A franchise brand is only as strong as the people behind it, starting with its executive team. Leaders determine their brands’ environments and cultures from the top down, meaning that franchisees and employees live up to the standards that have been set for them. That’s why Franchise Business Review, a leading independent market research firm, has released its list of the Top Franchise Leaders for 2017.
To create this list and name the franchising industry’s best of the best, Franchise Business Review analyzed 18 months’ worth of data from approximately 30,000 franchisees. These local owners represent 334 brands across various segments of the industry, with each local owner providing their feedback on their brand’s leadership and culture. When compiling the list, Franchise Business Review also took data surrounding franchisees’ overall satisfaction and their likeliness to recommend the brand to other aspiring business owners into account.
1851 Franchise teamed up with Franchise Business Review to shine a spotlight on some of the top leaders who made the annual list, including Richard Nonelle. The founder and president behind Window Genie explains why he’s so passionate about expanding on a national level and why honesty and loyalty are the most important leadership traits to establish in a franchise system.
1. What do you think are the traits or skills you possess that make your franchisees believe you are a top leader?
We were acquired by the Dwyer Group last year—our one year anniversary is in November—and a big part of why it’s working so well is our shared values. We’re in alignment when it comes to what makes a great franchise system, and it starts from the top down. For me, that begins with honesty—franchise systems are all about trust. When a franchise agreement is signed, it binds us together with the local owners. They need to be confident that we’re taking care of them, and we need to know that they’re looking after our business model. Beyond that trust and honesty, another trait that’s important to me is loyalty. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, so I have a long history of being loyal to our franchisees. And I’ve always wanted to maintain that close relationship—one of my rules in selling the company was that my team remained on board. I’m not a golfer or a beach sitter—I work very hard for this company. I think that’s especially important in a blue-collar business. I may not be out in the field cleaning windows, but our franchisees know that I’m here every day working hard on their behalf to build the business and fuel growth.
2. What is your leadership approach?
We have extremely low turnover. In our 15-year run, we’ve only lost two employees. And that’s not just because of my experience as a manager. My leadership approach is build right into our business model. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 30. I took everything that I didn’t like about being an employee at a traditional corporate job and changed them up. So, my leadership approach is incredibly entrepreneurial. There’s a reason that we have a ping pong table and basketball hoops—people want to be here. Our team isn’t made up of clock watchers. Everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and as long as they complete those tasks there’s a sense of accomplishment. There’s a very different culture here that makes people want to be here and be a part of the team.
3. To other founders, CEOs or Presidents leading franchise brands into the future, what advice do you have to give?
Going back to the importance of honesty and loyalty to franchise owners, it’s important for leaders to take franchisee satisfaction into consideration. That’s why Franchise Business Review is a really big deal to us. We don’t just look at our results—it matters because we use those results, understand them, listen to our local owners and advisory board reviews and then make moves the following year to improve on those scores. The rankings are super relevant to make sure that as the head of the company and executive team, you’re taking the pulse of your owners on a regular basis. Prospects can tell if you and your franchisees are on two different paths—it comes out during validation calls. You want to encourage candidates that you’re in alignment. If the corporate team is doing something different than what franchisees are doing, you’re going to hit a wall. So, take their pulse on a regular basis, understand what they’re feeling and make sure that you’re aligned with them as best as possible. Make sure you’re doing what you can to stay relevant.
4. Who is the person in franchising who has most influenced or inspired you over the course of your career?
There’s not as much a person directly in franchising who influenced me as a person that wrote a book. Michael Gerber, the author behind The E Myth, has inspired me over the course of my career. The E Myth and The E Myth Revisited are must reads if you’re in business—I sent it to candidates, and everyone in our office has read it. I don’t remember how I got my hands on it, but I found it and read it in a few hours and found that it answered questions that I was struggling with. I was a guy who started this business from scratch, so failure wasn’t an option. I worked hard, built the business and five years later we were franchises. As we started awarding franchises across the country, I struggled with the fact that not everyone was making the business as successful as I was and as other franchisees were. But this book helped me realize that buying the franchise isn’t going to lead to success automatically. It started answering the questions of what I wanted, why I got into the business and what I’m doing with myself every day, which comes down to growing the business. It changed my focal point of how I started approaching franchising and owners coming on board.
5. What does your typical day look like?
I would certainly say that my days have changed since we became a part of the Dwyer Group. Prior to that, everyone reported into me—I set a path and off we went. Now, there’s the Dwyer team in Waco, Texas that matters, and they answer to a private equity group. My days are now more filled with planning sessions with The Dwyer Group’s corporate team. I’m also still involved in the sales process, and I’m working with owners on a regular basis, guiding people and making sure that we’re doing what we need to do. That’s all a part of the daily CEO grind. The Dwyer Group piece has been the biggest change—now, we’re working to be in alignment with 12 other brands. So, I’m making sure on a regular basis that we’re coordinating our activities with what’s going on with corporate.
6. Where do you see yourself in the future?
Part of the reason for expanding with The Dwyer Group is to have a greater chance to grow the brand. Everyone who buys a franchise wants to be a part of something much bigger. There aren’t a lot of franchises that reach over 100 units—about 75 percent of brands never get there. But most people are signing on because they want to be a part of a national brand. Now, with about 116 locations, we have a solid presence. And with The Dwyer Group acquisition, we have a chance to move the company forward. Our goal is to get to 250 locations, which ties into what Dwyer’s doing. They’re introducing a whole new brand called Neighborly, where all 12 brands reside under that one umbrella. You’ll start seeing it in commercials and direct ads soon to promote it. Consumers who sign up will have 12 different home service providers that are a part of a national system. I won’t feel like our mission is accomplished until we tap into that national recognition. So, I’ll be doing this as long as they’ll have me.