Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Entrepreneur Enjoys "Creative Control" in New Franchcise

Buying a franchise is not quite like buying a small business. When you buy a franchise the system behind it has been tested time and again and deviating is most often not a recipe for success. This is not to say that franchisees can’t take any creative control, but for Chris Zook, a franchisee of Crestcom Training, sometimes the best model truly is the one that others have established—especially when you are just beginning.

Zook had a background in education first as a coach and teacher. When he entered the business world, he excelled in sales which allowed him to move through the management ranks. Eventually, he was combining his business expertise with his educational background as a trainer and business developer internationally.

“I worked in London on three different occasions and in the far east and continental Europe. My role was often times to establish an office in a particular country or city, build the infrastructure, get the people in place, and then move on to another territory and do the same thing in a two or three year period. In essence, what I was really doing was developing people, developing my succession plan, and getting the right people in the right seats, giving them skills to be successful.”

Being mobile, encountering new people and new cultures, and sometimes being caught up in the turmoil of mergers and acquisitions made Zook very adaptable, but he eventually began to consider going into business for himself.

“I realized as I was entering my fifties that jumping around from job to job isn’t fun, especially in a tough economy. I felt like I didn’t have control of my future... I looked around at different businesses. I toyed with consulting and I realized that I wasn’t the explorer; I was more of a farmer. And I wasn’t someone who was going to come up with some new widget or new method or new technology. The idea of getting involved in a business that already existed, that already had the process in place, made sense.”

Zook began looking at options with a franchise broker. Through the broker’s coaching, he was able to eliminate many paths that didn’t really match his skills, such as retail. Management and leadership had been Zook’s strongest points for years, and this led him to Denver-based Crest Com, which provides leadership development and management training worldwide through franchisees.

“Looking at my background, what I had done and enjoyed was developing people. It kind of went back to my roots as a teacher and a coach when I was developing kids, whether it was in the classroom or out on the athletic field or on a wrestling mat. This is the same thing except I’m not developing kids anymore I’m developing adults to help them become better managers and leaders.”

Zook started Zeta Management Training in June 2006 as a Washington state franchise of Crest Com International. Zeta Management offers a 12-month training program that helps managers at every level with essential skills for successful business, including big issues for upper management—from communication, to negotiation, to delegation, to strategic planning—and subtler matters that people at every level might find problematic—better communication through voice mail and over the phone, presentation, stress-management, dealing with difficult customers and different personalities—and more. Participants come in for one four-hour session a month that focuses on two different essential skills. The experiences of the participants vary widely, but all can benefit from the program, based on Zook’s experience. This diversity has in turn proved rewarding for Zook, who has a very diverse background himself.

“People participating in our program might be managers who moved through the ranks self-taught and haven’t received any formal training, or people who were trained so long ago that they have forgotten it and haven’t been applying it...I meet with people on a regular basis from different companies, different backgrounds, different experiences, so I’m constantly learning from people I meet with on an initial basis, but I also lean an awful lot from my participants because these are managers that are young and old and in between who have been all over the place: different companies, different cultures, different background, different experiences. So it’s a two-way street: They learn from me and I also learn from them.”

Read the entire story at Guidant Financial's website.

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