When she was just 16, Mandy Bryant (now Mandy Bryant Verges) got a job at a Gold's Gym in her home city of New Orleans. She worked a couple of years in sales and did well. In April 1995, owner Steve Smith opened a tanning salon called Electric Beach in the city's Uptown district. When Smith bought out his business partner, he needed a manager for the salon. Bryant asked, he said yes, and transferred the 18-year-old to the salon as its new manager.
"After a few months, he spoke with me about wanting to start his own franchise," she says. Using the Electric Beach salon as a model for creating a new brand, in February 1996 he changed the name to Planet Beach. By April he was franchising.
"Helping him with the policies and procedures of his first Planet Beach location, I just basically grew with the franchise," she says. Over the years, that would mean a little bit of everythingâ€"overseeing openings, doing grand opening training, and traveling throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia to help open salons and conduct classes in training, management, sales, and marketing.
Smith had put together an operations manual, which she tested at the first Planet Beach, seeing what worked and what didn't. "I tried different things at the salon," she says, working with Smith and rewriting where needed.
The early times were not only educational, but heady. She recalls her excitement while managing the flagship salon, where she stayed three years, when the fifth store opened. Now, she says laughing, there are 700 licenses awarded and 330 salons open. (The gap, she says, is because multiple-unit owners are still building out their territories.) New locations are opening at about 10 per month.
Over the ensuing years, Smith would serve as a mentor to the teen he had hired, teaching her sales and marketing, operations, management, and more. He also invested in her education, including sending her through the IFA's CFE (Certified Franchise Executive) training program.
In 1999, at 22, she became a franchisee, opening her own Planet Beach salon in New Orleans. She remained a franchisee and working for corporate for eight years wearing many hats (with IT and CEO perhaps the only exceptions) until moving to Tampa a couple of years ago. When Katrina hit in August 2005, her salon was flooded. She'd been in Tampa about 8 months and had planned to sell the New Orleans store, but after Katrina, she closed it instead. (The first Planet Beach salon, by the way, did survive the storm.)
She's realistic about the salon she'd had since 1999. "It's done well for me. It's just not going to be beneficial for me to reopen it. I just have too much going on here in Tampa. This is where I want to focus my efforts." There's a lot to focus on: as a Planet Beach area representative, her territory spans three counties: Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Polk (which includes the Tampa Bay area).
During the interview in late 2006, Bryant Verges, recently turned 30, said she was expecting her first child within weeks. In Tampa, where she'd opened her first salon a couple of years ago, she was still on the go, busy overseeing the details of another salon opening. As she prepares for her initial foray into motherhood, she is putting her education and experience to good use, training her manager to be a grand opening specialist and step in where needed in the coming months.
She's also passed on her recruitment and hiring philosophy to her salon owners. "I train my franchisees as well as myself, that if you meet someone who you think is going to be a great hire, hire them, even if we have a full staff." For example, if she meets a salesperson at a clothing store or an auto body shop doing a great job or trying to upsell her, that person is an instant candidate. And since Planet Beach sets schedules based on performance (high performers get more hours, low performers see their hours cut), there's always room in her organizationâ€"or her familyâ€"for a great new performer.
Name: Mandy Bryant Verges
Title: Area representative
Company: Planet Beach Franchising Corp.
No. of units: 33 licenses awarded, 8 opened
Years in current position: 2
Years in franchising: 11
Key accomplishment: Business franchise owner at 22 years old; created core policies and procedures for Planet Beach Franchising Corp.
Biggest mistake: Missing my high school prom
Smartest mistake: Buying a house at 21 years old, instead of a fancy car
How do you spend a day, typically?: Consulting with franchisees, speaking with new candidates, formulating development plans, reviewing real estate selections, training managers and employees
Work week: 50-plus hours doing the above (yes, even weekends)
Family life: Age 30, married in 2005, baby due by the time you read this
Reading: The Power of Focus, Jack Canfield, one of my favorites; Good to Great, Jim Collins. For pleasure, books about motherhood
Employees: 1 manager, 1 assistant manager, 4 part-timers
Favorite activity: Playing with my Maltese (Diva) and my shih tzu (Angel); names say a lot
Exercise: Bike riding, kickboxing
What do you do for fun? Head back home to New Orleans for good times with friends and family (the food isn't bad either)
Management method: Behavior based, with a focus on the key strengths of each individual
How do you do it? Intense one-on-one feedback sessions and tons of training sessions with role-plays
How will you continue to do it? Stay focused on the positive results obtained and encourage franchisees to enjoy their entrepreneurial ventures
Greatest challenge: Having franchisees understand the importance of following a proven system, when they come from a diverse background of business and service acumen
Management style: Strategic, achiever, maximizer
Personality: Outgoing, compassionate, and driven
How do you hire and fire? I once heard that you should hire eagles as they soar and fire turkeys who will never fly.
Find good people? Eyes wide open in everyday life and locations, and constantly recruit talent (even when fully staffed)
Train them? Three levels of training to capture all styles of learning: online university, classroom, and hands-on detailed face-to-face interaction
Retain them? This is a feel good, look good business that is based on "having fun."
"Growth meter" (how do you measure your growth?): Look for comp growth in year-over sales, and look to consolidate every market with our franchise concept.
2007 goals: Open our 20th location in the market and award 5 additional franchise licenses
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