Browse By

Seeding Talent − Helping Multi-Unit Franchisees to Expand

Talent seeding builds trust and helps franchisees become more confident and prosperous because they’re learning directly from someone who’s been in their shoes.

By Matt McKeown


It took Don Smith 25 years to fulfill his dream of owning an empire of nearly 200 Valvoline Instant Oil Changefranchise locations. As a geology major in college, he was always intrigued with rock formations − the layers of a sturdy foundation. As he grew his company of quick lube service centers from one to nearly 200 stores across the country, Smith knew he needed to build a solid base for his business. He also knew he wasn’t the guy to do it.

“While I like to know what makes a good foundation, I’m not the architect for that because I don’t have the mind for the details. I had a business consultant tell me once, ‘I’m a terrible manager,’ and he’s right,” Smith said. “I’m a big picture guy. I want to go out and make the next deal and grow the company. I’m not the guy to write the playbook, make sure people follow the rules or institute the rote mechanics that make a company successful.”

Seed Talent and Watch Franchisees Grow

Smith is one of many franchisees Valvoline Instant Oil Change has helped with a unique program rarely seen in the franchise industry called “talent seeding.” If a franchisee wants to grow and needs help, the franchise, which is part of Kentucky-based Ashland Inc., will seek out high-performing employees at the corporate level with the skill-set needed. In addition to job growth opportunities within the company, Valvoline Instant Oil Change also encourages corporate employees to gain experience working for franchisees. That often means a considerable salary increase and, in some cases, equity in the franchisee’s business. Since 2000, Smith has hired seven employees from the franchisor, and four of them still work with him today. He said it makes his company a “well-oiled machine.”

“It’s a very smart move as a franchisor because it sends star employees to help the franchisees expand operations and homogenize the system,” Smith says. “These employees from corporate have made sure there is consistency and that we follow the corporate philosophy of how things should operate. They help me hire people, manage the operations, make sure everyone is following processes and procedures so I can work on what I love to do: growing my business. Talent seeding helps franchisees be the best we can be, while at the same time helps the system grow as a whole.”

Franchisors who talent-seed provide franchisees with motivated people who have a keen understanding of the brand and delivery system because they have already been trained and have worked in corporate positions. Good franchisors will also help franchisees find the right site locations in their markets, offer tools like Valvoline Instant Oil Change’s state-of-the-art point of sale system and provide accredited training programs for employees that ensure customers receive precise, thorough and consistent service. It’s good business and goodwill. Franchisors have learned if you pay it forward, by building solid systems and by encouraging good employees to work for franchisees, it always comes back in the end. Corporations reap the rewards with happy, profitable franchisees who continue to expand, exceeding industry averages.

“We know that good employees want to advance,” Valvoline Instant Oil Change Pres. Tony Puckett explained. “If the opportunity is right, we encourage them to go work for our franchisees. We are convinced talent seeding can directly lead to franchisors seeing increased store sales and higher gross revenues than the industry average.”

Plant Seeds with a Different Strategy

Visiting Angels, one of the largest national in-home senior care franchises, seeds talent with a different strategy. The company constantly sends highly skilled corporate employees on the road to spend weeks with franchisees helping them improve their businesses.

Pat Drea, the company’s chief operating officer, is truly a visiting angel to the many franchisees she helps. She’s a registered nurse and former CEO of her own in-home senior care company and was also the primary caregiver for her two parents until their deaths. Drea is responsible for the company’s overall operations and support efforts. She practically lives out of a suitcase, traveling from one location to another, troubleshooting, training and encouraging franchisees to keep going and growing.

“We invested in a power player like Pat because the franchisees need to know corporate invests in the best people in the business to help them prosper and grow,” Visiting Angels CEO and co-founder Larry Meigs said.

Franchisors say this form of talent seeding builds trust and helps franchisees become more confident and prosperous because they’re learning directly from someone who’s been in their shoes. It plants small seeds of knowledge that help each location grow a little at a time, so the system grows as a whole.

Whether it’s in-home senior care or the quick lube industry, franchisors see the power and profit in talent seeding to grow a happy, healthy network of franchisees.

Smith says the star employees who came from corporate have been an integral part of the growth and success of Henley Enterprises Inc., his Valvoline Instant Oil Change network now stretches from Boston to California. One employee who started for Smith in operations is now his chief operating officer, second in command.

“I couldn’t have the business I have today without these employees from corporate who have helped me build the solid foundation we desperately needed,” Smith said. “Valvoline Instant Oil Change planted seeds in my business, and Henley Enterprises has flourished because of the talented people who work for me.”

Matt McKeown is the vice president of franchising at Valvoline Instant Oil Change. Find him at


Read previous post:
10 Tips for Narrowing the Field When Hiring

Develop a standardized hiring system to ensure a fair and effective process. By Rebecca Morris     Employers often invest...