How to Avoid Cycling Uphill: Learning and leadership lessons after rising from within.

Author:Pittman, Andy

Franchising is like a bike. It works, if you let it. Any parent who's inconspicuously held the back of bicycle seat when their child finally pedaled toward newfound freedom and next-level confidence can tell you it came as a rewarding relief. The mutual trepidation, the anxiety, the risk-taking, the learning to trust one another, the working through short-lived successes and failures each time the training wheels came off, it's all part of a necessary process to build a better bike, and more importantly, a stronger rider.

Of course, it's a lot easier to teach someone to ride a bike if you've gripped the handlebars yourself. Leaders of successful organizations get this. They look within for a new generation of visionaries capable of moving the company forward. As the recently-appointed CEO of ShelfGenie, an Atlanta-based franchise concept that designs, builds and installs shelving solutions, I've tried to implement a "do not as I say, but as I've done" approach. It was first modeled by my mentor--the organization's co-founder and former CEO, Allan Young--a retired serviceman and true visionary who brought military-like precision to the estimated $235-billion custom-shelving and home improvement industry.

As a serial franchisee, I saw Young in the trenches, as well as in the C-suite, with a business bird's-eye view. With an entrepreneurial operating system (EOS) focused on franchisee support, ShelfGenie became a marketing and results-driven organization under Young's leadership. Before ShelfGenie, I'd never worked with a franchisor who sought franchisee input. It gave me the confidence to become a multi-unit franchise owner in several territories. Last year, the opportunity to step into Young's shoes seemed like an organic transition. He'd been the ideal mentor, leader and friend, and his commitment to franchisees set the tone. Franchisees eager to win deserve more than the occasional road sign; they need something tangible to follow--someone who's been there, done that. There's no buying into the blueprint of success without a proven method, mutual respect, and a spirit of collaboration.

Josh Skolnick


Josh Skolnick, a self-described "unconventional" CEO with blue-collar grit, recognized this early on in his career as a tree service expert.

In his mid-20s, Skolnick launched Monster Tree Service, a tree care and removal company in southeast Pennsylvania. Five years later, he decided to franchise with the goal of fast-paced growth...

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