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Got Conflict? Zee and Zors Advise Talking it Out


Christina Russell is CEO of Pure Barre and spoke on a panel about resolving conflict at a Faegre Baker Daniels Franchise Summit last week.

“My role is to make the dream come true for the person who had the idea,” said Tam Kennedy, a Taco John’s franchisee with nine locations in Minnesota and Iowa, and with a mindset that she must be the embodiment of a premier operator. She spoke on a panel about working through conflict between franchisees and franchisors at the Faegre Baker Daniels Franchise Summit last week.

“I’m famous for saying, tell me why and show me how,” she continued. “I take that same perspective to my nine locations, to my nine managers and their 40 team members. I say here’s what we’re going to do, I’m going to tell you why we do it and tell you how to do it.”

Kennedy said she tries to focus franchisee/franchisor discussion on the truly crucial issues, rather than getting sidetracked by minutiae.

“Everybody’s up in arms right now over a lid that doesn’t connect well on the cup it’s supposed to go on. I’m not that worried about it. My brand will figure it out,” Kennedy said. “That’s not something we need to spend time on hammering our brand. What I really want to hear about is third-party delivery. Who’s going to be responsible for food safety if I put it in a car to deliver in 30 minutes?”

Christina Russell, another panelist, explained how she approached franchisees when she became CEO of Camp Bow Wow four years ago and now CEO of Pure Barre in April, and both groups were initially unhappy.

“What’s worked well for me is getting out there in person in front of groups,” she said. If you get them all into the room, something they think is a huge conflict, if you just ask what’s on your mind, what they see is the diversity of the issues that’s on everyone’s minds.”

Julie Smith, CEO of Homewatch CareGivers, said she spends time setting the tone, and making the distinction “between power and force as a franchisor. I find that force destroys value in a franchise system, while power builds value. It’s an important distinction.”

Smith took the top job in 2017 at a 40-year-old brand that was family-owned and had passed from father down to daughter, and then was acquired by private equity firm Authority Brands. “We had a lot of movement to make in a short period of time. I went out on a learning and listening tour, and got to about 85 percent of our franchise owners in about 18 months.”

Today, her focus is on making sure all franchisees are engaged in growing their businesses, or else moving on to something else. “You’re not allowed to sit on the brand,” she said, meaning getting to a comfortable level of sales and then coasting. “There are a lot of things you can do … you can grow, you can sell, you can expand, but our industry is growing at 11 percent a year so you are not allowed to sit on the brand.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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