Franchising Perspective: Entrepreneur is Franchisee And Franchisor

When Michael Ansley was a teenager helping his father, a painter, with work at KFC and Wendy's restaurants in Springfield, Ohio, he soaked up both his father's entrepreneurial spirit and a basic knowledge of the food and franchising business.

After earning degrees in business administration and marketing at the University of Dayton, the intense young man worked as a sales manager for a large company, calling on Builder's Square, Home Quarters, and other stores across Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Although he finished number-one in merchandising in the country, Ansley decided he didn't want to work for a big corporation. "I wanted to do my own thing," he says.

In 1996, he and his former college roommate asked their fathers for loans to buy their own Buffalo Wild Wings (then called BW3) unit near Ann Arbor, Mich. "We were young and didn't know what we were doing," he says. "But we learned how not to run a restaurant and where not to put it."

When go-getter Sally Smith took over as CEO at BW3 and changed the name to Buffalo Wild Wings, Ansley got a second wind and opened a location in front of a 30-screen movie theater. "That location took off, so we opened another," he says. Their Novi, Mich., unit was one of the first three to roll out full service in 2002, and his units have grabbed top honors for sales over the years. Nearly a decade later, Ansley has 22 Buffalo Wild Wings units in Michigan and Florida.

In 2006, looking at other concepts that were not so reliant on chicken, Ansley noticed that "Every town has a burger joint/tavern." Before creating his own concept, he called his uncle, an investment banker. "I said, 'Teach me how to do this,' and he said, 'Use other people's money.' So I worked with a designer on my ideas for Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern."

Ansley was ready to dive right into franchising the concept, but friend and veteran Buffalo Wild Wings franchise developer Bill McClintock told him he was not ready for that. "He told me I needed to walk before I could run, so I agreed, despite pressure from the board," says Ansley. A few years later, McClintock, impressed by the concept's performance, joined Bagger Dave's board. This past March he came on board as senior vice president of franchise sales and development. They hope to begin opening franchise units in 2012.

The busy husband and father of three sees no conflict between his roles as a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee and Bagger Dave's franchisor. "A lot of franchisees have done this--the most famous is probably Dave Thomas of Wendy's," he says. "Thanks to having operational manuals and all the HR stuff on software--some of it our own--it's not that hard."

Name: Michael Ansley
Title: President, CEO, Chair
Company: Diversified Restaurant Holdings
No. of units: 22 Buffalo Wild Wings (14 in Michigan, 8 in Florida); 6 Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern (in Michigan)

Published: November 23rd, 2011

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