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Better than walking beans or scraping lime—my job


My first real job in high school was as a clerk in a pet shop. It was locally owned; the owner and his family lived above the store, and all his kids worked there. Before I started, I had dreams of playing with puppies, petting kittens and feeding fish. Nope.

I cleaned fish tanks, scraping the lime off the glass, dusted shelves and hauled bags of dog food. It was better than “walking beans” for my farmer grandfather during the summer. (If you are not familiar, walking beans means walking down rows of soybeans and pulling the weeds. The less weeds, the higher the price for the beans. And my grandfather did not like dirty beans. It was hot and sweaty work.)

Back to the pet shop: I was only 16, remember, so of course I had unrealistic expectations. And, it didn’t help the owner was gruff and a bit ornery—overall, somewhat intimidating. There was no training; I suppose you don’t need training to clean lime off of a fish tank—just a razor blade.

I didn’t last long. I found another job with a floral shop that was part of a regional chain. There I washed and repotted plants, dusted shelves, and hauled bags of dirt. Same type of work, but somehow it was different. The manager was kind and encouraging. She spent time training me, and I felt like I was part of the team, or “family.” I liked that job, and worked there until I left for college. The manager attended my wedding years later.

I was reminded of this when I read FT Associate Editor Tom Kaiser’s cover story on The Lost Cajun, a franchised restaurant brand whose menu revolves around gumbo—somewhat of a lost art, when it comes to the authentic dish.

Raymond Griffin, the company’s founder, built a restaurant company based on mutual respect. As Tom writes, Griffin has hired the experts to do the things he’d rather delegate, so he can concentrate on “glad-handing customers, cooking food and working with employees to maintain the Southern-style, polite corporate culture that is the brand’s in-person signature.”

In fact, he told Tom his favorite part of the restaurant business is passing on this culture to the next generation. He’s even had a couple of his employees’ moms call to thank him. As a mom of teenagers once myself, I get it. When other adults add to the values you’ve tried to instill, you’re grateful. It’ll be interesting to watch Griffin build the company on the values he’s bedrocked there.

Mary Jo Larson

Mary Jo Larson

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

Speaking of values, you won’t want to miss reading our Franchising Gives Back feature. Spearheaded by the IFA’s Educational Foundation, it’s an effort to celebrate the charitable work franchisors and their franchisees do in their communities—from large companies, like McDonald’s and their college tuition assistance program, to smaller companies like Abrakadoodle and their efforts to bring art classes to those children whose families would normally not be able to afford to take part. Editor-in-Chief Beth Ewen and her team have brought their efforts, and those of many more companies, to light in a way that will inspire all of us to do more.

But that’s not all we have in this issue: within these pages we’ve covered an e-cigarette franchise, as well as a drug testing lab franchise. It’s our expanded finance feature, and Beth and her team have covered how franchises are accessing the capital markets. And there’s franchising in small town America. Once thought of the bastion of mom and pops, brands are finding success there.

Each month we bring you the features that inspire, and the articles that inform. Geez, I love this job.

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