Franchise UPDATE's founders did it their way

This issue marks the 20th anniversary of Franchise UPDATE, the company and the publication.

The company and all it has become and stands for is the entire creation of Therese Thilgen and Gary Gardner. I've known them the whole time, and so I hope you'll forgive a kind of personal walk down memory lane to lead off an issue about the last 20 years in franchising.

Gary had a significant career in business and business development, including a stint as a franchisee and Therese had been the vice president of development for a national franchise chain for seven years before they founded the company.

I had been writing about franchising for a few years - starting about 1984, when Meg Whittemore, then the communications director for IFA, told me I was missing a bet by not covering it. The magazine, Nation's Business, was a US Chamber of Commerce publication specifically aimed at small businesses, and my boss wanted to know why I wanted to write about something that had a slightly bad odor at the time.

A partner and I had started a small business of our own - a bed and breakfast inn a few hours' drive from Washington - and one of my PR friends initiated a gathering there that, she said, ought to include Therese and Gary, who had some idea about a company that would provide information for franchisors.

I took to both Therese and Gary from the start - no one who has ever dealt with them has felt otherwise. Therese showed me the newsletter that became the magazine, and asked for advice. I was happy to give it.

Over the years, through my own career ups and downs, we stayed in touch. Whenever I could help, I did, but frankly they didn't really need help. Their own hard work, guts, and integrity kept them going in the right direction.

They always sought the best advice and reached out to the right people, and given the best advice to franchisors and franchisees. As a result, the company thrives, and no one ever has a bad word to say about either of them. Lois Marshall [title], who has known them longer than I have, really summed it up recently:

"They've made franchising a better place for all of us. The magazine has become a very important resource globally for franchise research. Therese and Gary have always done it the right way - never sacrificed editorial space for ads - they've never compromised. It's been done well from Day One.”

And that's the truth.

What's also the truth, and here I have to get personal, is that they stand by their friends no matter what. When I got sick a couple years back, they insisted on keeping me on their payroll, even though I couldn't do as much as I should. How many other business owners (and they were stretched financially themselves to get the new publication started) would have done that?

And others have similar stories. Franchising as a system has much to thank Therese and Gary for.

They're also modest, so we're not letting them see this before you do.

The great thing is that both of them are young enough to go on for another 20 years, at least. Not planning to sit on their laurels, they're already making big plans for a new Franchise UPDATE magazine and site - look for it next year.

And all of us will no doubt have a lot more to thank them for in 2027.

Published: October 23rd, 2007

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