The Learning Experience CEO: Focus On The Brand And Growth Will Come

What would you say are the big challenges that you face in your day-to-day and long term as well?

I’m getting older. That’s my challenge. You know, we have an exceptional management team here at corporate. So, I think the company’s run exceptionally well. Our business has historically been recession proof and that includes 2008 through 2012. So, as a recession-resistant business, I wouldn’t say that I’m losing sleep on economies floating up and down.

It would be more so probably just what I said, am I going to get in the way of the overall growth of the organization as a CEO? You know, am I going to hold them back? Am I a CEO that should run 500 centers? Am I a CEO who should run 5,000 centers? It’s just always the conversation, for anybody in the organization to make sure that we grow for the strength that we are as an executive. And sometimes, you know, executives don’t look at themselves in the mirror. Or they don’t bring on enough talent within the structure to support the overall growth.

Every day we grow is one additional center I am a new CEO to. I now have hundreds of TLE centers. And 180 centers are in development. So, each day is a new experience for me. How do you grow a company that big? But I have talent around me that have worked for very large brands and I have high respect for like Starbucks, etc. That have run 14,000 units. So if I put ego aside and allow the talent around me to culminate with our culture and allow us to motivate the entire engine… I think that the company will continue to grow, as it has very successfully.

How have you evolved as a leader?

I am 54-years-old. I am a very, very different leader now than when I was in my 20s. I was very, very focused in my earlier generations on numbers, numbers, numbers. Like I didn’t care who you were, your family, or if you were married or had kids. All I cared about is how you contributed the value of the EBITDA growth.

That has changed drastically. I’m a 180-degrees different today. Whereby, I really motivate the quality of life. I motivate your belief in me. I motivate and enforce the value of you as an individual. And I want to listen to you. And then I believe once I gain loyalty, everything else comes. And so, I’m a much more mature leader than I’ve ever been. I’m much more caring as an individual.

That’s been a maturity that I have gone through. I also believe that there are very few entrepreneurial CEOs that can survive high growth mechanism vehicles where private equity comes into play, etc. I believe I’ve been able to accomplish that because now I’m onto my third private equity group. Primarily because I’ve been able to attract top-tier talent and allow top-tier talent [to be creative]. I haven’t suffocated top-tier talent. I’ve allowed them to be creative. I’ve allowed them to perform. I’ve allowed them to feel value to the brand and that they are creative to the overall goals and initiatives of the organization. And many CEOs just can’t get that. Many young CEOs don’t get that either. So, that’s again, all part of the maturity that I’ve experienced over the decades.

Read more: Securing Capital to Grow and Innovate