I’ve experienced many milestones in my life. One of the most significant occurred in 1999 when I took over as president of City Wide Maintenance—my family’s long-standing business since 1961. It was an exciting time for me, but also a time I discovered what I hadn’t learned yet.
While I’ve had great ideas to freshen up and propel my family’s business forward, it’s not possible for me to take credit for much of its success. This brings me to an important point: We need each other to make big things happen. Below are four ways I learned (and am still learning) to run my franchise business.
I learned everything about business from my father and brothers.
Before I took over City Wide in 1999, my father had been running it as a traditional janitorial company. Back when my father started the business, this model worked perfectly. After all, he started it from scratch after learning about all of the challenges associate with keeping his family’s grocery stores clean.
Growing up, my brothers and I were immersed in my father’s business talk at the kitchen table. By the time I stepped in as president I had learned everything from my father—and my brothers—who had also gone on to run one of our family businesses.
But a point came when I had learned everything I could from them. Now what? This is when I realized it was time for me to build new ideas and gain new perspectives that would challenge my assumptions about how the industry worked out there. The point is, I was blessed to have a foundation to build on, but it’s important to remember we must continue to challenge our assumptions—or what we’ve grown up knowing—in order to keep building something great.
So, that being said, who is challenging you these days?
I had to become a reader to be a leader.
Many franchise owners, like me, are likely subscribed to dozens of weekly industry newsletters. But subscribing to them, reading them, and acting on them are three different things. Just like you, I understand we only have so many hours in a day we can dedicate to learning. But it should be a priority, because if you are not evolving as fast as your competition, you are falling behind. Time needs to be set aside on your calendar for this activity.
Remember, all business owners, including franchisees, need to surround themselves with people they can learn from. And if you can’t commit yourself to reading, try other outlets like online classes, podcasts, or even joining organizations such as Vistage, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Young Presidents’ Organization, or Acumen in your city. Joining Vistage was a game-changer for me professionally. I was able to surround myself with non-competitive peers who I could wrestle ideas with and help fight my battles. It is very difficult to be on an island and try to run a business all by yourself.
What podcast or newsletter have you discovered that’s helping you grow?
Go to lunch with someone every day.
There will be days you want to step out of the office for lunch by yourself—or skip lunch because there’s never a good time to leave. However, I want to stress the need to take lunch. Just don’t go alone.
Whether it’s a client, an employee, or a long-time friend I haven’t seen in a while, I try to go out and share lunch with someone every day. Why? It’s a perfect time to learn things from others. I’m always amazed with the conversations I have during that time of the day, and how it can help me come back to the office with a renewed mind, new inspiration, or new ideas I can’t wait to scribble down at my desk.
Who will you put on your list to have lunch with this month?
There is never a perfect time to start learning new things.
A long time ago, I realized that waiting to start something new until all of your proverbial ducks are in a row is not a good idea. If you wait until then, chances are it will never happen. Don’t wait. It’s like having kids; there is rarely a perfect time so take action now.
The same goes for finding a mentor who can show you the ropes. To be honest, most franchisees don’t know anything about our industry when joining—and they’re looking for help. When I started thinking about how to franchise our company in 2001, I also took a steep learning curve—and I needed help to understand what the franchise world in the building and maintenance industry was all about.
What did I learn? Waiting for the perfect person or mentor to show up and teach me everything was a waste of time. Fortunately, I had a revolving door of people coming into different parts of my life, giving valuable advice. To be honest, I’m not sure they knew how much of an impression they left on me during those encounters.
My point is, keep your eyes open to everything people are offering you right there and then. The timing may feel inconvenient, but it’s in the unexpected places I’ve met people who have helped me the most. Those people might teach you things you didn’t know you needed until you met them.
Remember, the most successful people don’t wait for things to happen to them. Identify your needs and it’ll make spotting these small moments of guidance so much easier.
So, what is the biggest challenge you are facing and what are you going to do about it?
Jeff Oddo is the president of City Wide Maintenance, a sales management company in the building maintenance industry with more than 50 franchise locations across the United States.