Women in Business Q&A: Tracy King, Legacy Franchise Group

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Legacy Franchise Group

Tracy King has over 20 years of management and marketing experience in Fortune 500, mid-size and entrepreneurial startup companies. After earning her MBA, she started her career in marketing and brand management at Dial Corporation and then The Kellogg Company. She then transitioned to smaller entrepreneurial companies, becoming President of Nutri-Health Supplements in 2006. She led Nutri-Health to more than triple its sales in three years, growing from $6.5 million in sales to $27.5 million and from 38 employees to 80. She was responsible for all aspects of company leadership, including finance, marketing, legal, sales, customer service, manufacturing, compliance, fulfillment, IT, HR, and investor relations. After only three years the company was successfully sold for three times the initial value. She continued to run the company for 18 months before launching several startup companies. Tracy earned her MBA from the American Graduate School of International Management.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Every experience in my life has made me the leader I am today. While the best of times define me in many ways, some of the most difficult situations in life have taught me the most - the biggest challenges, the toughest losses, the hardest issues. I see each person and situation I encounter as an opportunity to learn more about myself and show me how I can improve. I realize that everything I do - or choose not to do - creates my life experience and has a ripple effect on the world.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Legacy Franchise Group?
Business is business. Everything that I've learned at previous businesses applies in some way to my current businesses. In every role, I have been exposed to different functional areas and had to work with a wide variety of people representing every level of expertise. All of these factor into the role I play in my current positions.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Legacy Franchise Group?
The highlights and the challenges of my two-year tenure at Legacy both involve the learning curve associated with franchising. Although I have worked at Fortune 500 businesses and entrepreneurial start-up companies, I had never worked in the complex and highly-regulated world of franchising. It is a different business model and it is a much more volatile industry. Situations in a franchise business can and often do change dramatically in a period of less than six months. The franchise can get new leadership, experience a lawsuit, be sold, or any other number of things that can disrupt the growth or success of a franchise business.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
For women who are just getting started in their careers and are interested in franchising, I recommend getting a job in a successful franchise corporate office to learn the basics of the franchising model from someone who truly knows and understands the business, and strive to experience the franchise from a variety of functional areas. For those that are interested in becoming a franchisee themselves, I recommend doing a lot of self-reflection, research, and due diligence. The first thing the franchise candidate should do is assess what she is passionate about and identify potential franchises that align with that, as well as identifying what she is ready to commit both financially and personally to make it a success. Then, she needs to start researching those business opportunities online. She should read Franchise Disclosure Documents and call existing franchisees to interview them about their business and experience with the franchisor. This level of due diligence is important in finding the right franchise - one that shares the same values, has the right support systems in place, fits within the financial investment capabilities. Finally, I would recommend getting experts involved in any potential purchase of a franchise, as becoming a franchisee will require a considerable investment of time, money, and energy and you want to make the best choice possible.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson for me is to put people first. No matter what business, it is absolutely critical to focus on people - they are your target market, your employees, your suppliers, your team. If you treat each stakeholder in your life like a very important customer, it is easy to succeed and to stay on track. Relationships create results.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Because I am very motivated by my career and can tend to get too focused on work, I set goals in other areas of my life such as "fun and recreation" and "friends and family". For me to prioritize those areas of my life, I have to give it the same level of importance as work responsibilities, and actually set aside time on my calendar. Interestingly, I find that I am most balanced when I have a "fulfilled" plate - not just a full plate. One of the things that gives me the greatest sense of fulfillment is volunteering and coaching others - I seem to get more out of my own life when I am giving to others.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The most predictable answer to this question is that compensation for women is not equitable to that of men performing the same work. I think that is partially a function of men being taught at a young age to ask for what they want. Women often expect to be appreciated and valued for what they do without demanding commensurate compensation or recognition for their contributions. It is a passive approach rather than a proactive approach. Women, generally speaking, could benefit from taking a more proactive approach to managing their own careers and compensation. The bigger issue, which permeates our culture, is that women are treated differently in almost all areas. Some of the questions posed in this interview even highlight the differential treatment of women. For example, I don't believe that men are asked questions like "What other male leaders do you admire and why?" I think a more appropriate question for both genders is "What other leaders do you admire and why?"

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Like many women, mentorship has not been a big factor in my life. I have role models that are specific to different areas of my life, yet I would not define any of these role models as active mentors. To me, mentorship means that someone has taken an active role to further my development in a certain pursuit without having a personal stake in the outcome. Outside of prior bosses, I have not really experienced much in the way of mentorship. I have, however, taken classes to expand my personal and professional development, hired personal coaches, participated in peer mastermind groups with people that I trust and respect, and joined groups like EO Key Executive Forum to share goals, obstacles, and solutions with other professionals.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Sheryl Sandberg is someone I really admire for the work that she has done at Google and Facebook, as well as being both a champion for women and a mother. She is also a philanthropist and supports causes that seek to empower women worldwide.

What do you want Legacy Franchise Group to accomplish in the next year?
In any company, I strive to accomplish the financial revenue and profit goals for the year and fulfill the commitments to investors, partners, and our internal team members. Beyond those imperatives, my goal for 2016 is to build a strong portfolio of brands and a cohesive team of functional experts to support those brands in expanding their franchises - creating a Legacy for the future.