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Home Alone

When the franchisees are in charge...

As long as franchises have existed, so have struggles between franchisors and franchisees. The relationship often resembles that of a parent and child--one side feels it deserves something for its help, and the other struggles for independence. So what happens when the franchisee actually takes charge of the company?

For Unishippers, the meshing of roles has been CEO John Barry, the company has grown, while Barry's new management team has earned overwhelming approval from franchisees.

A former CPA, Barry became a Unishippers franchisee in Boston 10 years ago, joining the corporate team as CFO in 1996 when then-CEO Steve Nelson brought successful franchisees to the board of directors to help other franchisees grow their businesses. Barry served as the franchise's CFO for more than three years. In July 1999 Nelson handed management of the company over to franchisees--Barry took over as CEO--but serves as an active chairman on the board.

"He thought somebody who would take a fresh look at how we do business would be able to build more unity and take [the franchise] to the next level," says Barry.

So what's in store for Unishippers' 300 franchisees? According to Barry, the company is concentrating on creating a centralized information system, developing a franchise consolidation program, building the freight aspect of the business and expanding its Internet capabilities.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Home Alone.

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