Adding 1,000 Franchises in 10 Years—Charles Watson, CEO, Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Have you ever wondered what it takes to add 1,000 new locations to your franchise system? Or, maybe you’ve wondered if it possible to hit such staggering numbers?

Our guest today is Charles Watson, who is the CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café which now has more than 1,400 locations. And he shares with us how he has been part of the company growth adding more than 1,000 locations over the last 10 years. 


People + Purpose + Process = Performance.


Charles Watson is the Chief Executive Officer for Tropical Smoothie Café and is currently in his 13th year with the brand. He has grown the Tropical Smoothie Cafe system to more than 1400 open locations, many of which were signed while he was in his previous role as Chief Development Officer until 2018. Charles focuses on the brand’s vision to Inspire Better in the lives of Tropical Smoothie café franchisees and guests alike. Charles enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children who view his role as “pretty 


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Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team, and as we open today, I’m wondering if you have ever wondered what it would take to add a thousand new locations into your system or franchise organization, or maybe you’ve even wondered if such a feat is even possible to hit such staggering numbers. Well, our guest today is Charles Watson, who is the CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which now has more than 1,400 locations, and he shares with us in the interview how he has been part of the company growth adding more than a thousand locations over the last 10 years.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:46):

I had the great opportunity of first meeting Charles several years ago as a mutual acquaintance had connected us together, and it’s been amazing to watch what Tropical Smoothie Cafe has done over the last several years. And Charles is just an all-around great person, awesome guy, on and off the camera or on and off recording, and I’m just so thankful for his time, just humbled by the opportunity to have a chance to interview him, for him to share this information with us on this podcast and this episode. You’re going to love listening into this. He provides so much valuable insight. So let’s go ahead and jump right into my interview with Charles Watson.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (01:27):

Tom, good to see you this morning. Charles Watson, I am happily the chief executive officer of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. We’re a healthier, quick casual restaurant chain. We’re coming up on 1,400 units in 44 states domestically. I’m a smoothie and food guy.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:45):

I love it. Well, that’s definitely part of what I’m hoping to talk through with you today is a little bit about your franchise journey, but as a long time person in franchising, the question I always like to ask everyone is how did you end up in franchising? So let’s start there.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (02:00):

Once I was birthed, I knew I’d be… No, I’m just kidding. I think like everybody else, you fall into the career you’re in. I’d love to say there was a bunch of planning involved, etc. But I can tell you that I grew up, my father was in the restaurant business and I remember him saying, “Man, I should have franchise.” He had multiple restaurants at one point, so I grew up washing dishes and waiting tables and tending bars as I got older. And so I’d been around hospitality really growing up in my formative years, which led me to a college that had hotel and restaurant stuff, and my focus in college was on sales and marketing. And so I actually fell into franchise development because I found a job at 21 years old, and that’s what started my journey on the hospitality side of franchising, I would say. So fell into it like most people do, and boy did I get lucky and I love it.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:50):

One of the things that’s so exciting about Tropical Smoothie Cafe and just being on the sidelines, watching as you’ve grown, just looking at even over the last 10 years, growing by more than a thousand locations or right around a thousand locations over the last 10 years, which is just incredible to now, as you said, almost 1,400 locations and continuing to grow. So I’d love for you to just talk through what do you think has helped contribute to that growth?

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (03:16):

Well, I always, I get this question a lot, and we have no franchise system without franchisees. So I start with franchisees because they’re the ones on the front lines, they’re the ones taking capital risk. We’re lucky to have them. And as I always tell our folks here at the sports center, we just had an orientation for new employees and franchisees sign our paycheck. They are our customer, because in franchising it’s franchisor serving the franchisee who then serves the end guest. So I always like to keep the focus on that, we are where we are because the hard work of a lot of great franchisees.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (03:48):

That said, there’ve been a lot of great people over the years that have worked at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. My predecessor in the CEO role, Mike Rotondo, did a fantastic job of really putting in place the operational and culinary and the foundations of marketing to really start getting it going, because at that time, I was kind of the number two in selling franchises and trying to get the growth going. Guess what? You don’t sell a lot of franchises, you don’t get a lot of growth until you have great unit level economics. And our path over the last 10 years has tracked very well with the improvement in our unit level economics.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (04:21):

As our AUV goes up and our sales go up and we manage our development costs to make sure that we have a great business model that franchisees can jump into, nothing is easy, nothing is simple, but we are on the easier, simple side of the restaurant business in terms of no grills, no deep fryers, no hooding system, etc. So you don’t have to have a ton of restaurant experience. You can come in and have great hospitality and great work ethic and do well with it. He got us to a place that put us at good unit level economics, and I’ve been able to take over and continue to drive those unit level economics, continue to raise our AUV and also our profitability through some rocky times, the pandemic, and we’ve had supply chain issues and labor issues, etc.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (05:05):

So it hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops, but when you look at it over time, yes, it’s been a pretty consistent up into the right growth trajectory. And we do that with franchisees and we do it with our support staff here in Atlanta at our corporate support center that all have their varying disciplines and we’re always trying to raise the bar in terms of the amount of talent that we have here to serve those franchisees who serve the guest and lead to great results. All those results then lead to selling more franchises and opening more restaurants.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:33):

One of the things is you do scale through that growth is to keep up your level of support and training with the franchisees. So sometimes the easy part is selling the franchisees and then now all of a sudden now you have this new, in some instances kind of like a new baby, a new child into the family, and now you have to onboard and train and support. So talk through how the support has changed as you’ve added roughly a thousand franchises over the ten-year time period.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (06:02):

It’s funny, I was at a conference last week and we were actually speaking about just this. One of the things that previously differentiated, all good ideas in franchising get shared at the various conferences we go to. You put me on the panel, I give you all my secrets, I’ll probably do the same here. One of the things we realized early on is that in bringing on a new franchisee, it’s the first year and it’s especially the first, I’ll call it the first year, but also including the development piece.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (06:29):

So what we like to call the development cycle, we want to do it with white gloves, meaning, “Hey, guess what? You’ve never opened a restaurant before. You’ve never opened a franchise before. We have. We have experience there. So we want to put our great people, be they in franchise development, to explain to you all the nuances of the business and the business model. Then we want to hand you off to a fantastic real estate person who’s going to help you find the right real estate in your market because you may never have signed a commercial lease before and one that’s specifically for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. And then we move into, you’ve now got a TSC corporate representative that is working with you on the design and construction aspect.”

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (07:07):

That’s the area where I think we really add a ton of value with approved vendors and literally project managing. We’re not on the ground, we’re not flying out to the locations, but we’re having weekly cadence calls and we got a big old checklist of things that have to get done. That provides a lot of comfort to a franchisee that says, “You’ve built a lot of these and you have specific individuals.” And if you think of football, I was a quarterback in high school. I used to hand the ball off to the running back. So we talk about the handoff between departments. From design and construction, you then hand the ball off to the opening team, which really we have our own opening team now as well as field ops people. And those two teams converge to get that cafe opened and then supported through.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (07:47):

So that has been a really big piece because fast start, fast success is the way that we look at it. And then obviously what we have in place is a fantastic field ops system. We have almost 25 franchise business leaders that are out in the field as well as our field marketing team. So we have people out in the field that help as well. There’s that piece and then there’s a couple things. We did a really good job of investing ahead of growth. “Hey, we had a great franchise sales year. What do we need to do?” “Well, let’s sell more franchises.” “No, what we need is we need more operations people. We need more design and construction people. We need more real estate people.”

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (08:22):

And the various sponsors that we have or the various owners we’ve had over time bought into this idea that we can add additional GNA, as we call it, us corporate nerds, that are ready to support the tidal wave that’s coming. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job investing ahead. And in running the business going forward as we continue to scale, I think I called it on my panel last week, math works. And what I mean by that is if you’re going to open 100 new locations, how many new operations people you have? Well, if you want one operations person per 40 people, you better hire them six months ahead of time. So just really process-driven simplicity and focusing on hospitality and service to franchisees the way we want them to focus on our guest, I think is what’s been a key to our success.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:09):

That is very succinct and well said. I appreciate you sharing that. And one of the things I find interesting is a slight name change that you went to. Now, it’s been several years going from Tropical Smoothie to Tropical Smoothie Cafe, and I’m just interested how that kind of transition occurred with franchisees, customers, internal. Just talk through that a little bit because I’m sure other franchisers or other entrepreneurs may see a name change in the future for them, or product line addition.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (09:39):

Tropical Smoothie might even see something even newer in the future. You never know, Tom.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:40):

That’s right.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (09:44):

But Tom, there’s more than meets the eye because guess what? There’s been more than one name change. We have been in business 26 years. The business started as Tropical Smoothie, then the next name was Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Deli. We had about four years of that. Our two founders, Eric Jenrich and David Walker. Eric was a Blimpie subs and salads franchisee, David was a Subway franchisee. So at one point in time, Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Deli looked like a modern day Jersey Mike’s next to a modern day Smoothie King under the same roof. So we had a little run like that, but obviously we continued to progress the menu and get into a little bit more of an ownable space in terms of our products, etc.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (10:27):

The cafe piece, probably eight years ago, something like that. And it doesn’t matter what you tell the consumer, they’re going to call you whatever they want. I’ve heard us called Trop Smoothie, Tropical Smoothie, TSC. TSC would be good, but there’s a company called Tractor Supply Company that doesn’t like it when we say TSC. The cafe piece, and if you look at our logo, the cafe is bigger. Why? Tropical Smoothie, you know we have smoothies. We really wanted to accentuate the food aspect of our menu. Our business mix right now is 60% smoothie sales, 40% food sales. Guess how much that’s changed over the past five years? Not at all. Not at all.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (11:07):

So we got it up to 40%, and that seems to be about the mix that really works for us. At the end of the day, we are a smoothie-first brand. That is what people know us for, that is what they come for. But our innovation and some of the things we do on the food side, we think adds a lot of value. And guess what? The whole reason Eric and David as founders added food was because when they started Tropical Smoothie, they had the same issue they had back in the day with Subway and with Blimpie, they couldn’t drive enough sales. And when they were just doing smoothie, they couldn’t drive enough sales. So they added the food component and we’re now modern day Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (11:42):

So the only advice I would have to other entrepreneurs that have brands, early is better than late. The more units you have and the more franchisees that have to change out a $10,000 sign, the better. So try to think through that as best you can, but there is no way over the course of 15, 20, 25 years, there won’t be changes to your brand that make you think about, “Should we do a name change?” Or at a minimum, “How do we change the branding?” And that’s a challenge that we all face to stay top of mind and on point with our guests, our consumers.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:14):

Fantastic. Well, and just a quick side story here about one of your franchisees, multi-unit operator locally here in the Alpharetta area, by the way, fantastic. Has worked with my wife and the local PTO and just done great, great work.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (12:29):

Mike Haynes. Mike Haynes [inaudible 00:12:31].

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:30):

That’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (12:30):

Great guy.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:33):

That’s right. Shout out to Mike. Great franchisee, represents your brand very, very well. Great guy. And one of the things that I’m interested in, kind of the segue here to franchisees is really your transition is originally being the sales leader, franchise sales leader of the organization. And that’s one role and then transitioning into the CEO and the leader of the whole company now. So I’d love for you to talk through about your leadership transition and what that was like for you.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (13:01):

I do want to bring out a trend that I’m seeing, and obviously as I was coming up, as we get a VP of development and chief development officer, etc., I have a network of those folks in the industry. Think of John Teza as an example, who has had a great career and is with Hand & Stone now as their CEO. You are seeing more development leaders move into the CEO position. I have a hypothesis. Development and growth is pretty important for franchising from a grow the business, cashflow investors, owners, etc. We also know there’s a lot of private equity that has moved in and at the end of the day, you’re buying a company to grow it.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (13:38):

And so those development folks that have wider capacity and want to move into that seat, I think there’s more opportunity now for that than ever. Nobody is a used car salesman and franchise development these days anymore. So I think that’s one trend that’s going on. My transition, I’ll be honest with you, my thoughts were always, “I wanted to be more than a salesperson.” I am a salesperson at heart, you can tell, but I always wanted to be more than that. I call it in our organization, I want you to use your brain and your brawn. Sometimes we just got to suck it up and get stuff done. Sometimes we need to stop and think about things before we act. And I wanted to be able to use sort of both sides of my brain there.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (14:20):

Advice for anyone kind coming up the chain, making what you’re trying to do, aware to those that are above you. “Hey, I’m trying to grow. I’m trying to learn soon, but sometime I’d like to think about that, seek out mentors to be able to do that.” I did my job pretty well and I raised my hand. When opportunities come up for anyone in any career, hey, “Who’s going to paint the fence?” “I’ll paint the fence.” “Who’s going to get the water?” “I’ll get the water.” That’s how you move up. That’s how people learn to depend on you and Mike Rotondo and I got into that space where we were one and two.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (14:52):

He’s the boss, he’s the CEO, absolutely. But I was able to counsel him on something and I had earned his trust and I had gotten results because if you don’t get results, it doesn’t really matter. You have to get results. And so being able to be side-by-side with him for X number of years certainly helped me and got me off on a great trajectory. And then you got to get in it and you got to do it, Tom. Am I a chief marketing officer? I’m not. Am I a chief financial officer? I am not. I have learned like everyone else does. When you raise your hand and you take that thing and you don’t know how you’re going to do it, you better figure it out fast.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (15:27):

And that’s where hard work comes in, putting in the time, developing the relationships and learning as fast as you can so that you can create your own viewpoint. So I know enough to be dangerous now in some other areas of the business, and I’ve now created the confidence to be able to push forward my gut and my thought and my ideas and those ideas that are driven by analytics and data to feel more strongly about what I’m saying. What allowed me to do that, Tom, was people, was the team that is here at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. I’m fully aware that we have some very experienced C-suite people at Tropical Smoothie Cafe that made our ownership more comfortable putting me in that seat with less experience, because they knew I had some good handlers around me and our general counsel, Pete Ward, and our CFO, Paul Marsden, and our Chief development officer, Cheryl Fletcher.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (16:15):

So I’m in good company, so I had some room to make a few mistakes and still drive the business, so I’m very lucky in that regard.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:21):

One thing you said was interesting made me think about that you’re seeing this trend in development professionals moving into a leadership role, president, CEO, leading the organization. And how have you found that because you are the leader of the franchise development side and very often you’re going to have a relationship with those franchisees that are in the system you found that has helped or supported as you’ve made this transition?

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (16:47):

It’s incredibly helpful. It is. There’s just no way around it. When you sell someone a franchise, that can be a three-month process, a six month, every franchise is a little different in terms of how long that takes. But you’re developing a relationship, and when I look at our sales team now, I still stick my nose in over there every once in a while. The focus is on developing relationships with that franchise prospect to investigate Tropical Smoothie Cafe. We ain’t selling anything. They’re looking at us and we’re providing information back to them and they’re going to make the decision. On our side of the fence, we want to make sure that they’re a good fit and that they go in eyes wide, “Okay, what is a good fit?”

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (17:23):

What I mean by that is they need to be eyes wide open on what this business looks like, what it means to get up at 6:30 every day and go home at 10 o’clock every day in a retail business that you’re open and you’re on your feet all day. Our employee base, our Sunshine Squad, it’s 17 to 22. Managing 17 to 22 year olds is different than managing 35 to 45 year olds. So letting them know the business that they’re getting into, “Oh, cool, smoothies, food, yeah, this is great. Let’s go do it.” No, we’re going to tell you all the details to make sure that you’re fully informed. If we do that well, we should have people go, “No, this isn’t for me.” And that’s better for them and it’s better for us.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (18:04):

Having done that for a long time and getting to know 600, 700 of our franchisees absolutely is a great baseline because I know a lot of them personally, and we’ve worked together for 10, 12 years. So as I’ve moved into this role, I already had relationships. The relationships are important because I can now go to those franchisees and get their feedback, and I already have a relationship with them and they’re already comfortable in shooting me straight. When I came into the position I set up, I formalized a committee system. We have a Tropical franchise advisory. We have about five committees under that. And to get it going, somebody’s got to pick some people. So I knew some people to pick to get us going. Now we have elections and all that kind of stuff, but it’s been an incredible jumpstart to making better decisions as a CEO by being close with our franchisees.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (18:47):

Truth be told, we’ve sold a lot of franchises since I stopped selling franchise. And so now my opportunities, we have a Discover Day today. I spend the time to go get to know. I read the committee project summaries of who these new franchisees are to keep that team in check a little bit, stick my nose in as they say, but it’s incredibly valuable.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:06):

Charles, this is a great time in the show. We make a transition and we ask every guest before they go, the same four questions. The first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two on your journey and something you learned from it?

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (19:17):

Gosh, this may be a little off script, but one of the misses that I had in my life that I can now look back on and say, “Man, I wish I had done better there.” I’ll be honest with you, and maybe other people have this, college. I wish I had studied harder. I wish I had done more. I had such an opportunity, so much wealth of knowledge and professors and all this kind of stuff, and I was too busy playing football and drinking beer and studying the night before tests. As I look back, I’m like, “Man, that could have been such a great opportunity.” What does that mean? I’ve ended up all right. It’s all been okay. But that’s a personal internal like, “Man, I could have done better.” And there is nothing worse than disappointing yourself, and that’s really the lesson.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (19:58):

I try not to do things. I try to work at a level where I’m not going to win everything and I’m not going to make all the right decisions, but if I know I’m giving my all, I can feel good about it. Side note, I went back and got an MBA, and I feel like I lost the first game in college, but I won with the MBA. I studied, I went to class, blah, blah, blah. So I feel like I made up for it a little bit. And if I could, one other miss that I think I’ve had is a lot of times in our careers we’re working, work, and work, and drive.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (20:27):

And if you’re corporate, you’re trying to move up. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re trying to get more units or do whatever it is, having an attitude of gratitude, being thankful for the country we live in, capitalism, the amount of entrepreneurship we have in this country, the rule of law, the fact that we can put food on our tables pretty darn easily, the fact that we have shelter, all that stuff. When I get in a bad place and I’m bummed out about something, I try to take myself back to, “Man, we live in the best country in the world.” And most of us, and most of the people listening to this podcast, probably are in the top 1% of people on this planet. And that helps me to settle myself back down and go, “Things aren’t that bad.” So gratitude would be one and disappointing myself would be two misses.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:09):

Oh, thank you for sharing. Well, let’s look on the other side. Let’s talk about a make or two, some highlights that you’d like to share.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (21:17):

One of the, I’ve been proud of this franchise system over many, many things. And again, this is an old story, but I can’t think of one better. I think one of the makes was our franchise system during the pandemic. We gave away almost a quarter million smoothies to first responders, and nurses, and doctors, etc. when our franchisees literally had no business, they had no one walking in, they were scared, were trying to get PPP money, all this kind of stuff. And we as a team, as a Full Tropical Smoothie franchise or franchisee team came together and decided, “Let’s go do something for somebody else.” And we executed upon that, and I think it aided our business.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (21:58):

What that also led to though is bigger than that. It led to kind of what I would say, well, not kind of, it led to really the vision that we have for Tropical Smoothie, which is to inspire better. And when people say, “What is inspire better?” I usually say, “I don’t know. What does it mean to you?” It’s meant to be what does inspiring better mean to you? But that’s one example. What we found as a system is that when the chips are down, doing something for somebody else, man, that feels good. That releases endorphins in your brain. We’re all human beings, we’re all human animals or whatever, releases those endorphins and allows you to continue to plow forward.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (22:35):

So it’s almost back to my attitude of gratitude thing. Doing for others when times are tough is really important, and it fits really well with what we try to do and what our franchisees try to do to be the mayor of their communities and to own that three to five mile radius. So that activity, as hard as it was, has led to another level of culture and another level of team between franchisor and franchisee. So that to me was a pretty big make to get through that and to be able to pull the string through of what worked during that in a tough time. So that’s probably my biggest make.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:09):

Well, let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used maybe to grow yourself personally or professionally or maybe in growing Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (23:17):

So let me do personal for you real quick. Read, read, read. There’s a whole lot. There are no new ideas in the world. Everything that I have created at Tropical Smoothie from a culture perspective and a process perspective, I studied other people. I took the pieces I liked, I threw away the pieces I didn’t, and I put it together. Read, read, read. There is so much information out there, and if you put the time into it, you can get a lot smarter real fast. I can promise you that. That’s really probably my biggest personal one other than stick out the people that will make you better, that will mentor you, that will take the time. I think of John Teza, who I mentioned earlier.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (23:55):

I think of Brian Blosser, who’s now, he was my mentor and now he’s our VP of design and construction. He must’ve liked me all right, he must’ve been okay with me asking him lots of questions 10 years ago. People, people, people in those relationships, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nobody knows everything. And I try to do a good job of, as Chris Gardner said in the Pursuit of Happyness, remember that? Throw the rope back over. If you work hard and somebody helped you, throw the rope back over and help somebody else. I try to do my best to do that as well. So those are the personal ones. Ask for help and read.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (24:30):

From a business perspective, it’s all people. It’s all people. Businesses don’t exist. May I please speak to Tropical Smoothie cafe? There is no Tropical, it’s people. But I’ll leave you this equation. For me, it’s people plus purpose, ours is inspired better, plus process. We’re in the franchise business. It’s all about, “That’s great. Can you give me a one-page process document on that?” If you do those three things well, it will equal performance. That has been what we’ve really focused on at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:00):

Charles, the final question we ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (25:05):

Success to me is I think you have to have personal fulfillment, and I think you have to have safety. At the end of the day, you got to make a little money, you got to put a roof over your head, all that kind of stuff. So I think kind of Maslow’s hierarchy, once those needs are met, man, I think it’s all about the fulfillment, I’m kind of repeating myself, of doing for others. Because doing for others, throwing the rope back over, I’ve said it a couple of different ways. That is what leads to a fulfilled life. There’s a lot of people that have made a lot of money.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (25:32):

Some of them are happy and some of them are not very happy at all because it’s about what they do with their time and with their wealth and with whatever else it may be that drives them. So giving back is really giving to yourself at the end of the day. So success to me is being able to give back to others and to help others along the journey that you are lucky enough to have tried, and I know I’m an example of that.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:00):

Excellent. Well, as we bring this to a close, is there anything you’re hoping to share or maybe get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (26:07):

The only thing I would leave you with is something that’s kind of near and dear to my heart. In fact, it’s on the outside of my wall right now at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. It’s painted on there. And you heard me talk about people. I think it’s more than people. I think it’s the idea of trust and people trust, especially when we’re talking a franchise system and franchisees, etc. Trust is incredibly important. You got to trust that I’m going to show up for this interview, Tom, use a million examples. To me, I break it down like this. The T is for transparent. Tell it like it is, life is too short to put on a mask and act like something you’re not or say things that you’re not. Just be transparent. And in a franchise system, tell us what’s working and what isn’t.

Charles Watson, Tropical Smoothie Cafe (26:48):

Responsible. We got to be responsible. We’re all big boys and girls. We got to get the job done. You, unique, be your unique self, bring your whole self to work. We could call it DE&I, or we can call it just be yourself and be unique. And we respect that and we love that. The S, service oriented. For me, we’re in the hospitality business. We got to serve one another. I think service and serving other humans is the highest thing that you can do. That’s the best thing you can do. And last but not least, be tenacious. Get after it in everything you do. And if you do that, you’re going to have a lot of success and you’re going to develop great relationships.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:27):

Charles, thank you so much for a fantastic interview. And with all of the great information you shared, it’s made it hard to choose just three takeaways from your interview, but I’ll go ahead and do my best and share this information. So takeaway number one is when Charles shared how they’ve grown over the last 10 years and adding a thousand locations, and he served some information that was just a great reminder that you have no franchise system without your franchisees, and that they think about this internally, that franchisees sign the paychecks for the corporate staff and corporate team. So hard work is what creates a lot of franchisees, and you’re not able to sell a lot of franchisees without solid unit economics and average unit volume or AUV. So it really is fundamental and core, but as he’s describing, that takeaway is making sure you’re focused on franchisee success.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:24):

Takeaway number two is when he shared a miss that he had when he was in college. And I thought that was just a great description where he said he didn’t quite study as hard as he would’ve liked to. Now, he made up for it in graduate school as he shared, but there were great opportunities there. And so that served as a reminder and a purpose for him to have an attitude of gratitude because there are so many things to be thankful for.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:48):

Takeaway number three is when he shared the make that he described at their franchise system, when during COVID they were able to give away over 250,000 smoothies to first responders. Their goal is to inspire better at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Just thought as a great example of inspiring better and what they were able to do during such a difficult and challenging time.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:16):

And now it’s time for today’s win-win. Today’s win-win comes from when Charles shared his multiplier and he listed a few different items. One suggestion he had was to read and he said, “You’re able to learn from others and keep the things that you like and will work for you and leave what doesn’t.” He also said, “Seek out people that make you better.” And the third thing he said was, “When you reach some level of success or achievement to make sure that you throw the rope back over,” essentially helping someone else get over and giving back in some way to help someone else in a similar situation.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:58):

And the final thing that he summarized all of this up with, he gave us a formula that he has used to multiply, which is people plus purpose plus process equals performance. And so that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.

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