Leadership Secrets From a Former Starbucks Executive and Children's Franchise President

Former Starbucks executive Andrew Alfano wants to help you become a better leader.

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Leadership Secrets From a Former Starbucks Executive and Children's Franchise President
Image credit: Courtesy of Andrew Alfano
VIP Contributor
Author - Entrepreneur Magazine's Franchise Bible - CEO Franchise Hub
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some of the most common questions my clients ask me center around leadership. This is a sensitive topic for many since just about everyone believes at some level that they are a good leader. I often say that leadership is the single most important factor in the success or failure of a franchise business.

In one of my recent articles titled, 5 strategies for Franchise Leadership Development, I pointed out the steps that can be implemented to develop the most effective leadership skills for a franchise organization. I have found that individuals with the right set of attributes such as character, strong work ethic and integrity can learn how to become great leaders if they are willing to put in the hard work and are willing to learn new strategies.

I recently interviewed a franchise executive who has a refreshing leadership philosophy that he is using to grow his franchise organization. Andrew Alfano is the president and COO of The Learning Experience, which is a growing academy of early education franchise organization for children six weeks to six years of age. Before he joined The Learning Experience executive team he spent 15 years at Starbucks working with the leadership team and its people to open hundreds of locations in major markets as the company's SVP of U.S. Business.

Alfano told me that he believes in a "people first" strategy stating, "We are in the people business first and the education business second." He admits that the strategy must evolve as the organization grows. He credits the founder, chairman and CEO, Richard Weissman, for building an amazing company, culture and vision that created a strong foundation that he can stand on to take the company to the next level.

Alfano believes in prioritizing culture and making it a business strategy; commit to connecting with people, fostering open communications and to invest in learning and development for everyone.

Related: 10 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

Training and team development is a key element to their ability to scale up and continue to grow. They are focusing on systems to increase team education to meet the ever-growing demand as they expand. It is proven that continued education allows upward mobility and inspires individuals to rise to the occasion and take on more responsibilities.

I asked him to share a few of his leadership tips and the following are on the top of his list:

  1. A truly "people-centric" philosophy is critical. He added that this is something you don't learn or train, it is something you embody.
  2. Problems are a good thing. Better to fail fast and find faster ways to solve problems than to avoid them. Leaders must be transparent and not hide their problems. This builds the muscles to become better problem solvers.
  3. "Lead and get out of the way, but don't go away" is one of his favorite sayings. He wants his team to be strong leaders so he is willing to get off the playing field and let them play their positions.

The life-long leadership lessons Alfano learned at Starbucks are playing a big role in his goal to grow The Learning Experience's franchise footprint from 300 to 500 locations by 2020. To grow and reach that goal, he believes you have to grow your people.

Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

Great leadership is an important element of a franchise organization. Your franchise team as well as the franchise owner community and employees associated with your brand all look up to your leaders for inspiration, direction and guidance. I have seen many great business models fail due to poor leadership and have seen many more thrive due to strong leadership.

Today there are many resources such as books, classes and coaches that can help you get on the fast track to enhancing your leadership skills. This is a worthwhile investment for any franchise organization. You can learn more about franchise leadership in Franchise Bible 8th Edition.

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