Are there any drawbacks or problems with this management style?
Sometimes we're probably a little softer than we should be when people don't perform at their peak or doesn't deliver the results they agreed to deliver. Typical corporate America wouldn't like this style-they'd be more demanding on the results for the quarter and for the year, whereas in a relationship-based organization you tend to be a little more lenient and more tolerant of someone [falling short of a] plan. Our first focus is not on the dollar. Someone might see that as a drawback. But we believe, in the long run, there's paybacks that can't be accounted for, that aren't seen right away, in terms of lower turnover and sticking it out in tough times.
Is there anything the company does to compensate for that, or do you feel you have to?
I try to have a management team made up of strong, relationship-based people who are demanding of performance, where maybe someone isn't as warm and fuzzy as I might be but appreciates the culture [and] also tries to point out that these results need to be met. I think we do have a good balance of that in our company.
How do you ensure this management style is consistent throughout the company?
I don't know that you can ensure it. Managers who are reluctant to adopt that style feel uncomfortable over time in the organization. A few people have left because they've just felt they didn't belong here. It's sort of a self-managing style.
If you knew one of your franchisees was putting the bottom line ahead of people, would you do anything to correct that?
No. This is a leadership-by-example approach, and people can choose to follow it or not. A franchise owner is an independent businessperson. Each franchisee owns his or her own business and territory and can run the business in a way that best suits his or her personality.
Does this management style makes you a better franchisor?
Absolutely. Because we've gone 12 years without a single piece of litigation. Because when prospects talk to owners, they find out this is a good place to be. Because people are looking for more than just money-they want to be in a place where they feel they're going to be accepted and able to contribute. There are lots of examples of companies, despite how good the opportunity might be, where it's clear the franchisees aren't happy. That's not the case here. Obviously I don't mean to suggest there are never issues-there are always issues-but it's how you approach the issues and how you treat the people who have the issues and how you ultimately resolve them that matters. And that's what we take great pride in doing.