Listen to your customers. Commit to learning and understanding their preferences and be open to feedback. Ultimately, you need their buy-in to succeed. Show them that you care by fulfilling their needs, even if it means making changes to your system.
Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tipton Shonkwiler, President of Accurate Franchising Inc. and Managing Director of the Consulting Division of United Franchise Group.
Tipton Shonkwiler, CFE, serves as President of Accurate Franchising Inc. (AFI), the leading franchise development consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs grow their business through franchising. Additionally, Tipton is also the Managing Director of the Consulting Division of United Franchise Group, home to an affiliated family of brands and consultants, including AFI. With more than three decades of experience in franchising, Tipton is extremely knowledgeable and a credible expert in the various aspects of establishing, growing, and scaling a business — from franchise development, sales and marketing to international master license sales and international brand development. Leaning into this intimate understanding of what a franchisor needs to succeed, Tipton has led AFI through tremendous growth as the company continues to sign deals to develop franchise business models for qualified companies that are scalable and profitable.
Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Istarted my professional journey in Ohio as an investment banker, which is how I was first introduced to franchising. As someone with an innate entrepreneurial spirit, this opened the door to the world of business ownership through franchising, ultimately leading me to receive my Franchise MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Since then, I’ve spent the last 30 years in the franchise industry, serving in various capacities including franchise development, sales and marketing, international master license sales and international brand development, and found my home at United Franchise Group.
You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?
I made a concise decision, early on in my franchising career, to work harder than everyone around me. If I wanted to stand out, I knew I needed to accelerate quickly so my managers and peers would trust my commitment and skill. This mindset helped fuel my growth, both personally and professionally, and rapidly built up my credibility within the industry.
What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?
When I came on board as President of Accurate Franchising, company growth was a priority. It was a tall task, but one I was hopeful I could successfully complete if I set focused goals and assembled a strong team to achieve them. With my strategic direction and leadership, our team was able to execute a variety of tactics that led to us tripling the size of the brand. To this day, the impact we made as a result of our efforts remains one of my proudest career accomplishments.
Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?
For me, not having the right people in the right seat on the bus at all times is a mistake. No matter how much you like an individual, when they’re not the right person for the job, you must make a change. This situation has come up a couple times throughout my career, when I knew the person in a certain role was not the right fit. Despite realizing it fairly quickly, I let it be, and for way too long. In the end, I wasn’t only doing the company a disservice, but the employee too. I eventually let them go and while that’s never an easy thing to do, it was the right move across the board.
How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?
Mentorship was a key component to my growth early on in my career. Having access to someone with such deep knowledge and experience really helped me understand the ins and outs of the franchising industry. I learned so much from asking questions and receiving feedback from an established expert, and I felt lucky that I had the opportunity. Knowing how much mentorship helped me in my career, I make it a point to always be available as a mentor to help my team members and colleagues, who are eager to learn and grow, navigate the waters of their career.
Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?
My leadership style has evolved over time but at the core is a foundation I built based on practices I observed from the most effective bosses I’ve had over the years. This is an area that I continue to study, so I incorporate elements from my readings and other materials I come across to ensure my leadership resonates with my employees. One of my favorite books is Straight Line Leadership, which discusses the importance of constantly reviewing — what’s working, what’s not working, what’s changed & what’s next — and it’s become a practice I use daily.
Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.
- Leadership must be committed to growth. An all-or-nothing approach. If you’re not all in on growing the business, your goals will be less focused and less attainable, and it will be harder to succeed.
- There needs to be a balanced perspective on both growth and unit economics. Focusing too heavily on one and not the other leads to problems.
- Create brand advocates along the way as you build and grow. From clients and partners to community members and consumers at-large, having an established audience who thinks and speaks highly of your brand will help further any efforts to deepen awareness and expand your company’s presence.
- Take care of your employees early on to retain the best talent. To successfully scale a business, you must have a team that’s as invested as you are. Give them a reason to care and they’ll want to help you succeed.
- Listen to your customers. Commit to learning and understanding their preferences and be open to feedback. Ultimately, you need their buy-in to succeed. Show them that you care by fulfilling their needs, even if it means making changes to your system.
Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?
Overlooking the importance of infrastructure. If you try to scale your business without the proper systems and procedures in place, you’ll likely be faced with faulty operations and a lack of problem-solving resources that will be unattractive to not only internal team members and customers, but investors that might have been interested in supporting your growth.
Not having the right team in place. Your team is integral to successfully scaling your business, regardless of the level of growth you’re hoping to achieve, so it’s important to have the right people in the right roles prior to beginning the process of scaling.
Omitting any engagement with a consultant or advisor. There’s a tactical art behind scaling a business so recruiting outside help from someone well-versed in this process will ensure your bases are covered and that you’re ready to scale properly and responsibly.
Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?
First, a company needs to clearly establish its culture and ensure its processes and people align with it. When new employees come in, the culture should be communicated from day one, incorporated into any onboarding procedures and exemplified by all managers and existing team members regularly. As a company grows, it’s up to leadership to remain true to its roots and instill those foundational values in all employees.
Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?
One of my go-to techniques to ensure my team remains knowledgeable through any level of change is continued learning — whether it’s through resources I provide them with or on their own. With every new client comes an opportunity to learn, so I encourage my team to lean on their colleagues as resources and to always ask questions. Additionally, I also try to help my team embrace their mistakes because, from my experience, that’s when you learn and grow the most. As they become better equipped to find solutions in the wake of mistake, they also become more confident in their skills and ability to handle any challenge or change.
What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?
We’ve established a training checklist to help ensure we expose new hires to key aspects of the job from the get-go. Having them jump into these experiences early on also helps establish a proper foundation that you can then build upon over time as they continue learning and growing in their role.
Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.
My movement would be one focused on a relentless approach to timely execution — getting things done and getting them done ahead of or on schedule. When making a hiring decision, I always ask myself, “Can this person execute? Can they execute quickly?” I’ve seen too many people stand in their own way by overthinking, which ends up preventing them from executing. You might have been a rockstar in your past career, earned a laundry list of degrees, and think you’d be the perfect fit for the role but at the end of the day, if you can’t convince me that you’re a confident decision maker and an executer, I’m on to the next.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can visit www.accuratefranchising.com and connect with us on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/tiptonshonkwiler/ or www.linkedin.com/company/accurate-franchising/.
This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!