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The mad scientist of Smashburger

Tom Ryan wasn’t interested in being CEO of the Smashburger brand he co-founded in 2007, but as he rolls up in his BMW X6, impeccably dressed and with a full tank of confidence, it seems he was born ready for this role—and this interview. Ryan’s impressive resume precluded his arrival at the restaurant. With a Ph.D. in flavor and fragrance chemistry and the inventions of the McGriddle and Stuffed Crust Pizza under his belt, he looked more like a flashy executive than a food science savant that’s the bedrock of his career.

Farm hand, railman, bankrupt—and then Findley bet on Curves

I grew up in a little small town in Texas. I had 23 people in my graduating class, and I married one of them. I worked for a custom farmer for years, driving combines and building fence. We learned, I think, a very, very strong work ethic.

British Swim operator stays in lane

A fast growth pace, including a new store in another city, proved a problem for a British Swim School operator. He put renewed focus on profitability and is now back on track.

Claim your life, urges Budget Blinds’ CEO

Eight years ago Shirin Behzadi was recovering from surgery to remove a life-threatening brain tumor. During a rehabilitation process that took two years, Behzadi had to learn to walk again, to speak and, as she tells it, to take ownership of her life and help others do the same.

Straight talk from Erbert’s operator

Aubrey Janik is wise beyond her years. Just two years after opening her first Erbert & Gerbert’s location in Plano, Texas, the 23-year-old franchisee has pushed pause on her ambitious five-year business plans to instead create The Franchise Blueprint, an online video-based franchise training course that helps other beginning franchisees avoid some of the frustrating mistakes that often cost newbies precious time and mental anguish.

'It’s OK to dream big’ says Goalz boss

Franchise exec turned franchisee Shawn Eby has big plans to develop hundreds of locations with American Development Partners. His main goal: helping 100 employees become owners

Soap opera over at River Street Sweets

Building an authentic brand that’s true to their family story is of the utmost importance to Jennifer and Tim Strickland, even if it means sharing personal—and sometimes painful—details of what led to the formation of their candy franchise.

Many lessons for Tutor Doctor operator

The fact that everyone shares info in a franchise is a key benefit of the business model for a Toronto-area Tutor Doctor operator.

Dippin’ Dots CEO on complex deals, hot yoga and why he took on Spicer

What was your upbringing like? I grew up in Oklahoma City, and I was a pretty quiet kid.My mother was a schoolteacher. My dad was in oil and gas, a wildcatter, and I had one younger sibling. My dad’s degree was as an astronaut, but there was more money in the oil and gas business back then. I grew up around oil and gas wells, and coming out of college that was one of my first jobs as a petroleum land man. I got into business around my freshman year in undergrad and developed a love for dissecting numbers and looking at businesses and putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

Upward mobility at Black Bear Diner

An ‘aggressive streak' is a desired attribute for a California operator of two Black Bear Diners, with 19 more on the books.

The Boss

What was your upbringing like? I was born and raised in the Seattle area. My dad was in the broadcasting industry. He was able to raise some capital and got into buying troubled radio stations and turning them around. In addition to all the normal stuff, I actually was a student of The Little Gym, that’s where it was founded. My mom was in journalism, with the Seattle Times. By 2002, we moved to Arizona and by 2002 she went to the Arizona Republic.

Left behind, Patel sisters now rocking the Planet

Kalpana, the third youngest of four Patel sisters who are all Planet Fitness franchisees, was super stressed on “expiration date” at her big-box gym in Vancouver, Washington. That’s when you send out mailers with an expiration date, and on that day in particular the gyms have a lot of sign-ups.

Math helped Fitlife Foods add up

Fitlife Foods founder David Osterweil spent six years trying to get his freshly prepared meals retail concept ready to franchise—and the effort included a whole lot of math.

Work until your toes bleed, in The Boss

I grew up in New York City, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants who escaped the communist regime in Hungary in 1956. My mom was 9. I was raised by Holocaust survivors, so our life was work, work, work. My dad was not in the picture. My family left a lot behind. My brother is an actor. We lived in Queens.

Follow the system for Smoothie sailing

Craig and Dianne LeMieux are area developers for Tropical Smoothie Cafe, with more than 60 locations under their purview and two cafes of their own. ‘If you follow it, it works,’ declares Craig about the franchisor’s model.

NEW! ‘The Boss’ gleans lessons from franchise leaders

What was your upbringing? I grew up in Palm Springs, and never planned to go back to Palm Springs. There’s nothing to do. We played in the dirt and dug holes and rode our bikes all over. My father was a pilot for Continental and my parents got divorced when I was 6 or 7. They were a pioneer with divorce.

Muscle Maker Grill tries populist debut

T-shirts, signs and pop-up ads to promote an initial public offering? Muscle Maker Grill is using those populist tools and others to promote its initial public offering under a new option known as Reg A+ or a mini-IPO.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s operator tries for Cheers effect

A chance to own 25 percent of a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s started Aaron Carricato’s path to five units. He’s returning the favor, giving loans to promising GMs to become part owner.

No bad Thanksgivings for Flis family

Dominic Flis cannot pinpoint one particular day that was the best ever for his family’s Little Rock, Arkansas-based Burger King operation. But naming the worst day ever is painfully easy: There are two. “The day my Mom passed away and the day my Dad passed away,” he says, in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Three brands to one for Moe’s operator

Focus became the name of the game for Matt Rusconi, a Moe’s Southwest Grill operator with 14 stores who believes in ‘rewarding versus threatening’ employees

At 40, an up-tempo plan for National Franchise Sales

‘You don’t come to me for a deal. It has to be fair,’ declares Jerry Thissen, the founder of National Franchise Sales, who over 40 years and with 26 employees has built the firm into the largest franchise brokerage outfit in the country.

Attorney Peter Lagarias’ work with kids ‘never gets old’

In his life as a franchise attorney, Peter Lagarias says, “things often don’t resolve for on and on and on.” By contrast, results are immediate from Rotaplast International’s work, in which teams of doctors, nurses and Rotary volunteers travel to foreign lands and repair cleft palates and lips for children whose families can’t afford the surgery.

Exclusive interview with Subway CEO Suzanne Greco

Suzanne Greco was seven years old when her big brother, Fred DeLuca, opened what became the first Subway restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1965. “I stayed in the background while everyone else was working,” Greco said, “but I aspired to be a worker, too. Fred and our mother gave me little chores, like sweeping the floor and drying dishes.”

The newcomer: BoConcept makes U.S. push

Judging on appearances, everything looks better in Scandinavia—the peaceful lifestyle, colorful cottages, lush fjords, sleek Volvos wagons and, of course, the breathtaking, gorgeous furniture that elevates daily living to an art form. It’s a look that’s becoming more common, showing up everywhere from apparel to automobiles.

The turnaround: A&W’s on the road again

Nearly six years after A&W’s disgruntled and demoralized U.S. franchisee association banded together with its largest international franchisee and former President Kevin Bazner to purchase the brand from Yum, now-CEO Bazner is feeling confident as the nearly 100-year-old brand is back to growing sales and adding units.

The up-and-comer: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

What does it take to run a company for Warren Buffett? Ask Gino Blefari, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, one of the few Buffett acquisitions that have been allowed to use the hallowed Berkshire Hathaway name.

NRD’s Susan Beth and her ‘amazeball’ answers

Susan Beth’s car may not be as clean as it used to be, but she still thinks the best job in franchising just found her. Susan (we should refer to her by her last name, but it would just sound like we’re calling her by her first name, so why bother?), the COO of NRD Capital Management, an un-private equity fund started by Aziz Hashim, is the most bubbly M&A adviser you’ll ever run into. “I’m a Type A when I need to be,” Susan says, reassuringly.

Ego’s in check for Halal Guys operator

‘When you’re filled with ego, you’re focused on yourself, not finding someone to help,’ declares a Halal Guys operator in Southern California. Paul Tran and his four partners came together for their love of the brand.

Secrets of the Lost Cajun

There’s a reason no one has successfully franchised a gumbo-based chain before—it’s a long, arduous process to make it just so. But the real secret isn’t in the recipe. Meet the founding father of The Lost Cajun, Raymond Griffin, a widower franchising the concept he and his late wife dreamed up that’s grounded in courtesy and respect.

Flynn on way to ‘nice round number’

The Flynn Restaurant Group is one of the master operators in franchising. So when he changes tactics, the industry takes notice. The Applebee’s and Taco Bell operator has shifted his focus in the past two years with a massive diversification play that has him gobbling up locations in the Panera system.

Club Pilates owner learns as she grows

Passion comes first for Keely Watson, who owns five Club Pilates units in California. ‘I think with any business you dive in headfirst. That’s much easier to do when you’re passionate about it,’ she says.

Pyrotechnics, confetti and the stars igniting Rock & Brews

In a couple of hours, Paul Stanley will have a black star circling his right eye and a furry tail attached to his skintight black pants, and Gene Simmons’ silver tongue will be stained blood red. But first they are playing an acoustic set for the superfans, sans their signature white face paint and 30-pound platform boots.

About-face for Juice it Up operator

When U.S. Marines veteran Willie Smith treated his employees at Juice it Up like, well, Marines, he washed out. ‘They all had attitudes,’ he says. So he changed his way of thinking.

Pray, work, repeat for RNR operator

Staying even is not OK for Shannon Strunk, who with his wife, Cynthia, operates more than 60 units of three brands in the Gulf Coast. He believes in owning real estate, too, because ‘cash disappears quick.’

Q&A with Faegre’s Kerry Bundy and Dairy Queen

Among the 2017 class of Hall of Famers, Kerry Bundy of Faegre Baker Daniels is a seasoned attorney with a breadth of experience in and out of the courtroom. She and her clients Jen Beck and Shelly O’Callaghan, both of Dairy Queen, discuss their longstanding legal relationship and how they work together to tackle the legacy brand’s unique legal issues.

Q&A with David Paris, Vik Patel and Tim Cloe

David Paris of Paris Ackerman & Schmierer is in this year’s newest Legal Eagles Hall of Fame class, those who have been so named for 10 years. The franchisee attorney sees issues from the other side of the FDD, especially where mergers and acquisitions are concerned. Paris and two of his clients, Vik Patel and Tim Cloe—both large operators in the Dunkin’ Donuts system—discuss the importance of having an attorney with a business mindset.

From Wall Street to Bubbleology

Assad Khan vividly remembers his first taste of bubble tea while strolling through New York City’s Chinatown district back in 2009. He should remember, because that day—and his instant love for the Taiwanese tea drink—changed his life.

British Swim boss is all-in on retention

When Bonnie Alcid did an audit on how long employees stayed, it was an eye-opener. Now the British Swim School operator emphasizes finding and keeping staff above all else.

Why Domino’s will eat Pizza Hut’s lunch

As the second-largest pizza chain eclipses $10 billion in sales and goes all-in as a high-tech pioneer, it expects to overtake Pizza Hut before 2020. CEO Patrick Doyle describes the fateful decisions that started Domino’s fast run-up.

Jerky vegans get their comeuppance

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and apparently in a parallel universe they don’t let them be vegans either.

Drew Brees adds Dunkin’ to holdings

As speculation mounts about how long Drew Brees will continue as quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, it’s becoming clearer that one of the most famous and talented players in the NFL has teed himself up to be a major player in the franchise world for many seasons to come.

Unishippers owner is ‘luckiest guy’

But Frank Czar doesn’t leave everything to good fortune. The owner of eight Unishippers territories said he plans for the worst, especially big hits to cash flow.

Erbert and Gerbert’s franchisee aims high

Spend just two minutes on the phone with Aubrey Janik, age 23, and you’ll quickly have an appreciation for her outsized share of ambition and fearlessness. She’s got a two-, three- and five-year plan, and if it all works out, franchising may have found its newest up-and-coming star.

Fear is relative for Best in Class CEO

Failure is a subjective term for Hao Lam. The founder and CEO of Best in Class has had life-changing failures—10, he says—including running from gunfire and being sent to a Vietnamese prison on several occasions.

DQ boss likes the word ‘accountable’

This operator grew from seven locations to 180, all in the Dairy Queen brand, while still in his early 30s. But his advice for other young operators is to make one unit profitable before adding another.

‘Don’t quit’ is motto for Shoney’s operator

‘What truck just hit me’ is a question many multi-unit operators ask. But for Rory Smith of Shoney’s, the answer is always to get up and press on.

Valerie Daniels-Carter, the ultimate do-good franchisee

If there had been an opening in our cover story line-up earlier than November, I would have been the one to break the news that Valerie Daniels-Carter is the coolest woman in Wisconsin. As it was, e-magazine PureWow chose Daniels-Carter back in September to represent Wisconsin in its state-by-state listing of cool women doing impressive things.

HB Boys boss never likes to say ‘I told you so’

‘There has to be an allowance for people to make mistakes,’ declares Gary Moore, operator of 58 Burger Kings plus three other brands. Judging from the operation’s success, many more hits than misses are likely.

From five cents to 500 million for Nathan’s Famous

How to last for 100 years? For Nathan’s Famous, it’s the hot dog, stupid. And if you’re Nathan’s boss, Wayne Norbitz, the only way to eat it is plain. ‘That’s the way God intended it to be,’ he says.

Every day is game time for Denny’s operator

When it’s third-and-one at 10 a.m., it’s not time to punt, declares former Colts great Donnell Thompson, today a Denny’s operator. We asked him to share his playbook.