Circle K values

Circle K, No. 1 on the Franchise Times Fast & Serious list, emphasizes four values, each displayed on a different-colored t-shirt. 

There’s fast growth that fizzles and fast growth that lasts. The newly published Franchise Times Fast & Serious list aims to identify the latter, using a proprietary 10-point formula that identifies sustainable unit and sales growth over a three-year period. Here are bits of wisdom from the CEOs driving sustainable growth in this year’s top five.

No. 1 is Circle K, with sales up 48.8 percent to $15.2 billion from 2018 through 2020. Units grew to 11,312, up 40.5 percent from 2018. In a message to customers, CEO Brian Hannasch wrote about the Canadian-based firm’s four values and its four t-shirts that each display one of them. They are: One Team. Take Ownership. Do the Right Thing. And Play to Win.

“Over 41 years ago, our company was founded in a single store in Laval, Canada, with a certain set of guiding values,” he wrote. “As we continue to become a bigger global company, we want to be able to verbalize and shares those values in order to continue growing together.”

No. 2 is Tommy’s Express, a car wash chain that’s newcomer to the Fast & Serious list. CEO Alex Lemmen cited low labor, usually five people per shift and 12 people on the payroll total, is a draw. “We joke that this stainless steel equipment shows up on time every day, and isn’t impacted by labor shortages.” Profit margins between 40 and 50 percent don’t hurt either.

An innovative founder, Tom Essenburg, is another driver of the franchise’s growth. “He created some outside-the-box ideas, including the patented round arch, which makes car-washing an aesthetically appealing retail business, not an industrial, automotive experience,” said President Ryan Essenburg, Tom’s son.

No. 3 is Scooter’s Coffee, where CEO Todd Graeve believes his main mission is to stay well ahead of the growth in franchise units with services and products to support them. “We have a deep responsibility to resource way ahead of ht ecurve. Right now, we could support 1,000 stores,” he said; They are projecting 600 to 650 stores open by the end of 2022.

Co-Founder and Chairman Don Eckles said the company’s core values are most important—integrity, humility, courage and love. “We’ve got to guard that with our lives,” Eckles said. “If we don’t understand the magic of this business, it’s just a transaction. If we just become a coffee transaction, you better hope there isn’t a better one that comes along.”

 No. 4 is Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions, formerly called uBreakiFix. CEO Dave Barbuto believes its rebrand, started last July, of all 650-plus U.S. stores and nearly 600 mobile repair vehicles will keep the growth going. “We are thrilled at the prospect of the growth this change will bring with it,” he said. “The rebrand allows us to massively expand our marketing power and grow our customer reach. Not only that, the rebrand marks a clear shift in our strategy to offer more than repair.”

His top priorities are “always, one, caring for our people and two, caring for our customers,” he said, “so I do everything I can to keep them top of mind when making decisions.”

No. 5 is Teriyaki Madness, where CEO Michael Haith believes in developing collaboration and trust among franchisees. “We talk! We communicate, we over-communicate, kind of where our heads are at. When we take the time to talk with franchisees about where we’re going, and what the pain points are, it’s always amazing how much the franchisees agree.

“It’s when the ivory tower comes up with these things” on their own that problems arise. He also believes in doing what he and the management team says they will do. “Sometimes you’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and make things work. When you’re in franchising, you make a lot of promises. That’s what keeps me up at night,” knowing he has to fulfill them.

Read the entire 2022 Franchise Times Fast & Serious list here.