1851 List: Young Ones to Watch
1851 List: Young Ones to Watch

With an upcoming Presidential election, we noticed something that shocked us about the parties. There are truly no young guns being groomed to be the next leader(s) of our great country. Sure, there are young politicians everywhere, but rarely are they given a voice and rarely do they drive for the .....

With an upcoming Presidential election, we noticed something that shocked us about the parties. There are truly no young guns being groomed to be the next leader(s) of our great country. Sure, there are young politicians everywhere, but rarely are they given a voice and rarely do they drive for the top. Why are the youth not given a strong voice and why aren’t they rebelling to take it? Perhaps because they are not owning their opportunities and perhaps because they aren’t claiming them, too.
If you asked Geoff Hill, Vice President of Roark Capital Group, he would suggest the formula for young executives maturing into established leaders is simple: Results + knowledge + relationships. “If someone asked me for advice on how they can become more successful in business, I would ask them how they were doing in each of those categories,” he says.
Melanie Bergeron, Chairwoman of Two Men and a Truck, says following through is critical to success. “If someone asks you to do something, do it. Perform at a high level. Embrace your opportunities.”
Young people are making noise – and are on the horizon of big things, both within the International Franchise Association and within their respective businesses. Franchisors, franchisees and suppliers all made the list. But, just like the political arena, this power ranking list could change at any given moment. In order to maintain positioning the leaders have to do two things: Stay young (at heart) and stay hungry.

Name: Sean Fitzgerald
Rank: 1
Age: 41
Position: Senior Vice President of Franchise Development
Company: Quiznos

Sean Fitzgerald, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development for Quiznos, does not believe in luck. If he did, he wouldn’t have worked this hard to get to where he is today. He is on a mission – a mission to constantly improve franchise brands and their opportunities so that would-be franchisees and current operators can thrive in their daily business. Throughout his zor runs, he has rewritten the map multiple times, making simple tweaks to prepare brands for bigger growth. Whether service brand or restaurant brand, Fitzgerald’s fundamentals have continuously proven to work. A fine-tuned blend of communications and processes is how he gets things done. Listen to the industries top players and they will tell you that a blend of results, knowledge and relationships is how you get to the top. Fitzgerald has mastered each.

Name: Geoff Hill
Rank: 2
Age: 42
Position: Vice President
Company: Roark Capital

Geoff Hill is a rare commodity when it comes to Private Equity. He doesn’t have a finance background. Nor did he expect to find his way into PE. What Hill does know are relationships. If not for his deep friendships with Steve Romaniello and Neil Aronson – Hill would still be on the ops side – or at least that’s what he says. Within the International Franchise Association community, Hill is the talk of the town. Nearly every influencers mentions Hill as the next wave of leadership. Tell him that, and he will shy away from the glory and focus on the daily tasks. His head-down, hard work mentality continues to establish the 42-year-old, of whom Romaniello says, “People love working with Geoff. He is the total package. Geoff is smart, insightful, energetic and possesses natural leadership ability.”

Name: Kat Cole
Rank: 3
Age: 33
Position: President
Company: Cinnabon, Inc.

Kat Cole turned a spending-money gig at Hooters into a skyrocketing career in franchising. She landed a job at Hooters corporate before she was old enough to rent a car, and by her late twenties was being offered positions with VP in the title. Today, Cole is a part of the booming Focus Brands, serving as President of Cinnabon, Inc.

Name: Liberty Harper
Rank: 4
Age: 32
Position: Founder Liberty Fitness, CEO Harper Consulting Group, Director of New Business Aviatech
Company: Harper Consulting Group/Aviatech

Liberty Harper has done it all. She has been a franchisee, a franchisor, a consultant, an Internet TV show host and a development member for a marketing brand. Now guess her age. Harper is 32 years old, but has built a portfolio that would make some of the franchise community’s influencers jealous. Despite accomplishing so much so fast, Harper refuses to sit still. The entrepreneur in her still craves making a difference in people’s lives by relying on a blend of experience that encompasses success and failure.

Name: Scott Sutton
Rank: 5
Age: 41
Position: Vice President of Franchise Development
Company: Safeguard Franchise Systems, Inc.

One of the first things you will notice about Scott Sutton is how deeply personal he makes his career. He deeply cares about those who interface with him – whether co-worker, supplier, franchise executive or franchisee (Safeguard calls them distributors). The drive to help people succeed has worked well for Sutton, who has become a highly regarded franchise executive known for producing great results. In addition to helping Safeguard achieve record numbers in acquisitions last year, Sutton has been busy helping other franchisors find greatness – as Chairman of the Emerging Franchisor Conference.

Name: Mindy Golde
Rank: 6
Age: 34
Position: Vice President of Sales
Company: Listen360

If the franchise community were a movie, Mindy Golde may call it “Old School” – and probably wouldn’t watch it. That “Old School” mentality does not work for Golde—in fact, she completely ignores being told she has to wait her turn. The go-getter has helped Systino grow into a well-respected platform, and then while on top of the community, through a name change to Listen360. That’s called fearlessness. President Golde? Maybe someday. In the meantime, she is focused on the client and passionately making a difference for them. She is creating the next stage of service standards – qualities sure to be embraced by the followers.

Name: Jon-Anthony Lui
Rank: 7
Age: 27
Position: Franchisee
Company: Tutor Doctor

If Jon-Anthony Lui believed everything he read, he probably wouldn’t be successful as a franchise in the Tutor Doctor system. When Lui was in college, his text book gave him a two-lined paragraph definition on franchising. Thankfully, he had his father – who had been in franchise sales for the majority of his career and taught Lui more than just the basics. In college, the depth of understanding wowed his classmates. Today, it wows his colleagues. And this is just the beginning for the 27-year-old, who says “I don’t just want to be successful, I want to be significant.”

Name: Steve Beagelman
Rank: 8
Age: 42
Company: SMB Franchise Advisors

The old saying goes that nice guys finish last. Well, whoever said that must have not known Steve Beagelman, often called the nicest yet best kept secret in franchising. The founder of SMB Franchise Advisors did not have any choice when it came to picking his career. His parents somewhat paved his passion when they had the then 16-year-old Beagelman begin selling franchises for their packaging company (his friends would tell you to imagine Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties). Then at 20-years old, he created his own franchise. Flash forward another 20 years and you can add CEO of Hollywood Tans and development guru for brands like Saladworks and Rita’s Water Ice to that resume. Beagelman is now focused on being the coach – helping franchisors franchise right (he teaches them to drive, says Adam Siegelheim, partner at Stark & Stark).

Name: Beau Green
Rank: 9
Age: 30
Position: Franchisee
Company: Right at Home

When it comes to senior home care, rarely do you find the youth interested in the business. That is unless you are Beau Green, 30-year-old franchisee of Right at Home in Birmingham, AL. Green watched how his mother cared for his grandmother and his mother-in-law and realized he and his wife wanted to find a way to provide a better service at home. The former University of Louisville walk-on basketball player went on to have a solid college career as a guard at Samford. The discipline learned as a college athlete has guided Green through following the franchise game plan at Right at Home.

Name: Jason & Steven Parker – The Parker Bros.
Rank: 10 and 11
Age: 25 & 27 (Jason & Steve)
Company: K-9 Resorts Daycare & Luxury Hotel

Ray Kroc. Harland Sanders. Fred Deluca. Jimmy John Liautaud. Jason and Steven Parker. That’s the dream for these two young franchisors. Obviously, they don’t sell hot dogs (they take care of dogs in a luxurious resort) or another American staple food product – but, when it comes to dogs and animal day care, they hope someday they can be mentioned in the same sentence as the famous founders who preceded them. How will they get there? By listening a lot, taking a few aggressive leaps, and banking on the fact that no one can take care of furry family members better than they can. They are OK with being emerging franchisors – but definitely not satisfied. Keep a look out for these two success-driven brothers.

Name: Chris Volk
Rank: 12
Age: 29
Position: Franchisee
Company: Pita Pit

Chris Volk is a Hazen, North Dakota native and Army veteran. At the age of 21, Volk decided to enlist in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Drum in New York, near the first Pita Pit location in Kingston, Ontario. After extensive research he found out that Pita Pit offered a discount on franchise fees for qualified veterans. As a military veteran, Volk placed a high value on discipline, precision and following a set plan, which he has been able to transfer into success with Pita Pit. Volk is currently a multi-unit franchise spearheading the growth of Pita Pit throughout North Dakota.

Name: Dan DiZio
Rank: 13
Age: 41
Title: CEO + Co-Founder
Brand: Philly Pretzel Factory

When Dan DiZio was a teenager, he already had his eye on the prize. In fact, he already worked in the pretzel business, selling pretzels on the corner for a local entrepreneur. In college, the pretzel bug continued, and he, along with his college roommate and now business partner Len Lehman, founded Philly Pretzel Factory. DiZio is now something of a Philly celebrity, having been featured on Undercover Boss. His 100-plus-unit brand has poised itself for strong, non-traditional growth with the launch of its new kiosk, a fully operational Philly Pretzel Factory in a smaller footprint. Innovation is not DiZio’s middle name, but it sure could be.

Name: Scott Frith
Rank: 14
Age: 39
Brand: Lawn Doctor

When Scott Frith was a child, if he could have taken a ride in the DeLorean into his future – he would have probably seen what his life looks like today -- CEO of the well-respected brand his father and past International Franchise Association Chairman Russ Frith played such a critical role in developing, Lawn Doctor. Lawn Doctor is not a young brand. In fact, the company is older than its new CEO Frith. But, the drive of passion plus promise fuels Frith to add his youthful, innovative and strategic approach to the brand as he prepares it for its next legacy. Scott Frith will be the first to admit he isn’t at the finish line, but sure happy that DeLorean view continues to provide truth, growth and opportunity.

Name: C. J. Couri
Rank: 15
Age: 36
Company: We Do Lines USA, Inc.

Chris (C.J) Couri is obvious. And he’s OK with it. In fact, when creating his parking lot striping franchise, his marketing genius embraces obvious so much it created a buzz-worthy brand name: We Do Lines. It’s OK to laugh. He laughs too. In fact, if he added snow blowing to his services, you could guess what that business would be called. Obvious isn’t the only characteristic he needs in business—he requires edge. Edge, he says, helps his franchisees get in the door. Professionalism mixed with edge, that’s how Couri rolls.

Name: Jennifer Durham
Rank: 16
Age: 36
Brand: Checkers

If Checkers just sold fries, this fanatical fry follower would probably own 25 Checkers/Rally’s instead of trekking through finance on her way to franchise development. Thankfully for the Checkers leadership team, the 800-plus-location giant sells better burgers. Jennifer Durham is perfectly happy challenging herself to discover new, innovative tactics to attract multi-unit franchisees who own multi-brand concepts.

Name: Matt Haller
Rank: 17
Age: 32
Company: IFA
Position: Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief of Staff to the President & CEO for the International Franchise Association

Not even Matt Haller himself can read his title aloud without taking a breath. As Vice President, Public Affairs and Chief of Staff to the President & CEO for the International Franchise Association, the 32-year-old rising super star has a future path planned and a great mentor to follow in IFA’s President Steve Caldeira. Haller’s eyes have been on the ball ever since graduating from North Carolina State University where he was director of industry relations at the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association and manager of political affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Oh, and don’t forget legislative assistant for UPS Corporate Public Affairs and a director of public affairs at Levick Strategic Communications, LLC. Did we mention he is 32?

Name: Cade Howard
Rank: 18
Age: 22
Brand: The Grounds Guys (The Dwyer Group)

Cade Howard doesn’t believe in stereotypes. If he did, he wouldn’t be an emerging franchisee of The Dwyer Group’s lawn care concept, The Grounds Guys. Why? For one, he is 22, and two, he already owned another lawn care business before becoming a franchise owner. Howard is all for bucking trends and plans to continue growing his franchise business in his community.

Name: Rich Stark
Rank: 19
Age: 38
Company: Stark Logic

With shifts in technology, franchisors and franchisees alike need someone to have their backs. Thankfully, Rich Stark, Founder and CEO of Stark Logic, has a cape fit for a hero – a Search Engine Optimization hero. Stark has constantly challenged technological advancements to ensure he can beat down Google with a SEO stick and maintain top notch searchability for the brands he represents. In fact, shiftability could be his middle name as the budding entrepreneur has grown his company thanks to persistence and constant networking. If you don’t know Rich, you will soon. He has a plan to network at every franchise event possible – not in the cheesy used car salesman way – but more so in the Batman-caped support system type way.

Name: Eric Little
Rank: 20
Age: 40
Title: Vice President of Franchise Development
Company: Right at Home

It’s clear why Eric Little is on the zor side—he’s a coach, and pretty damn good at it. In fact, Little’s passion lies with helping franchisees find their footing. He constantly focuses on the path and how to lead a successful drive to the end. Though young, Little’s resume spans multiple development positions at multiple franchise brands. With his depth of experience and knowledge, he continues to evolve his coaching strategy. Don’t put him in the game – he would rather guide it than play it.

Name: Brittany and Tony Rodgers
Rank: 21 and 22
Age: Brittany is 29, Tony is 32
Position: Franchisee
Company: Hand & Stone

Brittany and Tony Rodgers always knew they wanted to own their own business. They just didn’t know what. They turned to FranNet, a franchise broker that helps prospective franchisees identify the right opportunity with them. Equipped with a financial plan, passion and vision, the young husband/wife team landed upon an emerging New Jersey-based franchisor, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. Much like other first time franchisees, the hope is long term, as the duo plans to work their way into multi-unit franchise ownership.

Name: Jeremy Lee
Rank: 23
Age: 34
Position: Field Marketing Manager
Company: Huddle House, Inc.

When Jeremy Lee started his franchising career, he certainly wasn’t planning on staying in it forever – especially since he has always had the entrepreneurial bug to open his own restaurant. But, then things changed as he realized he could have significant influence on franchisees and their local store marketing. The local store marketing guru has since helped hundreds of franchisees strengthen their local communications through events and promotions. Lee’s helping hand has also given him real life experience, which will, someday, provide beneficial for him opening his own restaurant – or perhaps starting his own franchise brand.

Name: Eric Dinger
Rank: 24
Age: 31
Position: Founder + CEO
Company: Thought District

Before finding his way into the franchise arena, Eric Dinger, the founder of Thought District, had one of the most important skill sets covered to earn success in the tightly-connected franchising community: true entrepreneurship. Scared is not a word that exists in Dinger’s vocabulary. Opportunity does. The 31-year-old has earned his success by constantly creating results and opportunity. That combination has led his clients to validate his brand. Validation, he says, is a critical part of success.

Name: Ashley Betzendahl
Rank: 25
Age: 27
Position: Social Web Communications Manager
Company: Goddard Systems, Inc. (franchisor of The Goddard School)

If you asked Ashley Betzendahl in college what she would be when she grew up – Social Web Communications Manager probably wouldn’t have been the four words of her choice. Thankfully for Goddard Systems, Inc., that career path is perfectly fitting for the 27 year old. In fact, the social guru has paved the way for other brands in the sense of best practices. Take a look at her work and you will receive a glimpse into social perfection. As for her next step? Much like Social Media, Betzendahl’s world changes every second. She does love franchising, though, and sees herself painting a nice footprint in the future.
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