Six Franchise Execs Return for “Uncover Boss” Finale as Epic Bosses

Three years, 60 CEOs and several Emmy awards later, CBS’ “Undercover Boss” highlighted 10 CEOs on May 17 whose lives were most affected by their appearance on the popular reality series, including six IFA franchise member executives. Despite challenges and unforeseen twists during their undercover episodes, these franchise executives used the experience to implement business-building programs and some personal life changes.  Here are some highlights from the show by order of appearance.

brooks_franblogFormer Hooter’s of America CEO Coby Brooks, who is now a Twin Peaks operator, called the experience positive.  Despite a controversial bean-eating contest overseen by a Hooter’s manager, Brooks said of the show, “morale was actually heightened and everyone felt more of a sense of family.” Brooks said he’d do it again and would recommend appearing on the show “with or without the cameras.”

katcole_franblogAnother Hooter’s alumna and youngest boss to be featured on the program was Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon International Inc. Cole’s episode featured a go-getter employee named Mayra Vargas, who since the program aired, was invited to corporate headquarters for training to see what is possible for her, which could include becoming a CEO.

The show also captured how CEOs reached out to help their employees.  Since “Undercover Boss” first aired, more than $5 million has been distributed to reward employees.

Cole said one of the best things was the show “helped remind me how important it is to give back at every opportunity.” Cinnabon supported and facilitated a nationwide fundraiser on learning that Vargas’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cinnabon will match the first $10,000 in charitable donations.

fertman_franblogSubway Chief Development Officer Don Fertman learned during his appearance that “this is a great opportunity to hear from our sandwich artists” after hearing suggestions from an employee named Jesse who thought she’d never get the ear of someone at headquarters.  Upon receiving a suggestion from their sandwich artists, Subway puts it through a market test through the research and development department.

But it was the personal journey that might have most affected Fertman, who during the initial show revealed that he was a 27-year recovered alcoholic. His earlier appearance on “Undercover Boss” led him to connect and encourage via email with a viewer named Harold who was struggling after two weeks of recovery. The two met during filming for the May 17 “Epic Bosses” segment where viewers learned Harold had been sober two years.  “We’ve got to give each other hope,” said Fertman.

View additional IFA members BELFOR CEO Sheldon Yellen, The Dwyer Group Chairwoman and CEO Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, and Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. President and CEO Rick Silva here.

U.S. Franchise Trade Mission lands in Amman



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

Arriving by plane to Amman, the first thing you notice is the immaculate new airport.  Modern, clean and efficient would best describe the scene as the U.S. Franchise delegation maneuvered through immigration and picked up their bags. The companies participating in Jordan included Hertz Equipment Rental, Johnny Rockets, Pollo Tropical, Tutor Doctor and Wing Zone.  The group gathered on Saturday evening with Sandy Owens, Commercial Counselor and Muna Farkouh, Senior Commercial Specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service in Amman receive their schedules and prepare for the following day. Almost 40 one-on-one appointments were booked for the participating franchise companies for the one and a half days that we would be here in Amman.

Sunday morning, the U.S. Commercial Service and the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan hosted a breakfast for the delegation which included a visit by the U.S. Ambassador of Jordan, Stuart Jones.  Mohammed S. Bataineh, Chairman of The American Chamber was also in attendance.  The group met and discussed the opportunities for U.S. Brands in Jordan and connections to other markets in the region.


The delegation then heard from Nancy Dababneh of International Business Legal Associates on the current laws affecting franchising in Jordan.  She reported that there is no specific franchise law in Jordan and that Franchise Agreements are governed by civil law. She also stressed the importance of spelling out in the Franchise Agreement the specific relationship between the franchisor and franchisee.  She mentioned that there have been cases where the government considered the franchise relationship similar to a commercial agent/agency relationship and that the agreement should be viewed as an intellectual property license instead. The delegation then moved into their individual meetings which would be the focus for most of the day in Amman.


That evening, the group gathered at the Sufra Restaurant located in an old mansion on Rainbow Street in Amman for local Middle Eastern food and good conversation with new friends from the American Chamber in Jordan & colleagues from the mission.  It was fascinating to learn about the Jordanian market from some of Jordan’s most prominent business leaders.

Day 2 in Amman included breakfast at a local restaurant and retail tours of two malls in Amman including Taj Mall and CityMall which showcased some of the American Brands that are already in Jordan including McDonald’s KFC, Quiznos, Hardees, Burger King, Carvel and Cinnabon.

Next and last stop on the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East is Doha, Qatar!

IFA continues Franchise Trade Mission with meetings to advance U.S. franchise brands in Libya



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

Libya was not even on the list of countries that the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East was stopping at but Ann Bacher, Regional Counselor of Commercial Affairs for Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordon and Lebanon of the U.S. Commercial Service had connections. Ann’s connections and interest in advancing Libya led Behzed Daniel Ferdows of Mammut Technocrete to Cairo to meet with international franchise company executives participating in the trade mission.


Daniel’s businesses, based in Dubai, UAE are focused in the building and construction industries, primarily steel and concrete.  He had a particular interest in one company participating in the trade mission but had other interests that included food and perhaps education. Daniel’s connection with Libya stems from his wife who is from Tripoli. Libya is currently undergoing political reconstruction, after the civil war and NATO led military invasion in 2011 and the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

As Daniel said “We want to be involved in the rebuilding of the country and they need everything, food and restaurants, education, construction and equipment, you name it…there is opportunity for those that get in early”.  Daniel and his sister in law will be meeting with a number of the franchisors from the trade mission while in Cairo and may attend the International Franchise Expo in New York, NY in June to meet with other franchisors willing to step into the market.

For now, there are only a few U.S. Brands in Libya, which include Cinnabon which is reported to be doing very well.  Johnny Rockets is also there but the first location is not open yet. We will see what the future brings for U.S. Franchise Brands in Libya.

Franchise Trade Mission heads to Cairo for the 2013 Middle East International Franchise Exhibition



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

The US Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East hit its 3rd stop today in Cairo Egypt and just in time for the opening of the 2013 MIFE – Middle East International Franchise Exhibition.

The mission picked up two additional participants that were not with the group in UAE – Johnny Rocket’s represented by Steve Devine and Wing Zone represented by Hair Parra.


The delegation participants were all welcomed at the opening of the trade show with a reception that included Mr. Hatem Saleh, the Minister of Industry and Trade; Mr. Tarek Tawfik, Chairman of the Egyptian Franchise Development Association and Ghada Fathi Waly, Managing Director of the Social Fund for Development who participated in cutting the ribbon to open the show.


Several U.S. Brands and their Master Franchisee were present and exhibiting at the show including Gold’s Gym’s Master for Egypt; Maui Wowi’s master franchisee for Egypt, Emad Fahim; and Papa John’s Pizza Master Franchisee for Egypt, represented by Sharif Galal.  Sharif commented that they currently have 14 locations open and operating with plans to have more than 25 within the next few years.  Maui Wowi’s Master Franchisee Emad Fahim reported that he has not yet opened their first location but has plans to be open within the year and is actively seeking local franchisees for the brand.

The group then sat down for another full day of one-on-one visits with prequalified candidates from the greater Cairo area. The Commercial Service team then brought the delegation to a wonderful dinner cruise on the Nile to complete the evening.

Day 5 of the mission began with a tour of a few new retail projects in the suburbs of New Cairo including Cairo Festival City which is owned by Al-Futtaim out of the UAE.  This project spanning over 700 acres is a mixed use urban community complete with shopping, dining, entertainment, schools, hotels and residential villas and apartments.  Franchise brands already booked into the community include IKEA, Toys r Us, Kidzania, The Little Gym, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and The Cheesecake Factory. With Egypt’s GDP growth now hovering around 1.2% down from the pre-revolution growth of 5.6%, it seems that will be some time before all the buildings are filled however it is a good time to be securing space for brands that want to be in the market.


The evening brought a distinguished dinner bringing together VIP’s from the Egyptian Franchise Development Association, the Social Fund for Development, the U.S. Commercial Service and of course the Franchise Delegation.

After successful visits in Abu Dhabi, IFA Trade Mission Heads to Dubai



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

IFA, Franchise Times and the US Commercial Service hit the 2nd stop on the trade mission in Dubai, UAE after successful visits in Abu Dhabi the day before.


The group which included Robert Shaw from Greenberry’s Coffee, Brad Siniscalchi and Matt Ladd of Hertz Equipment Rental,  Marc Mushkin of Pollo Tropical, Rogelio Martinez of Tutor Doctor, KL Fredericks of the US Commercial Service, Nancy Weingartner of Franchise Times and Scott Lehr with IFA began the day with a briefing at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai.  Robert Bannerman and Ashok Ghosh updated the group on the economy and the opportunities available for franchisors in the market.  The group discussed Dubai’s achievement of becoming the 2nd busiest airport in the world and the opportunities that provides for the city on the world’s stage.

The exposure of U.S. Brands at the first rate malls such as the Dubai Mall complete with an Ice Skating Ring and Emirates Mall with its own indoor Ski Area allow these smart franchisors and their franchisees to reach millions of potential customers that extends their brand presence deep into the Middle East and Africa because of all the traffic flowing through Dubai today.  Their “Free Zones” are allowing companies to set up regional offices in Dubai to serve customers throughout Africa.  Mr. Bannerman stated that there are more flights to India from Dubai then from within India itself.  He also reported that U.S. exports more to UAE than to India.

The group then headed off to another full day of one-on-one visits, this time visiting the candidates at their offices in the Dubai area.  The Franchise Executives reported solid interest from the prospects.  That evening the trade mission participants met up at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai for a reception sponsored by the American Business Council of Dubai and Northern Emirates.  The group mixed with local business people and many American expats working for U.S. companies in Dubai.

Franchising is becoming big business in a smaller world.  Robert Moschorak, president and general manager of Ace International Holdings which is the international division of IFA Member, Ace Hardware, was in town meeting with the local franchisees in Dubai and reported that business for ACE in the UAE is experiencing tremendous growth!

Day two and three of the mission in Dubai brought the group to meet with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce led by Mr. Atiq Juma Faraj Nasib, senior director of the Commercial Services Sector to discuss “Doing Business in Dubai”. The Chamber is excited about working with the IFA and its member companies to grow the franchise market in Dubai.  The message was delivered loud and clear – Dubai is the perfect hub for activity and commerce in the Middle East and Africa for Franchise Brands.

The trade mission participants were than off to Dubai Airport for their flight to Cairo and the beginning of the 3rd leg of the mission in Egypt!

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