Leadership Lessons—Vision

I love eagles. I don’t know why, but as long as I remember, the eagle has always been my favorite bird.

Maybe it is because of their vision. If a human had the vision of an eagle they would be able to see an ant crawling from the top of a 10-story building. From 1,000 feet up in the air, an eagle can see a rabbit running in the prairie up to two miles away.

I’m not talking about eyesight this week, though. I’m talking about the vision great leaders have. One of those leaders is Mary Ellen Sheets. The other visionary is her daughter, Melanie Bergeron.

The following is an excerpt from: “Women Entrepreneurs Only: 12 Women Entrepreneurs Tell the Stories of Their Success:”

I became, to my surprise, a single mother, all of the sudden divorced, with two sons and a daughter. The boys wanted to earn their own spending money, and I tried to help them. When their father left, he left an old green pickup truck that we bought from Michigan State University. The school used it on the campus ground. The boys wanted to use it to move people, so I put a little ad in our local shopping guide, and that’s how it all started.

The first line of the ad was Two Men and A Truck. Though they weren’t men, Brig, the older, was just 16, and John was 13. I also made a form for the boys so they could track of things—addresses; what they wanted moved. I sat down at the kitchen table and drew a logo on top of the moving sheet. It’s still our logo, a stick figure, black-and-white drawing of the front of a truck with two people sitting in front.

Perhaps you’ve seen their logo. I remember Mary Ellen telling the story about someone telling her it was so nice she allowed a little kid to draw their logo. (She didn’t reveal the person who really drew it).

TwoMenandaTruck

In 1989, Mary Ellen awarded her first franchise. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t a visionary move for this leader. It was to her daughter, Melanie Bergeron, who lived in Atlanta. Five years later Mary Ellen convinced Melanie to move back to the Detroit area and become company president.

There was only one issue—they weren’t making enough money to pay Melanie. Yet Melanie had the vision of what the future could be. A few years later Melanie attended her first International Franchise Association (IFA) Convention.

I invite you to read the press release IFA sent out two weeks ago:

 

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 18, 2015—Melanie Bergeron, CFE, chairwoman of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK/ INTERNATIONAL Inc., based in Lansing, Mich., assumed chairmanship of the International Franchise Association (IFA) today during the association’s 55th Annual Convention.

A long-standing IFA member, Bergeron has held many leadership positions in the association throughout her career. She has been a member of the IFA Board of Directors since 2008 and a member of the IFA Executive Committee since 2011. She has moved through the IFA leadership chairs before assuming the chairmanship, including serving as vice chair, treasurer and secretary.

Bergeron has chaired the IFA Convention Committee, served on the Franchisor Forum, the FranPAC Advisory Committee, the International Committee, the International Interest Group, as well as a mentor for IFA’s mentoring program FranShip. In addition, she has held leadership roles in the IFA Educational Foundation, including its Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. Bergeron is active on the Board of Governors for the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives (ICFE) and she was the recipient of the IFA Bonny LeVine Award in 2001 for her role in mentoring women.

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK INTERNATIONAL Inc. is the largest moving franchise company in North America. Bergeron began as the company’s first franchisee. The founder of the company is her mother, Mary Ellen Sheets. Bergeron became president in 1994 and, together with her team, grew the company from $6 million to $198 million. The company has been featured on the Today Show and CNBC’s How I Made My Millions. Bergeron has spoken at several universities and for many business groups to share best practices she has learned along the way.

Bergeron is a member of the Young Presidents Association and a member of the Central Michigan University Dean’s Business Advisory Council. In addition, she is on the board of directors of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and is president of a non-profit thrift store called Hidden Treasures.

She is a graduate of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich., with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration.

 

Melanie is a good friend of ours. She is an amazing woman who, when you first meet her, seems more like the “lady next door” instead of a corporate leader. Her two brothers are still involved with the company. As you read above, the company continues to grow. When we moved to Waco, Texas, we made sure that Two Men and a Truck moved us.

When she made her speech at the convention she thanked two other women franchisors who “took her under their wing” as a young member of the IFA. One was Dwyer Group’s co-chair, Dina Dwyer-Owens, who also led the IFA as chairman of the more than 1,400 franchise companies who are a part of the organization.

Vision. All three women have it. I’m hoping it rubs off on me. I’ve already got the collection of eagles at the house.

Leadership Lessons—Tenacity

My wife, Mary Kay, and I just returned from the International Franchise Association’s 55th Annual Convention. This year’s event was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. One of my favorite awards each year is the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

First presented in 1982, the Entrepreneur of the Year award is conferred upon an individual who is currently building a successful business venture. The recipient need not be an IFA member, but must exemplify the “entrepreneurial spirit” that franchising represents. He or she must demonstrate innovative management skills and be a risk taker in a franchise that has been in operation for at least three years, while remaining active in his or her community.

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes those individuals who have the vision to see what might be, are willing to take the risks that traditionally accompany any new endeavor, and possess the management skills to create a successful business enterprise through franchising.

This year’s award went to Aslam Khan, CEO of Falcon Holdings. I’ve met him a couple of times but I don’t know him well. I do, however, love his story and loved two of the things that he said in his acceptance speech for this award:

  • “One needs to have tenacity—always follow through to meet your expectations.”
  • “The bridge to success is extreme discipline.”

Aslam is a leader. An unbelievable leader. He also understands what it takes to be a leader.

He was born in Pakistan to a poor family. He left home at the age of 14 with just the clothes on his back and less than 50 cents in his pocket. He came to America at the age of 33 and could only find a job making $3.25 an hour as a dishwasher at a Church’s Chicken. He went on to be a cashier and then assistant manager. The company that he worked for fired its general manager and Aslam got that position.

This all took a total of three months. Yes, 90 days. In 90 days he went from a dishwasher to a general manager. That doesn’t happen unless one exhibits tremendous leadership qualities.

He turned that Church’s franchise around and was soon made a regional manager. Next, he was named a marketing director … then a vice president … and finally that company’s chief operating officer. He took over 50 of Church’s locations in California that were going through bankruptcy and turned them around.

How? He never thought he was in the chicken business—or the restaurant business. He believed he was in the people business. He knew that if he took care of his people they would do a good job of taking care of their customers. How much did he believe this? At one of his locations he promised that food would be delivered in 45 seconds or the food was free!

Imagine that. Taking a store that was underperforming and promising customers food in 45 seconds. He understood that people quit people—they don’t quit jobs. Aslam had, and still has, a Midas touch when it comes to people.

He has more than 150 restaurants and employs more than 3,000 people. Although he took a short hiatus to KFC, he is back at Church’s. It has now been more than 20 years. His goal is to implement the system better than anyone else.

Aslam believes in daily scorecards for his managers. By 4 a.m. his managers get a scorecard for the previous day. Every manager knows where they stand. He believes in technology. That is what leaders do.

There are a couple of articles written about Aslam I encourage you to read to get better insight to this amazing man:

“The Specialist”

“Southlake’s Slumdog Millionaire”

I loved his comment: “You need to be committed to never-ending improvements because you are not done until you are really done.”

I need to get to know this man better. Seems to me there is a lot I can learn from him.