FranConnect CEO shares leadership advice, more in Grab Bag
“There was probably an expectation that I’d go into medicine but it just was not for me.” — Gabby Wong, CEO, FranConnect
Who would play you in the biopic about your life?
I would be flattered if Tina Fey played me. She’s amazing, she’s a groundbreaker, the first female head writer for SNL. She’s sharp, funny and just so witty.
If you were to open a franchise, which would you choose?
I have to give the caveat that we love the franchise model and all our customers. If I had to pick, it’d be something in personal service. Probably fitness.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
This is easy for me. My father is from China and my mother is from France, so I grew up eating very strange things. I’ve eaten cow heart and bone marrow and cow tongue … just about every part of the cow.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I have a 6-year-old daughter and she loves Moriah Elizabeth. She’s a crafter, she has these YouTube videos on squishy makeovers. Squishies are these little soft toys and she takes used ones or ones that were donated a makes up different creations, painting them, whatever. We’ll watch them on Saturday mornings.
If you could dis-invent one thing, what would it be?
Nothing, I love innovation. Even if there’s something that’s not used how it was originally intended, I think innovation is so important. I wouldn’t get rid of anything.
What superhero power would you like to have?
Oh, the Wonder Twins! Do you remember the Wonder Twins? They can just adapt into anything. So, I’d want the ability to adapt very quickly.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
I’ve been a lot of places. We have a very large location in New Delhi, India, and I’ve been there three times in the last year. It’s so rich in culture, but it’s not an easy place to travel to. But really, it’s so rewarding. Sixty percent of our company is there and I’ve made it a focus to have an executive presence there.
Editor Laura Michaels asks the tough questions—What superhero power would you most like to have? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?—to show a side of franchising execs you don’t normally see. To suggest an industry professional, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer and I knew I wanted to go into business leadership. I come from a family of doctors, my dad was a doctor, and there was probably an expectation that I’d go into medicine, but it just was not for me. I think in writing there’s the goal to find the truth in a way that connects everybody, and that’s needed to drive a big organization. And I now use writing as a way to help me distill my thoughts, and I use that to help me be clear with my team.
What’s the last thing you cooked at home?
I’ve been traveling so much lately so, takeout? I’m kidding! I make a mean chicken parm. My husband loves it and it’s something the whole family would eat. I have three kids, two boys, 16 and 14, and a daughter, who’s 6.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To not be afraid to hire people around you that are better/more knowledgeable than you. As a leader, your job isn’t to be the smartest, most knowledgeable person in the room, but to set the strategic and operational vision, and mobilize the team’s strength and expertise to accomplish that vision. If you are afraid to hire people around you that are smarter/more knowledgeable than you, then you will always be stuck doing the same thing and, as a result, it will be hard to advance in your career.
Career advice that I often give other people is, ‘Don’t chase title or money, focus on building your human capital and skillset. Doing so will result in better career longevity, breadth of core business skills, and ultimately open up even more opportunities for advancement.’
*Editor's note: This interview took place during the IFA Convention in February, where I had a chance to sit down with Gabby for a fun Q&A.