Bringing Leadership to the Forefront
Looking over a successful 30-year franchise career helps mark critical milestones.
Special Contribution by The Dwyer Group
For Rainbow International franchise owner Mike Morales, 1:30 a.m. was the perfect hour to pen an expressive note to the people and system that made his years of success and a night of acclaim possible. This note offers a glimpse not only into a 30-year relationship between franchisor and franchisee, but also into the leadership qualities enhanced by such a bond.
Morales became part of the Rainbow International family as the concept itself was born in the early 1980s. Don Dwyer, founder of the Dwyer Group, parent company to Rainbow International, was looking for the right combination of skills and ambition in a franchise owner to build the Seattle market. Morales fit that bill and, as history shows, continues to do so more than 30 years later.
“I’d have to say that, to me, most leadership skills are innate,” Morales begins. “Rainbow International didn’t teach me how to be a leader, but it did put me in positions and provided opportunities that called on leadership skills to shine.”
Morales reflected on years past and these leadership qualities while he wrote a personal e-mail to Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, chairwoman of The Dwyer Group. On Oct. 19, 2011 about 1:30 a.m. Morales had, hours before, earned a very distinguished honor, a 30-year Eagle Award for his excellence in leadership at the franchise company. Morales paused to retrace his journey, as a man, husband, father and business owner and leader. The qualities of leadership revealed in his letter are genuine, immutable and signposts for others seeking to reach similar heights of business and personal success and contentment.
Starting at the Beginning
Morales charts his tenure as a franchise owner alongside that as his growth into manhood. “My relationship with this company has been in parallel with my admission into adulthood,” he said. “During my late 20s, there was a point in my life that I finally had to admit I was no longer a boy and accepted the role of being a man. This was a profound moment for me because I really had to commit to no longer thinking of others to take care of my life. Instead I silently, unceremoniously, accepted the responsibility of taking on the label and burden of being a man from that point on. That meant to me that I had to create something and build something that would be about the future.”
Morales’ vision as a business leader would serve him well for the next three decades. He attributes the ability to see past the daily grind of business details and to keep an eye focused on long-term goals as critical to any successful venture. He also believes the influence and support of his wife Debbie were instrumental in the success of the franchise.
Courage also plays a huge role in leadership, a character trait he and Debbie, along with his family, saw born of and sharpened by, in large part, fear.
Morales needed several thousand dollars for the down payment on his franchise and encountered challenges in doing so. However, by dipping into savings, they were able to come up with the cash. “My wife Debbie and I were so scared about what we had just done. We had just given up all of our savings and now we were in debt for an incredible amount of money. That fear drove both of us. We both realized we were going to do whatever it took to make this work.”
Coupled with courage, Mike and Debbie also knew they’d need to exhibit a leader’s tenacity and willingness to work outside the comfort zone to succeed. “For me, that meant going out and getting new business by selling,” Morales said. “This was against my nature. I felt all businessmen were crooks and all salesmen were liars. How could I become that? I really struggled with the notion.”
Utilizing “Sweat Equity”
Morales was able to successfully exhibit a leader’s tenacity by sticking with the franchise systems and learning a new way to look at business. With hard work, positivity and regular goal-setting calls from Don Dwyer, Morales came to think of selling in a much larger way. “I was no longer selling, I was saving the world in my own small way, he added. “We paid off our loan three months after that. Even though it wasn’t always smooth sailing, we never looked back.”
Such commitment would serve Morales, his family and team well as the years passed. “I came to see the time and effort Debbie and I put into our franchise as ‘sweat equity’,” he said. “I also knew I wasn’t really pressed to become a leader until we began to grow and add staff. Dealing with employees adds an entirely new element to the mix and requires that a business owner rise to different challenges.”
Morales went on to learn more about “losing a few battles for the sake of winning the war.” To him, this meant that, in business as much as in other areas of life, keeping it all in perspective is crucial. “Debbie and I tried to do the right thing by people every time, help them when we could and move on when we couldn’t,” he explained. “Every business owner will encounter challenging customers. I decided early that keeping my focus on long-term goals was more important than letting every pothole in the road become a canyon. We’d learn to take two steps back today knowing the sacrifice would allow us to take three steps forward the next.”
Goal-setting took on a position of prime importance to Morales as his tenure as a franchise owner progressed. ”I came to realize that goal-setting, sometimes in minute detail, is what helps a business owner own his or her own future, as much as is humanly possible,” he explained. “As a family and as a business team, we kept our eyes on the future prize. Remembering our goals, both individual and shared, kept us focused, directed and unified. We weren’t a group of randomly-assorted people there to collect a paycheck. We were a team linked by the shared denominator of a goal on the horizon.”
With the hindsight of 30 years, Morales offered his franchisor the following wis-
dom: “The responsibility to take control of our destinies as a company is in our hands. We should accept the responsibility of being the leaders of this millennium and let the world know we will take care of them better than anyone else on earth. Because we are our customers and we want what they want: honesty, integrity and a job well done. This we can deliver because this we have lived. We empathize with the needs of the world because they are our needs.”
That night, franchise owner Mike Morales took time to set down in writing his account of the journey of the past 30 years. While a journey of difficult decisions, twists in the road and unexpected detours, it has also proven one of friendship, success and thoughtful introspection. It takes a leader, in every sense of the word, to succeed over as long a stretch as Mike, Debbie and his team have accomplished. These leadership skills, built upon and enhanced by franchising, could easily see him through 30 more years.