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Follow the system for Smoothie sailing


Craig & Dianne Lemieux

What was the best time in your franchise career?

Dianne: The very beginning, I had never been a business owner, so right when we opened the first couple locations sitting in the building at night and I’d look around and thought, ‘I did this. We made this happen.’ It’s kind of an unbelievable feeling.

Craig: For me, really one of the best periods was when we opened the 50th location, looking back and seeing what you’ve built and what we brought to Michigan and were able to develop was just proof of all the hard work we had done. Some days I’m just in awe that we opened the first Tropical Smoothie in the state and now we have 50 stores.  

What were the hardest days?

Craig: Certainly the worst for me was also the first day, after we completed our training with a corporate staff, we were opened up and I got a call from the fire department saying the warehouse at my other company had burned down.

Ouch, how did you get through?

Dianne: You just do it, you just keep going. That’s all you can do, like any business owner, you don’t really have a choice.

The brand has gone through some big changes in the past decade—how did you adapt?

Craig: Before we opened, we read a lot about franchising and read that the biggest problem every franchisee had was conflict with the system. So we decided before we bought that we would go with the system. But we don’t follow blindly, we get involved and try to get change made where change should be, but through the system rather than against the system.

Do you give the same advice to other franchisees?

Craig: Yes. Follow the system would be my first piece of advice. Don’t go in with the mindset of ‘I like this, but.’ Go in knowing that you like the system and if you follow it, it works. Then get involved to help facilitate changes where necessary. You’ll find that criticism much better received that way.

What is your business philosophy?

Craig: Our company and my personal philosophy is never quit no matter what comes up, take it in stride and move on to the next thing. The end user of our product, the customer who comes in every day, that’s who we have to focus on.

Real estate has gotten harder, too. How do you keep ahead of the competition?

Craig: Real estate is one of the toughest things we ever do. It’s all about building relationships with brokers and developers, and being a good tenant.

How do you manage all this as a couple?

Dianne: Craig and I have very different strengths and weaknesses, he’s a huge risk taker and I’m not. So that balances out and it is a good balance. He is not a detail guy and I’m a big detail person.

What has made you successful business owners?

Dianne: I think it’s just the perseverance­­—Craig does not have giving up in his DNA. I must have some of that because I’m still here.

Craig: It’s definitely Dianne keeping me in line.

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