Doug Ducey's introduction to Cold Stone Creamery's founders came when he was a prospective franchisee conducting due diligence on Subway and wanted to learn about similar businesses. Ducey, 41, was intrigued enough to open both a Subway and a Cold Stone Creamery franchise, and on top of that, the former Procter & Gamble sales executive joined Cold Stone's business and strategic development team. Now the company's chairman and CEO, Ducey gives us the scoop on Cold Stone's amazing rise to success.
Entrepreneur: What approach did you take in expanding Cold Stone?
Doug Ducey: I'd love to tell you I had this grand vision, but it was quite the opposite. Our strategy in the beginning was crawl, then walk--and now we're clearly running.
Entrepreneur: How do you stand apart from the competition?
Ducey: We're not focused on the competition. We're focused on the customer. It's not so much looking around the ice cream landscape of what others are doing. Instead, it's looking across the sneeze guard at who's walking inside the store and how we can make him or her happy. Those are the first five words of our mission statement: "We will make people happy."
Entrepreneur: What's our fascination with and love of ice cream about, and how does Cold Stone foster that?
Ducey: Most of us can recall going out for ice cream at an early age, with a grandparent or other loved one. That nostalgic, emotional connection with the product provides a great opportunity for a company like ours that's offering something of the highest quality.
Entrepreneur: Who thought of singing when money is put in the tip jar, and what does it add to the experience?
Ducey: The lines in our stores would get very long, and the crew would do things like sing to entertain people as they waited. People began to spontaneously tip. We never tried to regulate it, but bas-ically, this is the framework of what we want to be--friendly, inviting, fun and part of the experience.