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The Barrs keep it all in the franchise family


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David Barr, center, with sons Ryan, left, and Taylor at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference.

Taylor Barr remembers being young and “driving around Georgia and Alabama in the family minivan visiting KFCs and Taco Bells.

“As we drove from store to store, my brother and I would watch movies in the back. One of the movies that I distinctly remember watching is ‘Stuart Little,’” he says.

Beyond that talking mouse, another memory left a lasting impression on Taylor as he watched his dad, David Barr, tour his various franchise restaurants during these many family trips, with sons, including the oldest, Ryan, in tow. Every time his dad entered one of the restaurants, “he would immediately greet the employee working at the cash register and ask them their name and how they were doing,” recalls Taylor, now 25. “… Seeing him connect with every employee in the restaurant made me appreciate the value of creating a relationship with and showing appreciation to everyone that you work with, no matter the level.”

For his part, Ryan, 27, says he can remember “50-plus different instances, so I can’t pick just one” when asked to recount a favorite memory that stands out from those many trips that included stops to visit his dad’s franchises. The cumulative effect of those trips and seeing their dad in different leadership roles—in addition to being a franchisee David was CEO of Great American Cookies, sits on numerous franchise boards and is a partner in franchise development firm Franworth—influenced both sons’ careers and, says David, gives them all a franchise connection.

David is also the outgoing chairman of the International Franchise Association, while Ryan is a private equity associate at Garnett Station Partners (the firm is the largest shareholder of Burger King franchisee Carrols Restaurant Group) and Taylor is an analyst at a New York-based investment bank in its consumer and retail group, where he often works with brands in the franchise sector. All three graduated from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.

The Barrs

The Barrs in their 1999 baseball glory.

“I generally said, whatever you do, just be really good at it,” says David of that early influence, noting he never pressured Ryan and Taylor to follow in his footsteps and, despite his own success, “there’s no silver path being paved.”

“He laid the framework and foundation,” agrees Ryan, particularly when it came to work ethic. “He worked more hours at Price Waterhouse than anyone else at his level anywhere in the world. That’s a pretty good North Star to look to. … It’s the mindset of you might not be the smartest person, but no one will work harder, and that’s served us well.”

“My parents gave me a college education,” notes David, “but other than that I had no money. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. I worked my tail off in different careers.”

A strong competitive upbringing around sports was perhaps equally influential. “My father letting me beat up on my brother in sports at an early age is the reason I’m at where I’m at,” says Ryan, following that quickly with, “I’m joking, I’m joking.”

Ryan and Taylor both played soccer and baseball, among other sports, and David, as the son of a Navy pilot who relocated a lot, credits the team atmosphere for helping him break into new areas after a move.

Sports, points out Taylor, “taught me to continually push myself both physically and mentally.

“The most important lesson that I learned was how important it was to stay positive in your outlook,” he continues. “After a bad play, a game lost or even a game won, it’s critical that you look forward to the next game … and try to do just a few things better every chance that you get.”

As the coach of his sons’ teams, David also sought to instill “the ability to learn how to win and lose with grace,” he says. “You want to have a competitive spirit, but to really achieve something, it takes a team.”

As David, who is 56, thinks about the future, he doesn’t anticipate ever fully retiring—“I like to be intellectually engaged,” he says—and appreciates the common thread of franchising he shares with his sons. Whether they’ll all ever work together, however, remains an open-ended question, and if they do, “it’ll be nice to know everyone got there on their own,” says David.

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