Young Ones: Geoff Hill
Young Ones: Geoff Hill

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 friendsh.....


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.”

I GOT INTO FRANCHISING: I did not have a plan to end up where I am today. I studied hospitality at Cornell University. Upon graduating I started out on the hotel side working for Bristol Hotel Company and moving on as a general manager of a hotel in Wichita, Kansas. I did that for two years, but was ready to try something else. My friend from college called me and said, “My Dad is leaving Holiday Inn Worldwide to create a small start-up, are you interested?” I told my friend, Steve Romaniello, sure, and joined US Franchise System, a hotel franchisor of Microtel.

At Microtel, I became good friends with the Chief Financial Officer of the Company, Neil Aronson, who later split from the company to start his own business called Roark Capital. Steve then followed Neil to help on Roark’s first acquisition, Carvel Ice Cream. Steve called me again, told me what he and Neil were doing and asked if I was interested in coming onboard to run operations for Focus Brands. I said absolutely. I then spent six years on the franchisor side, but didn’t really know what the next step would be. Then Neil raised another fund in 2008 and asked if I wanted to come in on the Private Equity side of the business. I knew that operators were typical in PE, but decided it would give me a tremendous opportunity to continue to gain knowledge and grow my career. That was three years ago and it’s been an amazing ride.

I LOVE FRANCHISING: You know, I believe luck is involved in everything. There is a great quote about produce good results and good things will happen. If it wasn’t for my relationship with Neil, there is absolutely no way I would be in PE. I am not qualified for it. I don’t have a financial background – whereas 98 percent of those in PE do. Because of Neil and Steve I am here.

IN THE FUTURE: I have never really been someone who thinks about where I will be in five years. I never thought of it that way. I have always said that when I get an opportunity, I am just going to be the best I can at it. I have never been obsessed with my next move. I think more about what I need to do today.

The move to Roark was not an easy decision. I didn’t know anything about PE and I didn’t know how it worked. At the time, I didn’t know a single operator who moved into the PE space. At the time I thought I may be giving up a path up to a CEO of a large organization by moving over here. I didn’t understand how M&A worked. I get it now – but at the time, it wasn’t an easy decision.

Roark has been a great experience – I love the firm. I am gaining more knowledge here than I ever expected. I just put my head down and try to learn a ton. All throughout my career, starting with my first opportunity, I knew that if I worked hard, eventually someone would tap me on the shoulder with an opportunity. Not being obsessed with the next move has worked for me.

DO YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE OPPORTUNITY: I have three pieces of advice for someone starting out in the franchising industry. First, produce great results. Second, constantly gain knowledge. Go out and talk with people. Figure out what you don’t know. Be open to the idea that you are not the smartest person in the room. I have an Ivy League education, yet I know I am not the smartest person in everything. Have a thirst for knowledge. Read books. Lastly, build relationships. Identify people you want to meet and talk with them. Conferences are a great networking opportunity. It’s all about good results, continued knowledge and relationships. That’s how I run my career and will never stop.

When people come to me for advice and ask how they get to the next level, it’s usually one of those three things that is holding them up. Are you getting results? How’s your continued knowledge? Are you developing new relationships? If the answer is no to any of those questions, then they know why they are stuck.

FUTURE FRANCHISORS SHOULD: The advice I would give to a new franchisor is really simple. When you start your brand, think about the exit and who you may sell to, but don’t get obsessed by it. There are people who open their third unit and get obsessed with the exit. I suggest just trying to build something great.

When developing your franchise program, have great files. I couldn’t tell you how many franchisors don’t have great files on their franchisees – even the most standard documents, like the franchise agreement. What happens is they grow their concept to 150 locations and when they go to sell the company, we are buying the franchise model and those franchisees. When we are performing the diligence on the company and start noticing missing franchise agreements, we have to make the business assumption that there may be some issues here, like the franchisees never signed the agreements.

Definitely think about the end, but don’t get obsessed with it. If you build something great, the next steps will happen.

FUTURE FRANCHISEES SHOULD: Really own an industry that interests you. If it’s food, build your career in food. If it’s service, build your career in service.

--NICK POWILLS

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