For the past five years, Dustin Hansen has served as the CEO of InXpress Americas, the stateside arm of one of the world’s biggest shipping-logistics franchises. Before becoming CEO, Hansen was a franchisee—InXpress Americas’ first. At 23 years old, Hansen introduced the brand to the U.S. as the sole owner of InXpress Atlanta, which quickly established an annual revenue of more than $1 million. This year, Hansen will bring some of the most profound lessons from his experience with InXpress Americas to the 58th annual International Franchise Association convention in Phoenix, Arizona, where he will present as a keynote speaker.
Since taking the reins as CEO of InXpress Americas, Hansen has overseen dramatic growth for the franchise, from $2 million in revenue in 2009 to nearly $115 million today. 1851 Franchise asked Hansen how that growth was facilitated, what he learned in the transition from franchisee to franchisor, and what he plans to speak on at IFA2018.
Under your leadership, InXpress Americas has grown by over $100 million. What do you see as the biggest contributing factors to that growth?
The continued growth of the business has come down to five key factors: franchisees, focus, resource management, a culture of engagement and simplification. The first, franchisees, has been an effort to partner with the right new franchisees. We have had more than 50 new franchise units open in the past 12 months, and we’ve been able to maintain that growth by carefully selecting the best stewards of the brand. Second, focus. We have developed a disciplined focus on our core service offerings. Third, resource management. We allocate our extra resources to improve the performance of our “Hear of the Network,” which is what we call the middle 60 percent of our franchisees. Fourth, a culture of engagement is about encouraging franchisee engagement by establishing a culture of collaboration and participation from a high level. The fifth point, simplification, is our efforts toward an overall simplification of the business and executing on our fundamentals on the highest level.
As a franchisor, what have you learned about the industry that you didn’t know as a franchisee?
One of the most significant things I learned as a franchisor is just how critical franchisee engagement is for the growth of the network. Franchisees are our greatest source of intellectual talent. By creating an environment where peer-to-peer coaching and communication can thrive, the franchisor is taking advantage of its biggest asset: the franchisee.
Moving to the franchisor side of the business also gave me an opportunity to experience leadership in its purest form. In franchising, you are always trying to influence the behavior of your network. You don’t have control over the day-to-day work of your franchisees or their employees, so you have to learn to lead by establishing a strong culture of trust and make sure that everyone is working toward the same goal. It’s a unique and powerful opportunity that you can’t find with other business models.
What are the biggest challenges facing the franchise industry today?
There are two main challenges I see facing the industry today. The first is businesses not understating how to creatively use their available resources. The market for new unit openings is tough, and attracting new franchisees can be difficult when unemployment is low, like it is now. Franchisors have been using a shared set of best practices to attract franchisees, which are not bad practices, but they are all doing it the same way. Franchisors need to start thinking creatively in their strategizing. The second challenge is a general lack of understanding among franchisees of what franchising truly is about. As an industry, we need to do a better job of educating franchisees about the business model they are participating in, thereby unlocking greater consistency, brand value, innovation, and overall engagement.
What makes a great franchisee?
The best franchisees have a burning desire. As Simon Sinek says, they have a Why. They work from the inside out, starting with what they want for themselves and then executing that. If I have a franchisee who has a deep desire for something, whether that’s a better life for their children or to give back to charity or travel the world or to prove someone wrong, then we can show them how to get there with the franchise model. You also want someone who is hungry to learn. At InXpress, we are always looking for people who want to develop, learn and get better at whatever they are doing. You’ve got to be humble to pursue growth, you can’t think of yourself as already having arrived. Finally, you want someone who has grit. Someone who is a persistent, hard worker who never thinks of themselves as above doing whatever work is needed to achieve their goal.
What will you speak on at the IFA convention?
I’m going to talk about what I mentioned earlier, about how franchise brands can unlock powerful intellectual talent in their franchisees to reach higher levels of brand performance. It’s about taking full advantage of the resources that are already available. That’s something that we have found amazing success with at InXpress and I’m excited to share with the industry.
What do you think are the biggest benefits that the IFA and the annual convention have to offer the industry?
The first is benchmarking. A brand or professional in any area of the industry shouldn’t be pursuing their goals in the dark. The IFA gives people a way to stay in touch with other brands and professionals and see how their work measures up, and the convention provides a forum for the exchange of ideas regarding how best to achieve those goals. The second thing is the ability to learn what is possible in the industry. Most people in attendance at the IFA are associated with a brand that has fewer than 50 franchise units. Mingling with, listening to, and watching professionals from brands with 100-plus units gives them a vision of what is possible and a blueprint to move forward.