. Michael is very approachable in his company, appreciates different ideas and even encourages conflict in thought on his team. Franchisees have grown to really like him and he’s earned their trust the hard way. Along with Jonathan Benjamin, whom he recruited from Corner Bakery, Huddle House is in the middle of a breakthrough in development, bringing the iconic breakfast and family diner to new parts of the country.

Why we like him:
Michael is the opposite of an ivory tower leader. He leads by influencing his team and creating dialog with them. He listens to feedback and often changes his direction if someone on his team or a key franchisee contributes to the discussion. More franchise CEOs should model their behavior and workstyle around Michael’s; it’s exactly what a healthy franchise system needs.

6. Van Ingram, VP of Franchise Development, Taco John’s

Van Ingram

Van Ingram

Van is also from the Arby’s system and joined Taco John’s in 2013. Besides being the friendliest guy we know in franchising, Van is also the most on-task and capable. He’s on our short list of top recruiters and doesn’t miss much that happens on his watch.

What’s his brand of genius:
Van has extraordinary listening skills. One of the things people often say about former President Bill Clinton was that no matter how crowded a room was, if he spoke to you, you felt like the only person in the room. Van might not share much politically with Clinton, but he has the same gift. In addition, he’s an amazing storyteller. Speak to him about Taco John’s for any length of time and you would think he’s been part of that organization in all 50 years of operation. Even better, he has a gift for brand storytelling to influence throughout the sales process. That’s the power of a well told story — you never realize you’re being sold.

Why we like him:
Van makes things happen. We expect someone who enjoys conversation to spend more time talking than working. Van surprises us by how fast he works and how much sheer velocity he creates in his position. Want to learn how to use storytelling skills in your recruiting? Van is expert and someone you should get to know.

7. Arif Abdula, VP of Operations, Nurse Next Door

Arif Abdulla

Arif Abdulla

In our work generating franchise leads for brands, we often find ourselves in conflict with VPs of Marketing. All too often, these executives fail to understand the complexity of franchise recruiting. We started working with Arif when he was in this role at Nurse Next Door. At the time they decided to expand into the US. He is possibly the most capable franchise marketing VP we’ve worked with. Since then, Arif took over the VP of US Operations for the home care brand, making sure it continued its place as the dominant Canadian brand and one of the fastest growing US homecare brands.

What’s his brand of genius:
Arif understands how to leverage a brand story at all levels. He doesn’t only know how to stay on message, but how organic a brand story can be at all levels. We’ve watched him leverage his company’s fascinating brand story and use it to engage audiences on both the consumer side and the franchise development side. His version of leveraging the brand story includes stories, visuals, branding and PR, all unified and detailed, creating a really engaging experience for anyone interacting with the brand.

Why we like him:
Arif is great at thinking through franchise development issues and making sure the development team at Nurse Next Door has what it needs to be effective without getting in the way or forcing marketing on them that doesn’t work. He’s deeply involved in the pipeline discussions and takes an active part in lead tracking, constantly seeking out the hidden connections that influence buyers to opt in and buy.

If you are going to the IFA conference this weekend or the next time you attend a franchising event, seek these people out. They are top performers, and getting to know them and better understand what they do will explain why all of their brands are thriving in today’s market.