Franchising: It’s All in the Family

At BizCom, we have the opportunity to work closely with many executive leaders of the franchise clients we represent. This has given us a great look at who those executives are, not only within the business, but also outside of the office.

Over time, we’ve started to notice some overlap between the professional and personal lives of these leaders… But in the best way possible. Their careers in franchising have struck a chord of inspiration among a pool of young professionals that are defining the future generations of franchise leadership: their children.

In honor of Father’s Day, we connected with the “kids” of some franchising dads we work with: Brett Bidwell, son of Mike Bidwell, President & CEO of Neighborly; Somia Farid Silber, daughter of Tariq Farid, founder of Edible Arrangements; and Micah Findley, son of Gary Findley, CEO of Restoration 1 and bluefrog Plumbing + Drain.

Growing up, these kids had a front row seat to watching their fathers evolve into successful franchise leaders, and we wanted an inside look at what inspired each of them to pursue their own careers in the industry.

Here’s what we learned from chatting with Brett, Somia, and Micah about how franchising has become “the family business” for each of them:

How long have you been involved with franchising? What is your current role today?

Brett Bidwell: I have been in franchising for 8-9 years, ever since I graduated from college. I first worked on the franchisor side before later becoming a franchisee when I purchased Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Austin, which I still own and operate today.

Somia Farid Silber: I’ve been working at the Edible Arrangements Support Center for the last three years, but I grew up working in the shops. As a child I remember being eight or nine and skewering grapes and dipping berries. By the time I was 12, I was answering the phones and taking orders. At a young age I learned about customer service and how to interact with guests on a daily basis, picking up tidbits like – always smile on the phone because customers can hear it in your voice.

When I was in college, I interned at the support center that was in Connecticut at the time. Each summer I worked with a different department, which gave me the opportunity to learn about so many different aspects of the franchising business.

I joined full time in 2016 as a product manager on the technology side and have done several rotations to dig in deeper to even more parts of the business. I’m back on the technology side once again by currently serving as the Vice President and General Manager of Netsolace, the IT arm of Edible Arrangements. I believe technology is the foundation of our business and is essential for our franchisees to help run their businesses efficiently. We build and support all the technology you see in Edible shops, everything from the point-of-sale system to digital menu boards to back office applications.

Micah Findley: I started my career in franchising in 2012 as a consultant for a landscaping franchise. Currently I serve as the VP of Operations for Restoration 1, and I have been here since February of 2016.

Having seen your father in franchising throughout your childhood, what inspired you to follow his path?

Brett Bidwell: Franchising, and specifically Neighborly, has been great for our family.  Some of my earliest memories are of running around our family’s office and warehouse in Tucson from when my dad operated as a multi-concept franchisee. I always understood the opportunities the business provided our family, and as I started thinking about what I wanted to do professionally, the one constant was that I knew I wanted to run my own business. I know my dad had to work really hard and put in a lot of time, but since he had so much control over his schedule as a business owner, he was always able to make time to be the coach of my baseball team or whatever sport we were playing. I can’t remember any time that his job caused him to miss a birthday or any other important event. In my own career, I wanted to be able to have the flexibility to do the same, while providing a great life for my family as well.

Somia Farid Silber: Tariq built this idea, this company, from the ground up and at an early age I watched him put in the hard work and focus. I remember being on family vacations and he was on the phone selling franchises, working hard to show people that it was going to become something great. To see his passion for this, to watch him build this from its earliest stage, and then to get to be a part of continuing this legacy and help take what he’s grown to the next level is what really drives and inspires me.

It’s also inspiring and motivating to work alongside him and see his passion for the brand and the relationships he’s built with franchisees. This work has a lot of meaning as a franchise business, because our franchisees put their heart, soul and money into this. We’re helping small business owners be successful and have unique gifts and treats that bring joy and carry positive energy.

Micah Findley: When I was growing up my dad used to take me with him to sell and open franchises. I got to meet the owners and hear their stories. It was always an amazing experience to be there on the opening day of the business. I got to see firsthand how excited these owners were to start a new business, and how grateful they were that Gary was there showing them how to be successful. I think the whole idea of helping others attain their dreams is what led me into franchising.

In what ways has your path to franchising differed from your father’s?

Brett Bidwell: My path to franchising was quite a bit different from my father’s in that franchising has been a part of my life since childhood, but there are other significant differences as well.

First, over the years fewer and fewer people have started pursuing careers in the trades than when my father first entered the industry. Today, everyone is being pushed toward college, even when this may not be the right fit. Across the country, it’s become a real challenge to find qualified tradespeople to fill open roles; the population has grown, but the number of available tradespeople really hasn’t. We’ve had to get more creative in attracting that type of talent than business owners in the trades had to in the past.

The second way my experience has differed is that I have an experienced business owner for a father who I get to work with to figure out how to address challenging situations. Even though a lot has changed, it’s amazing how many challenges remain the same in this industry, even when businesses are operating years apart.

Somia Farid Silber: His path was more along the lines of creating and building a business and franchise structure, and somewhat learning as he went along. He had an idea that he grew into a business and had an entrepreneurial spirit – he still does – and I’m focused on taking what he has built and growing it even further.

In terms of education, Tariq didn’t have a formal education and has had to build what has become an impressive network over time. I attended Babson College in Massachusetts, an entrepreneurial school, and made conscious decisions along the way knowing I would join this business. When I took courses in school, or worked on case studies, the impact to Edible or how it would benefit Edible was always top of mind for me. Receiving a more formal education helped me build a robust network, which I’ve tapped into as we look to build new partnerships, hire vendors, generate new ideas and develop strategic initiatives.

Micah Findley: This one is pretty easy. Gary got his start by selling franchises, and that was always his strong suit. As he grew with different companies, he would always eventually take on more of an operational role, but his original passion for franchising and skill sets were developed out of development. I am definitely more of an operations guy though. I have always been on the operations side of franchising and really enjoy it.

What’s the best piece of advice your dad has offered that’s helped you succeed, not only in franchising, but as a leader in general?

Brett Bidwell: When I was first starting out, my dad emphasized how important it is to communicate honestly and clearly with your customers and your team. Just doing those simple things will go a long way. Your customers will know they can trust you, and your team knows what to expect. When people shy away from uncomfortable calls/discussions with a customer or team member, things just get worse.  

Somia Farid Silber: The advice his mother gave to him is something he has also shared with me and are words I believe and live by.

And that’s, “Don’t chase money, it runs really fast. Do the right thing and it will chase you.”

It’s deeply rooted in honesty and integrity. I’m very analytical and data-driven, so it’s always a good reminder that it’s also important to do the right thing. To take care of your customers. So beyond just being advice, it’s also the values and beliefs he has instilled in me and that we talk about as a family.

As a leader, he has taught me to fail fast. To not be afraid of trying something new. I remember being in school and asking him, “what if it doesn’t work?” He quickly shared with me – “what if it does?” And if it doesn’t, then he told me to figure out why, and to learn from it. This is a lesson that I carry forward with my team. I empower them to bring forward new ideas and suggestions and encourage them to run with them and try it, and either way know that we’ll all learn from it.

Micah Findley: Hire the best people, let them do what they do best, and take care of them. A major part of Gary’s success has always been the team that he has surrounded himself with, and that is not by accident. Gary always finds the best person he can for a position, recruits them, and then helps them grow. If you hire the best people and always take care of them, everything else is easy.

As representatives of two different generations of franchising, in what ways have you and your father collaborated to generate a fuller understanding of the industry?

Brett Bidwell: I think seeing me operate in the field on a daily basis reminds him of the challenges the franchisee faces every day. And from my side, I understand why franchisors collect royalties, and I don’t feel bad about sending in my payment each week because I know I get so much back. My dad also gives me a lot of insight when he can on why the company is doing things a certain way, why we are launching whatever new initiative, etc., which gives me an even deeper appreciation of everything that the franchisor puts into our businesses. We help each other understand how symbiotic the franchisor/franchisee relationship is, and how they make each other stronger.

Anything else you would like to share about your father?

Brett Bidwell: I’m really grateful he got me on this path. It was great for my family growing up, and it is really shaping up to be great for me as I start my own family as well.

Somia Farid Silber: I recognize the amazing and unique position I’m in, but I’m also fortunate to have someone so motivating, inspiring and encouraging beside me. He has instilled the confidence in me to run one of his companies, encourages me to bring forward my ideas and fosters a place where I can learn something new every day. This type of opportunity just wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. And that is – he is – what motivates me to do the right thing and help lead this legacy he has built and that I look forward to leading one day.

Micah Findley:  I hear people’s opinions all the time about whether it is good to work with family or not, and I think that it depends on the individual. Gary and I work great together, but it has taken us a while to get here. We had to learn how to separate business and family time, and it’s difficult for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Working with and learning from Gary over these past few years has been an amazing experience and there’s nowhere else I would rather be.