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Feature Story:

Coming On Strong: John "JD" Draper Makes It Happen With 125 Units, 6 Brands, And 4,000 Team Members  »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

John "JD" Draper simply looks like a leader. Maybe it's his dapper attire, mile-wide smile, and booming voice. Or maybe it's his decades long command of operating franchises. He's experienced, successful and has the acumen to continue being successful.
Draper has been a student of franchising since his first job out of Wayne State University. "I went to work straight out of college as a shift manager for a Burger King in Detroit. I made $1.75 per hour," he says. Today, as president of operations for V&J Holding Companies in Milwaukee, he is responsible for 125 units, 6 brands, and 4,000 team members in 6 states (Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, and Massachusetts).
Draper describes himself as a "participatory manager," and can readily discuss the Affordable Care Act, multi-brand challenges, the economy, and relationships with franchisors, team members, and employees...

Feature Story:

No Turning Back: Former Ski Coach Races To Top-Earning Status In Franchising »

By Debbie Selinsky

When Jim Fitlow skis, he goes at it full tilt. In fact, one of his favorite quips is, "Turning is highly overrated."
Now the former ski racing coach and his partner Mike Allen are applying that same "go big or go home" philosophy as multi-brand, multi-unit franchisees for Re-Bath, Floor Coverings International, and HomeStory Doors & More, all in Utah and Colorado.
Fitlow, born in Florida, was raised in Michigan where the ski bug bit him at a young age. He met Allen later, in college at Montana State University. When Fitlow got out of ski race coaching--"I enjoyed it and had some success with that for a few years," he says--he began to look around for something that would keep him in Salt Lake City.
Fitlow and Allen knew a local Re-Bath franchisee, a retired plumber they'd swapped jobs with on occasion...

Feature Story:

A Keen Sense: Lloyd Sugarman Uncovers Success One Brand At A Time »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

When Cold Stone Creamery first showed up on his radar, Lloyd Sugarman knew it had great franchise potential years before the couple who started it were ready to grow. And he had a special feeling in his gut the first time he visited a tiny coffee shop in Chicago called Starbucks, but he listened to friends who insisted coffee shops had limited growth potential, and didn't make a move.
But all systems were go in the late 1980s when the self-made businessman who'd battled ADHD as a youth, got a tip from a 9-year-old girl on a flight to California. When he asked her father about new restaurants in the LA area, she piped up, "There's that new place in Melrose--Johnny Rockets. It's a little hamburger and malt shop."
Sugarman liked the name so much that he rented a car and drove to Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, near West Hollywood...

Feature Story:

Rider On The Storm: From 25 To 50 Restaurants In 4 Years »

By Kerry Pipes

As a youngster, Greg Cutchall watched his father and uncle struggle to make ends meet with their two A&W restaurants and told himself he would never go into that business. Today, at 60, Cutchall has not only entered the restaurant business (42 years and counting), he's done extremely well, providing a good life for his family and opportunities for his thousands of employees throughout the years.
"Nothing is more rewarding than being in a restaurant you helped create and seeing engaged, happy employees operating a restaurant that keeps customers coming back," he says.
Things have been good for Cutchall since we last spoke with him four years ago. He's grown from 25 to 50 restaurants operating in five states, experiencing the most growth with Paradise Bakery & Cafe, which he's grown from four locations to 17...

Feature Story:

The Pursuit Of Innovation: Glenn Mueller's Passion And Innovation Have Helped Make Him Domino's Largest Franchisee »

By Kerry Pipes

Glenn Mueller is Domino's Pizza's largest single franchisee with 135 units. It's a partnership made in pizza heaven.
It's been three years since we spoke with Mueller. At that time he recalled how he and his team had not only weathered the massive Hurricane Katrina--which affected many of his Gulf Coast Domino's stores--but how he had reopened stores within days to take care of his team members and the people in the communities they served.
Beyond his compassion and relentless drive, it's difficult to write about Mueller without acknowledging his unending pursuit of innovation. For example, those insulated bags that keep your pizza steaming hot while it makes its way to your house? Courtesy of Mueller and his team. And those illuminated portable car-top signs? You guessed it...

Feature Story:

Franchise Whisperer: Perpetually On The Prowl For The Next New Thing »

By Debbie Selinsky

Lloyd Sugarman--Sugie, to his friends--is something of a "franchise whisperer."
He sniffed out Coldstone Creamery as a concept with great franchise potential years before the couple who started it were ready to grow. And he had a special feeling in his gut the first time he visited a tiny coffee shop in Chicago called Starbucks, but he listened to friends who insisted coffee shops had limited growth potential, and didn't make a move.
But all systems were go in the late 1980s when the self-made businessman who'd battled ADHD as a youth, got a tip from a 9-year-old girl on a flight to California. When he asked her father about new restaurants in the LA area, she piped up, "There's that new place in Melrose--Johnny Rockets. It's a little hamburger and malt shop...

Feature Story:

Rapid Growth: Tony Lutfi Goes From 52 To 134 Units In Three Years »

By Kerry Pipes

When Tony Lutfi was asked back in 2009 where he'd like to be in five years, he said 100 units. At that time he had 52. Boy does he mean business. Today his MarLu Investment Group operates 134 franchise units including Arby's, Church's Chicken, Jack in the Box, Little Caesars, Sizzler, Sears Appliance Showrooms, and Sears Hardware & Appliance.
"We accomplished that goal in three years," he says today, "in part because we keep the same focus on culture that has kept us in business and away from trouble." Lutfi's culture promotes teamwork and cross-functionality with a sense of ownership. His managers treat the business as if they own it and, he says, that has been the driving factor behind their cost controls and the real engine for their growth...

Feature Story:

Mr. Hospitality »

By Debbie Selinsky

"If you're not hospitable, you're in the wrong game."

If President Obama decided to name an Ambassador of Franchising, John "JD" Draper, with his dapper attire, mile-wide smile, and booming voice would surely make the "short list" of top candidates. At least someone in Washington is listening: Draper was just voted onto the board of the IFA Educational Foundation's Diversity Institute.
Draper has been a student of franchising since his first job out of Wayne State University. "I went to work straight out of college as a shift manager for a Burger King in Detroit. I made $1.75 per hour," he says. Today, as president of operations for V&J Holding Companies in Milwaukee, he is responsible for 125 units, 6 brands, and 4,000 team members in 6 states (Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, and Massachusetts)...

Feature Story:

Shipping Out Service: Navy Veteran Jo McCabe Succeeds With Mr. Handyman »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

You might assume that Jo McCabe has a background in home repairs. The co-owner of Mr. Handyman and the system's 2010 Franchisee of the Year, serves the Prince William and southern Fairfax counties in Virginia. But it's her background in the military that has helped her succeed in franchising.
McCabe attended the U.S. Naval Academy and received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and then furthered her education with an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. She worked as an aircraft maintenance officer in the U.S. Navy and served in the Reserves. McCabe spent eight years in physical security, overseeing the Navy's northeast region and eventually managing 1,500 people.
She graduated from the Naval Academy in 1991 and served until 1996, then joined the Reserves...

Feature Story:

Future Certain: Third-Grade Wish Comes True »

By Kerry Pipes

When Brandon Jones was in the third grade, his teacher asked the class to write about what they wanted to be when they grew up. "Most kids said things like 'Be a policeman or a firefighter,'" says the 33-year-old today. "I wrote 'Own a bar with my dad.'" It may have sounded funny to his teacher, but that's exactly what he went on to do.
Jones grew up in La Porte, Ind., a town of about 22,000. He was a hard-working kid who was throwing newspapers by age 13, earned enough money to buy his own moped at 14, and stayed busy doing various jobs when he wasn't on the athletic field or in the gym. When Jones was still a toddler, his father converted an old house into a small tavern, and it was here that Jones would finally fulfill his third-grade desire...

Feature Story:

Multi-Unit Franchising Conference: Multi-unit Franchisees Bring Spirit Of Optimism To Las Vegas »

Multi-Unit Franchisee




Themes of resiliency and optimism within the franchise community permeated the air at this year’s Multi-Unit Franchising Conference at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, March 27-29. As the event’s theme implied, these individuals are not only driven but believe the best is still ahead.
There were more than 1,200 conference attendees this year – several hundred of them franchisees. They represented food, service, and other retail concepts. They came seeking knowledge, networking opportunities, and looking for additional brands.
General sessions at this year’s event featured heavy hitters like Hollywood mogul Peter Guber, who has served as studio chief at Columbia Pictures and co-chairman of Casablanca Records, and today heads up Mandalay Entertainment, and Mark Kelly, former astronaut, Navy pilot, and husband of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords...

Feature Story:

Family Dynasty: The Saxton Group Is The Largest McAlister's Deli Franchisee »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Kelly Saxton remembers his very first job flipping burgers at his grandfather's diner in South Hutchinson, Kansas. "I guess that means that I've been in the restaurant business my whole life! I come from several generations who have worked either in restaurants or in the food industry."
Today he is founder and executive chairman of The Saxton Group, a Dallas-based company that is the largest franchisee of McAlister's Deli, and operates 50 of the fast casual restaurants in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and four Pinkberry frozen dessert locations in the Dallas area. Recognized by Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business as one of the top Dallas companies for dynamic growth, the company has earned McAlister's Deli Franchisee of the Year and Developer of the Year awards numerous times...

Feature Story:

Good At Multi-plication!: Multi-Concept Franchising Continues To Grow »

By Kerry Pipes

When one brand just won't do, growth-hungry franchisees add new ones. And why not? Operating multiple concepts provides power in numbers--units, brands, territories, and cash flow--plus the additional security of spreading risk across different brands and territories.
But as experienced multi-brand operators will quickly tell you, it takes an efficient infrastructure to successfully manage more than one brand. Their organizations have talented people at all levels who know how to work well together to benefit the company, its employees, and its customers. Then there's the leverage multi-brand franchising creates, the economies of scale in advertising, market penetration, and buying power, to name just a few areas.
We've again asked FRANdata for their latest data on multi-brand franchising...

Feature Story:

Let's Ride!: Navy Vet And EagleRider Franchisee Rolls On »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Jay Staggs is sailing high these days with his EagleRider motorcycle rental franchise in Washington, DC. The former Navy submariner has faced his share of challenges over the last five years he's been in business but his hard work, determination, and military background have seen him through.
Staggs served in the US Navy from 1983 until 1989 receiving two years of training in electronics and serving seven tours on SSBN class submarines. This military training and experience helped launch his carrier in management, electronics, and software development. Following his time in the military, he worked for NASA and several software companies before transitioning into the financial services field where he rose to the level of vice president of information technology...

Feature Story:

Engineering Value: From Engineering To Burger King And Beyond »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Just a couple of years ago Tom McDonald was a Burger King franchisee worried about the brand's need to keep up with the times. But he felt like no one was listening to his concerns. Then in 2010, global investment firm 3G Capital acquired the brand and the new management was interested in what he and others had to say.
McDonald had been a franchisee since 1986 and was among a select group of executives, franchisees, and suppliers assembled to evaluate every facet of Burger King's fare, which ultimately led to the rollout of a slew of new products in 2012 as part of a multi-faceted strategy to reimage the chain.
"I have always been an advocate of giving good value," says McDonald, who operates 35 restaurants, and recently completed a six-year stint on the national Burger King Marketing Advisory Council...

Feature Story:

Brothers In Arms: Two Brothers Make The Switch From Military To Franchising Operations »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Richard Martinez and his brother George served together during the first Gulf War. Now the two are serving together in a different kind of endeavor - franchising. The two brothers are busy putting the finishing touches on their new Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchen location in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Richard Martinez served in the US Air force from 1983 to 1989 where he was stationed in the US as well as overseas in Korea. George served in the US Marines from 1988 through 1994. He was in the first Gulf War with the 2nd Marines.
The two vets have undergone a smooth process in preparing to open their business. They received a Small Business Administration bank loan and jointly invested their own money in order to open their franchise.
"If this Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchen does well, then we will open up several more franchises in Oklahoma," says Richard...

Feature Story:

Tuned For Growth: Former Electrical Engineer Now Oversees 93 Precision Tunes »

By Kerry Pipes

David Grimaud grew up in the car repair business. His father, Joe, operated a Midas shop in Alexandria, La., where David spent many days working as a teenager. "It really taught me a lot about budgeting and business management," says the 52-year old today. Grimaud, however, had a passion for electronics that led him to earn a degree in electrical engineering from LSU and begin a career in Dallas in the mid-1980s.
Grimaud soon realized that he liked "being the boss" and that he wanted to operate a business of his own. In 1987, his father, who was overseeing 37 Precision Tune Auto Care franchises in South Carolina, welcomed his son into the family business with open arms and a few new responsibilities--like expanding the territory and growing the number of units...

Feature Story:

Game Time: Don Copus Is Part Of The "team" At His Hungry Howie's Stores »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Don Copus likes to roll up his sleeves and get in the game with his employees, literally. At least a half dozen times a year, he gathers his Hungry Howie's employees for a corporate outing where you may find the Berkley, Mich.-based franchisee batting for one softball team, pitching for the other, or manning the grill. No matter how you slice it, Copus, named 2012 Hungry Howie's Franchisee of the Year, is an employees' employer.
"I want them to know that I am approachable," says Copus. "I want them to realize that I'm no different from them. I started out with less than most of them, but worked hard to get where I am today. I want them to know that I'm willing to mentor them."
A native of Indianapolis, Copus, who operates 25 Hungry Howie's in Michigan, Indiana, and Utah, grew up in a family of eight in a 900-square foot home, made cozier by parents who welcomed any neighborhood child in need of a meal or bed...

Feature Story:

Married With Franchises: Couple Goes From Military Life To Franchising Life »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Kevin and Laurel Wilkerson are Marco's Pizza franchisees in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. They like to do things together. Before starting their careers in franchising they were both in the US Army.
Kevin spent 24 years as an Army infantry officer before retiring in 2005 as a full colonel. Laurel served on active duty with the Army as an attorney for over 20 years before retiring in 2008. The couple has seven advanced degrees between them including a law degree and a Harvard masters.
Following his military career, Kevin worked for Lockheed Martin as a consultant and he and Lauren started a mergers and acquisition firm to help small business owners buy and sell businesses. When he learned of the opportunities with Marco's Pizza he decided to try out his entrepreneurial skills...

Feature Story:

Growth Overdrive: Tony Lutfi Exceeds His Own Goals In Just Three Years »

By Kerry Pipes

In 2009 we profiled Tony Lutfi and asked him our routine question about where he'd like to be in five years. At the time he had 52 units and told us he would like to be at 100. Goal achieved... and then some! Today his MarLu Investment Group operates 134 franchise units including Arby's, Church's Chicken, Jack in the Box, Little Caesars, Sizzler, Sears Appliance Showrooms, and Sears Hardware & Appliance.
"We accomplished that goal in three years," he says today, "in part because we keep the same focus on culture that has kept us in business and away from trouble." Lutfi's culture promotes teamwork and cross-functionality with a sense of ownership. His managers treat the business as if they own it and, he says, that has been the driving factor behind their cost controls and the real engine for their growth...



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