I’m bidding farewell before I become a caricature of myself—hey, wait...
A lifetime ago I was the editor of a newsletter on franchising. On my first day the owner gave me a list of people in the industry to call, saying they would be happy to get me up to speed on franchising. That list included Neal (perhaps Neil, it’s been awhile) Simon, David Kaufmann, Phil Zeidman and Michael Seid. Mort Aronson, who was the general counsel at Holiday Inn at the time, was another early contact, as was Joyce Mazero. All but one were attorneys and so much of my early franchise education was legal and pro-franchisor.
Those were the days when franchisors and franchisees were constantly fighting, and the heroes for the little guys— such as Bob Purvin of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and Susan Kezio of the American Franchisee Association—were my constant contacts as well. If we had been casting a movie at the time, Susan would have been the perfect villain—Uma Thurman wearing that black wig in Pulp Fiction—while Bob would have been Jimmy Stewart. I also spent quite a bit of time talking to the International Franchise Association.
My boss was right; all those early contacts were generous with their time and expertise. Franchising, I discovered, is a great business model to cover: Entrepreneurs (that’s both ‘zors and ‘zees) tend to be quirky and multifaceted, as are their advisers. Plus because so many different industries use franchising to grow, my subject matter was everything from restaurants to doggy day cares to yoga studios. Everyone loved to talk, and I loved listening.
Only two bad experiences come to mind: Once a franchise development guy threatened to shove his foot someplace unpleasant if I reported on Washington state shutting down his pipeline because he wasn’t registered in the state, and another time a woman in HR insulted my chest when I asked if she agreed it was a bad idea for women to show so much cleavage in the workplace.
But what really made me love franchising was John Hamburger buying the newsletter along with Franchise Times and keeping me on staff. I moved from Denver to Minneapolis in 2001. A fortuitous occurrence happened in my second year as managing editor. Franchise Times had a makeover and one of the suggestions was that we add a column to the page opposite the inside back cover, since that spot was prime real estate. The column was originally named Exit Interview and then in 2016 renamed Loose Ends (since the only person I ever interviewed in this space was myself. That’s also when my caricature debuted, below). Alas, no advertiser ever wanted to pay the premium to be opposite me, although several kind people did admit they turned to my page first.
During my 17 years with Franchise Times, I’ve written hundreds of articles and at least 150 columns. I’ve profiled celebrities such as Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and star quarterback Troy Aikman, KISS’s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and talk show icon Larry King. I once stood in a corner of the noisy Washington, D.C., airport with my finger in one ear and my phone pressed to the other straining to hear whispered comments from Shaq. Come on, a guy that big shouldn’t talk softly. And I was a prisoner in the Miami Sofitel waiting for Pitbull to call me back before attending his New Year’s Eve concert—alone. I even covered the Miss USA pageant, which is also a franchise.
Reach Nancy at 612-767-3207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner
While famous people are fun, I was more impressed with the ‘zors and ‘zees I wrote about. When you’re a business reporter they are your celebrities.
But my world significantly broadened in 2011, when Bill Edwards of Edwards Global Services convinced the IFA and U.S. Commercial Services to partner with Franchise Times on trade missions. I am forever in his debt. Our first stop was India. I was amazed the franchise execs didn’t get back on the plane and head home when greeted with so much poverty, but they saw opportunity. And as I went on subsequent trips to Africa, the Middle East, China, Vietnam, South America, Central America and Mexico, I began to understand what U.S. franchisors bring to other countries: not just fast food, but training, jobs and a career path. I rode a camel and ate baby camel (I hope they weren’t related), visited Gandhi’s and Nelson Mandela’s homes and heard countless great road warrior stories.
It’s been an exhilarating ride. And while you will no longer be privy to my monthly ramblings, my coworkers at FT aren’t as lucky. I’ll still be here, editing our other pubs, Foodservice News and Food On Demand. You’ve been great. I miss you already.