Listen Up!

It’s been four years since I’ve stepped into the role of CEO at the Any Lab Test Now system, and one thing I can tell you concretely is that business innovation often comes from places you don’t expect.

Our executive team is top-notch. I really enjoy and respect these relationships. Their ideas and work ethic and leadership are to be commended. But, our team can’t work in a vacuum. Our success as a franchise system is directly related to the input and ideas that come from our franchisees. After all, our franchisees are affected almost immediately by the choices that we make, and they see firsthand what works and what doesn’t.

Slow Down and Listen Up

It’s easy for anyone to get bogged down in the day-to-day hustle of your work. Couple that with trying to balance a hectic home life, and it seems nearly impossible to slow down and really hear what’s happening with those around you. With years of expertise in process development and driving revenue growth, it could be easy for me to fall victim to this scenario and just dive into my tasks each day.

Yet, I’ve been reminded time and again that our franchisees’ advice is indispensable. So, actively seeking out their feedback on the current programs and policies we have in place is part of my overarching business strategy. Their input routinely gives me and my team concrete, actionable insights that made Any Lab Test Now stronger, thereby increasing revenue and profitability for everyone.

Create Communication Channels to Inform Innovation

Whether you are part of a franchise system currently, or you’re simply exploring new ways to improve communication and innovation within your organization, one thing that I’ve learned is how important it is to have multiple avenues through which people can reach out. A one-size-fits-all approach to gathering ideas, feedback and comments can sometimes stifle input or make it hard to spot trends.

This is something that we translate into action at Any Lab Test Now in a variety of ways.

  • Franchise Advisory Council. This group is composed of existing franchisees who use their experience in the field and with the system to offer insight and feedback on new initiatives. It’s proven to be an excellent mechanism for vetting the practicality and impact of potential actions. And, the council members’ experience is always an avenue for bringing to light what needs to be addressed for our franchisees.
  • Direct outreach. We strive to keep the one-on-one lines of communication open with all our franchisees. Some people are simply more comfortable sharing what they know when the interaction is more personal. And, if something is coming up that will directly impact specific franchisees, we reach out immediately.
  • Call center. Having a single, always-available point of contact offers people a quick, consistent way to raise a red flag if needed or get their questions answered. Ours is open during business hours, and takes calls from franchisees on any number of topics to help them find the advice, context and resources to make their Any Lab Test Now location stronger. Some of our best revenue-growing ideas have started as suggestions from franchisees, so this process is one we take very seriously.

As I lead Any Lab Test Now, one of my guiding principles is always remembering that franchisees have more to offer than just growing our business through their partnership. Their ideas inform changes that the corporate team may not have known were necessary or possible, triggering exponential growth in revenue and profits systemwide. But to gain these powerful insights, your franchisees – or your organization – must be engaged, have an outlet for sharing their ideas and trust that their thoughts have value to your business.

I challenge you to think about your organization: Are you getting the information you need to drive innovation?

The Buck Stops Here

It’s been more than four years since I made the transition from COO to CEO of Any Lab Test Now. As COO, I was already a C-level executive. I had significant fiscal responsibilities and an impact on the overall direction of Any Lab Test Now, so the tactical shift from one role to another was a natural one. As I look back on the past four years though, I realize that, while I did have a solid handle on what direction I wanted to take the franchise system, I still had learning to do.

I suppose I will always have learning to do! But, in the past few years, there have been certain lessons about which I am reminded again and again – and which I think are helpful to anyone, from an entry-level employee to a new franchisee to other CEOs.

The Buck Stops Here

I’ve always liked the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.” The quote was made famous by President Harry S. Truman, who had a plaque with the phrase on his desk. The saying represents the disinclination to “pass the buck,” or pawn off problems and responsibilities onto someone else.

It probably strikes you that this an obvious lesson for someone in the role of CEO. After all, decisions end with me. Ultimately, I’m accountable for challenges or short comings that may be faced by the franchise system. At the end of the day, I’m the one who has to make the call and stand by it.

But, even if you aren’t a CEO, I hope you’ll approach life and your profession with this mindset. Like I am fortunate to do, surround yourself with a fantastic team of professionals (in my case, franchisees and employees) and together, celebrate your all your successes. But, know that at the end of the day, when you turn off your computer, you are ultimately responsible for the decisions that you make.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Direct

When something does go wrong, I do believe that the buck stops with me. That said, my job is also to make sure that Any Lab Test Now gets on course quickly and doesn’t repeat mistakes. That means that I must be direct and clear with franchisees and employees when initiatives fail. It happens: We try ideas that fail. It’s OK. But I can’t afford – and the franchise system can’t afford – to hide from mistakes or the truth behind why ideas didn’t work out. I must be frank and direct in dealing with these.

The irony is that one of my biggest hurdles in assuming this role was to flip this thinking back on myself. I’ve had to learn that some decisions are tough and that it’s important not to take negative feedback too personally. I work hard to listen and sincerely understand what the issues are, as well as to think about what I can do better next time, without hearing the feedback as a personal slight.

I appreciate that it’s hard, but mastering the art of giving and receiving direct feedback is one of those lessons that will take you far in life.

Little Steps Forward Lead to Strategic Wins

Learning from mistakes is only one step in achieving success as a franchise system. You may imagine that there’s a lot more to the job. As the CEO, it’s exciting to provide strategy, establish plans for the direction of the franchise system, and motivate everyone to embrace the ideas. There’s a thrill to guiding things forward.

However, I’ve learned to be cautious about getting so caught up in my plans that I forget to look forward. It can be easy to execute a plan once you get the hang of it. You have a list of items with deadlines, and you start working through them.

But, as the CEO, I must be one step ahead of the plan and look beyond what’s happening with the franchise system today. I have to be thinking about what’s changing in the industry, what new needs customers and franchisees have. I have to be figuring out what our position will be tomorrow, not just today. What I’ve learned to do over the past few years is to stop thinking about this as one huge task that I’m going to do in a single sitting. I have learned that I must move forward with strategic initiatives each day in order for Any Lab Test Now to say ahead of the curve.

I think that this is something that’s very true for any working professional. It’s likely that several of you are not intimately involved in setting strategy at the executive level; however, every role in any company or franchise system is meant to evolve with changing business needs. Make sure that you’re carving out little pieces of time on a regular basis to step away from day-to-day tasks and think about your future direction – or that of your department, team, or business.

Becoming the CEO of Any Lab Test Now did not happen overnight; it took time, determination and a good bit of elbow grease. And, while I will not be passing the buck, I also know that I am not an island. I have an amazing team supporting me, and we work diligently together to make sure that there are many successes to celebrate at Any Lab Test Now.

These three lessons will stay with me as I continue to work hard, build our brand and grow as the CEO of Any Lab Test Now. Now, I’m curious to hear. What lessons have you learned as you’ve transitioned from one role to the next?

What Leadership Means to Me

Throughout my life, I’ve worn many hats and had a wide variety of leadership roles. As I’ve grown, my view on leadership has developed alongside me. There are many ways to approach being a leader, but for me, I prefer a firm but empathetic stance. I strive to see continuous growth through incremental improvements. I don’t expect to see a massive change overnight, but as long as my team is improving, I feel like I’ve been a successful leader.

My First Job

Everyone has to start somewhere; for me, that was as a dishwasher at Dot’s Country Kitchen out in Jasper, Alabama. Being a dishwasher is anything but glamorous, but it’s where I first realized the importance of the motto “Always do your best!” While I was far from in a management position in that kitchen, I knew I could still make an impact. I wanted to be the best dishwasher I could be. No matter your role, you can always lead by example. Through working hard every day, I showed others the importance of a strong work ethic. You don’t have to be the boss to be a leader.

My Corporate Experience

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some truly amazing leaders throughout my corporate career who have helped me develop my operational and service skills. These have been natural fits for me because I genuinely enjoy solving problems and creating order. Those tendencies shine through in my management approach. I don’t take a back seat to leadership; I dive in, build relationships and help create order. Leadership is about serving the team and our franchisees to help them achieve success. As a leader, you can’t be lazy or selfish – you have to lead by example.


Finally, I’ve learned that leadership isn’t something that simply stops when the work day is over. One of my most important leadership positions is in my home. I have four children aged 14 to 25, and it’s definitely my priority to be fully engaged with them and set a good example. As my family has grown, I’ve worked hard to maintain a good work-personal life balance and stay active in the community. I want my children to understand the importance of hard work, challenging yourself and committing to a project, whether that be a school assignment or running a company.

To me, leadership is many things. It’s being there for your team every step of the way and guiding them to success. It’s knowing when to ask for help. It’s doing your best and being a positive presence so that you’re leading by example.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on leadership. How have you led by example? What have you learned from others whom you consider to be leaders?

How Any Lab Test Now Has Impacted My View of Franchising

Since joining the Any Lab Test Now home office team in 2007, my perception of the franchising industry has evolved and grown. Now, as the CEO of Any Lab Test Now, I want to share my hard-earned insights. We serve the healthcare segment, but I believe that many of the lessons I have learned will help other franchising systems realize the value of maintaining well-developed, open relationships with their franchisees.

Treat Franchisees Like Family

While one of home office’s objectives is to sell locations and expand the brand, franchisees are no ordinary customer. Unlike most interactions with buyers, the relationship does not end when a purchase is made. Rather than view franchisees as just another customer, think of them as family.

Just like in a family, there may be an occasional conflict, but disagreements are natural. When handled appropriately, they can actually benefit the relationship and contribute to company growth. Remember that the home office team and the franchisee are working toward a common goal — drawing in customers, providing a top-notch service or product and, at the end of the day, making a profit — so embrace different perspectives and opinions.

Along those lines, I’ve also found it critical to measure the results of any new campaign or initiative. Of course, this makes business sense: You want to know which were successful and which were not. But, it also helps in maintaining relationships, because hard numbers are often easier to understand than differing opinions. Having data in hand may help resolve conflict should it arise.

Support Your Franchisees

Your brand will suffer if you don’t invest time and resources into developing support services for your franchisees. From the moment a new franchise is awarded, it’s crucial to provide the owner with proper training and set them up for success. Failing to start the relationship with adequate support leads to a lower brand perception and ultimately a faster turnover rate.

It’s equally important to continue offering on-going support to franchisees. Continual training sessions and open communication will contribute to both a location’s well-being and your brand’s longevity. For example, at Any Lab Test Now, franchisees are assigned a dedicated contact whom they can contact to ask questions and receive personalized support at their convenience. This is critical to the system’s strength, because it’s the built-in support system that makes franchising so appealing to many entrepreneurs; they can maintain their independence through small business ownership, but don’t have to do it alone.

Encourage Franchisee Engagement

The final insight I’d like to offer is to actively seek feedback from franchisees — listen, listen, listen. Your franchisees have fantastic ideas and by keeping communication lines open, home offices can build relationships, trust and camaraderie with owners. As a result of having their voices heard and receiving balanced feedback, franchisees will feel more respected and are far more likely to develop a positive perception of the brand. Happy franchisees are an incredibly valuable asset as they are more likely to recommend investing in the brand to a friend, family member or potential new franchisee. Never underestimate the power of positive testimonials. Just remember to follow through on any commitments you make and act on their input when appropriate.

I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to build this knowledge and be part of the Any Lab Test Now family over the past ten years. Certainly, franchisor/franchisee relationships may be complicated, but they are just that – relationships. They take work. Through support, respect and open communication, long-term success can be achieved for everyone.

To learn how you can join the Any Lab Test Now family, visit