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Motivation to get off the couch and improve lives


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When my kids were young, I was busy with volunteering for their activities, as all parents are. But once the kids left home, driving them to basketball practices and lessons was a thing of the past. And I knew I needed a steady volunteer gig to make sure I stayed active in my community.

And boy, did I find the perfect activity for me: I work with English Language Learners (ELLs) on reading fluency. One night a week for about two hours, I lead a small group of ELLs. We take turns reading aloud, and it’s my job to gently correct their pronunciation, or talk about the definition of a word they may be unfamiliar with. I love words; hence my job here at Franchise Times, so reading and talking about words is my happy place. And I love helping people who are working hard to find their place here in our country. I walk out of there with a spring in my step.

All this was brought home when I read Restaurant Editor Nick Upton’s interview with Dan Vansteenburg, a Jimmy John’s franchisee with 42 locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A former special education teacher, Vansteenburg likes people and puts them at the forefront of his business.

He named his company Spin the Planet, because “everybody should get off the couch and do something for someone else every day,” Vansteenburg told Nick. In doing something for someone else, it makes the world better, he added.

He goes up and beyond the skills of the job, even though some of them will only work with his company for a short time: “I want to do what I can to teach them and make their lives better.” In his world his top employees are the sandwich makers and the delivery drivers—they have direct contact with customers.

Making lives better is also part of the conversation FT Senior Editor Beth Ewen had with Daniel Halpern, CEO of TGI Fridays franchisee Jackmont Hospitality. Jackmont was founded years ago by Maynard Jackson, his wife and daughter. If you don’t know who Jackson is, next time you fly into Atlanta check out the signage—the international airport is named after him. Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, was elected to three terms starting in 1973.

Mary Jo Larson

Mary Jo Larson

Publisher
Reach Mary Jo at 612-767-3208
or mlarson@franchisetimes.com

When Jackson died unexpectedly in 2003, Halpern had to step up. People were sympathetic, he said, because they expected the company to fold without the charismatic politico at the helm. But Halpern and team felt a responsibility for the people working there.

“I’d never seen a company so committed to their people and developing them. That always blew me away,” Jackmont Director of Operations Reggie Evers told Beth. In fact, Evers worked for the franchisor before joining Jackmont, and cited its company culture as a reason “he switched sides.” That dedication to people helped the company achieve the 2019 Franchisee of the Year Award, plus create and launch its own independent restaurant brands. Don’t miss Beth’s story on all the things that make the company unique.

Of course, there is more to be had in this issue, from a franchisor launching a program designed to hire autistic employees, to a poké brand with a roster of impressive investors. Did you spot the senior franchise exec who has eaten crickets? While we are all for getting you off the couch, we give you permission to stay on it for a bit—just to read this issue.

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