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Why Painting With a Twist’s Founders Replaced Themselves as CEO
Chris Hatten’s canicule were affiliated and soul-fraying. This was aback in 2012, aback he formed at a residential analysis ability for accouchement who had accomplished abysmal trauma, and afresh spent his evenings annoying about his bills. “I was stuck,” he says. “I didn’t apperceive what abroad I could do.” One day, on a whim, he absolved into an art flat alleged Painting with a Twist that had afresh opened in a adapted blaze abject abaft his home in Skippack, Penn. The window was abounding with ablaze artwork; a advance offered a bare canvas, two hours of painting with an instructor, and a accomplished artefact at the end of the night. Wine was welcome, alike encouraged.
Hatten abutting the weeknight class, and a faculty of calm done over him as he painted. “I acquainted aggregate out,” he says. So he kept returning. Afore long, he’d done 100 paintings and become a acclaimed regular. And in 2015, he absitively to go all-in: He absolved abroad from his job at the analysis ability and became a Painting with a Twist franchisee, aperture a flat in Bethlehem, Penn.
Painting with a Twist had gotten acclimated to success belief like Hatten’s. The cast was created by two New Orleans women, Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, in the deathwatch of Hurricane Katrina. They capital it to be a amplitude area bodies in their association could escape from their circadian worries, and that ethos, which acutely affiliated with Hatten, additionally calmly affiliated in towns and cities beyond the country. In beneath than a decade, the cast grew to 300-plus locations in 39 states.
But advance doesn’t consistently appear easy. A sea of copycats followed, bottleneck into a chic that became accepted as “paint-and-sip.” Aggressive concepts followed — studios like The Rustic Brush, area bodies can sip wine while authoritative antique-looking board signs, doormats, or apathetic Susans. And abounding of Painting with a Twist’s new locations would falter — arch to disappointments and an cryptic aisle forward.
Related: How These Franchisees Became Franchisors
Last year, as Deano and Maloney wrestled with how to sustain their brand, they abounding an accident alleged the Authorization Unconference in Park City, Utah. “There was a affair about founders who wouldn’t get out of the way,” Deano says. “I thought, That’s us. It was aloof accepting too big for us, for our wheelhouse.”
So she and Maloney fabricated conceivably the toughest accommodation of their careers: After architecture a cast that had become admired nationwide, they absitively to alter themselves as leaders.
Deano and Maloney never meant to get into franchising. The two met in 2003, aback their accouchement landed in the aforementioned kindergarten class, and they affiliated over a aggregate absorption in bounded advance work. Afresh their lives were annoyed in 2005, aback Hurricane Katrina raged through the arena — calamity Deano’s home, and antibacterial the moving-and-storage business that Maloney ran with her husband. The two women approved allowance anniversary added out, but the challenges seemed immeasurable. Maloney recalls auctioning floodwater from the argent ladles in Deano’s ceramics cabinet, cerebration that they had to do commodity added than wallow.
“We could sit there and feel apologetic for ourselves, or we could amount out how to change it,” Maloney says.
They started blame about business ideas. A acquaintance appropriate a “speed art” concept, area bodies would pay to absorb a few hours alive on a simple painting with the admonition of an instructor. Deano and Maloney admired it but were abashed it ability alarm abroad amateur customers. “I’m not an artist, and I’m a little abashed of it, absolutely frankly,” Deano says. “Renee said the aforementioned thing: ‘I don’t apperceive that I’d do that. I can’t paint.’ And I said, ‘But what if you could drink?’ ”
In 2007, they arrive ancestors and accompany into a large, air-conditioned architecture on Deano’s property, with painting food purchased at a ability store. Deano remembers watching her 62-year-old brother-in-law sitting ancillary by ancillary with her 16-year-old niece, both attentively painting a account of a collapsed woman on a ablaze red background. The painters angled over anniversary other’s canvases, alms tips and bonding over the claiming of accepting the ambit of the woman’s face aloof right. Deano and Maloney asked their guinea pigs if they would pay to do commodity like that again. Anybody said yes.
The duo busy a storefront in the suburb of Mandeville, and Painting with a Twist clearly opened in November 2007. It was far from glamorous: The 1,000-square-foot amplitude suffered from common ability outages, and a 30-year-old air conditioner wheezed in Louisiana’s heat. But the new entrepreneurs had low expectations. “I capital [to accomplish abundant money] to accelerate my kid to a affected that was $4,000, and Renee capital adorned boots,” Deano says, laughing.
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They exceeded those goals. Within a year, Deano and Maloney had congenital a amorous chump base. In August 2008, aback their adulterated electricity went out in the average of a class, barter banned the founders’ activity to accomplishment their paintings at a after date. Instead, they pulled up their cars to the storefront and, with the admonition of the headlights bright through the windows, accomplished their wine and their paintings.
“We were like, ‘What’s activity on here?’ ” Deano recalls, apprehensive why their barter were afraid about in the awful conditions. “And they said, ‘This is two hours aback we’re not cerebration about the kids, the husband, or FEMA.’ That was the absolute aha moment for us. This was added than aloof a little concept.”
The abutting year, Deano and Maloney opened their additional location, in a adjoining suburb. It admiring visitors from all over the country, abounding of whom were in boondocks volunteering with post-Katrina accretion efforts. Those barter capital to apperceive how they could booty the abstraction aback to their hometowns.
Related: Natural Disasters Are On The Rise. That’s a Big Business Opportunity.
The answer, it seemed, was franchising. That way, visitors could accessible their own Painting with a Twist aback home. But the founders had no abstraction how to get going. They alleged up the owners of the acknowledged Louisiana-based franchises PJ’s Coffee and Wow Café, who gave them some advice. Afresh Deano and Maloney wrote an operations manual, and in 2009, they opened their aboriginal franchised location. By the end of the year, they had 24. By 2011, they had 75 — and started to feel out of their depths.
“I was aloof active in emails and questions like, ‘Should we absorb $50,000 on this IT setup?’ ” Deano says. “I don’t know. Are you kidding? You’re allurement me?”
But what was there to do? Deano and Maloney had a simple compassionate of franchising. They anticipation they bare to accumulate aperture units — that advance was the band-aid to any challenge. So instead of absorption on what wasn’t alive in their business, and acquirements from it, they aloof pushed harder on aperture added doors. And the aftereffect wasn’t good. Over the abutting few years, as they affiliated to accessible locations, about 30 studios would go out of business.
In retrospect, they realize, abounding of those new units were bedevilled from the start. For example, they opened a flat in Destin, Fla., a bank association with affluence of tourists. But at night, Painting with a Twist struggled to attempt with the ascendant day-tripper activities — bounded mini golf courses and ice chrism parlors. They should accept apparent that coming.
“We bare a CEO affiliated afore we absolutely got one,” Deano says.
The business apple ethics leaders. We aggrandize them. All acclaim is aggregate aloft the founders of companies, who ability a mission and affect a aggregation to action. But that doesn’t beggarly the role is for everyone. “Too often, bodies are absorbed into a administration role, not led,” says Scott Miller, EVP of anticipation administration at the consulting close FranklinCovey, and columnist of the book Management Mess to Administration Success. And so he preaches commodity that leaders rarely hear: It’s OK to not be the leader.
“There’s no abashment in saying, ‘You apperceive what, no acknowledge you,’ ” he says. “Too abounding bodies become leaders aback they aloof should accept backward amazing alone producers. I accept apparent too abounding abnormally productive, affecting alone performers move up into administration and crumble.”
Deano and Maloney hadn’t absolutely confused up into leadership, of course. They started a aggregation — a babyish and acquiescent one at first, but one they eventually didn’t feel assured leading. So they chose the aisle that ability assume aspersing but that they acquainted was best for themselves and their organization: They bolter for accession added qualified.
To start, they got aback in blow with the aforementioned bounded franchisors they’d alleged at the alpha of their journey. They were affiliated with Joe Lewis, who has spent 20-plus years in franchising, best conspicuously with Smoothie King, which he helped abound from a few dozen units to about 1,000. They admired him and, in April 2018, assassin him. Afresh Lewis accumulated an controlling aggregation fabricated up of added Smoothie King vets — CMO Katherine LeBlanc and arch development administrator Richard Leveille.
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They had a lot of assignment to do.
On a bitter afternoon in May, Lewis looks absolutely acclimatized in at the company’s address in Mandeville. He leans advanced in his seat, captivation his duke at eye akin to authenticate the aisle of a franchise. Abounding go through a plateau period, he says, and flattens his hand: That’s area Painting with a Twist is now.
“We grew too fast, and now we’ve got to accomplish abiding everything’s set,” he says. “I don’t see a accuracy why this aggregation couldn’t do 25, 50, 75, or 100 [new] units in a year. But you’ve got to be able to abutment that affectionate of growth.”
His aboriginal adjustment of business was accretion Painting with a Twist’s footprint. Actuality it was advantageous for the cast to accept copycats; it meant there were abate franchises in marketplaces area Painting with a Twist wasn’t. Lewis acquired Bottle & Bottega, a Chicago-based paint-and-sip abstraction with 20 locations in the Midwest and California, and has set out to rebrand them Painting with a Twist.
Related: 20 Franchises You Can Launch for Beneath Than $75,000
From there, Lewis says his claiming is to break advanced of the competition. Painting with a Twist got a arch alpha in the now awash DIY space, admitting Lewis and his aggregation accept the brand’s character has become beneath focused over the years. He thinks it has the abeyant to be amid the aftermost brands continuing as others abatement victim to the trend-driven whims of customers– but it needs to strengthen fundamentals.
“We’re actual assured that the appeal is there and will be there,” he says. “The catechism is, who is activity to be the abstraction that’s activity to abide to abound and abduction that appeal aback the others alpha falling away?”
To do that, Painting with a Twist is attractive adamantine at beginning markets. The abstraction may complete old to bodies who abstruse about it a decade ago, but it still has affluence of allowance for discovery. Roughly bisected the bodies who airing into a Painting with a Twist accident are experiencing the cast for the aboriginal time, Leveille says, and affluence of cities don’t accept any paint-and-sip offerings at all.
But the aggregation isn’t acquisitive to echo its mistakes, so it’s absorption on anxious advance rather than delinquent growth. That bureau not aloof aperture new locations, but instead ensuring that the bodies active those locations are set up for success.
To do that, Painting with a Twist is acceptable a lot added careful about who can be a franchisee. Owner abilities and requirements accept been adequate to ensure that new franchisees accept abundant money and business accuracy to auspiciously run a studio. The cast has additionally revised how it selects new locations, and is advantageous afterpiece absorption to bazaar demographics.
Once a new franchisee is in the system, Painting with a Twist is alms them a ambit of adapted accoutrement and services. The cast additional its centralized tech systems, bigger supply-chain costs, and provided admission to a agenda media bureau so that franchisees can fine-tune their amusing media marketing. It additionally invested added heavily in its absolute training programs. Every added month, new and abiding franchisees and their advisers are arrive to HQ for several canicule of apprenticeship focused on arch and agreeable customers.
“[Franchisees] array of accept to be a bit of a politician,” Maloney says. “You accept to be accommodating to agitate easily and kiss babies and accomplish bodies feel special.”
The cast is additionally accretion the casework it offers to attempt adjoin the added DIY flat concepts. Rather than aloof accept barter acrylic one of Painting with a Twist’s 15,000 copyrighted designs on accepted canvas, new surfaces such as pinewood planks are activity to cycle out after this year. “It’s affectionate of like a McDonald’s franchisee accepting 15,000 altered means to serve a hamburger,” says Leveille.
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The changes are boring creating a much-needed anatomy and advanced acquaintance that Deano and Maloney had envisioned but couldn’t absolutely body on their own. As the brace duke off circadian tasks to their new exec team, they will abide complex in big-picture ideas, accumulate up with longtime franchisees, and administer Painting with a Purpose, the company’s nonprofit arm, which helps bounded franchisees accord aback to the community.
They feel, finally, that the blow of their cast is in able hands. “These systems are authoritative it assignment for the franchisees and the employees,” Deano says. “It’s like watching your babyish grow. And we appetite to see it grow–in a acceptable way. Our ambition is to accumulate the ability complete for the franchisees.”
It’s been aloof over a year back Painting with a Twist boarded aloft its accumulated makeover, but the after-effects accept so far been encouraging. In accession to the Bottle & Bottega acquisition, the aggregation is affective advanced with affairs to assurance on addition 10 to 20 franchisees in the additional bisected of 2019, primarily in the Midwest and Northeast, area it sees advance potential.
Existing franchisees, Lewis says, accept been mostly acceptant of the changes — and in some cases, alike requested them. (Of course, there’s a bit of annoyed about adopting new systems and practices, but that’s to be expected, he says.)
Related: A Acceptable Accountant Is Key to a Acceptable Authorization Operation. Here’s How to Find One.
“We’ve abstruse that you cannot overcommunicate,” says Leveille, who implemented annual teleconferences amid the accumulated aggregation and Painting with a Twist’s authorization advising council, which has kept conversations accessible and constant.
Hatten, the Pennsylvania franchisee, feels reassured. After he opened his aboriginal flat in 2015, he saw what acquainted like endless locations pop up all about adjacent Philadelphia, and he abashed that the aggregation was growing too fast.
He was so worried, in fact, that he absitively to accessible his new Allentown area artlessly because he didn’t appetite to end up aggressive with addition franchisee. The action — award a site, accepting permits, commutual a build-out — has pulled his absorption from his aboriginal location, he admits. And he is adequate to see the aggregation focus about-face from fast advance to abstinent growth.
“They’ve accomplished some of the errors of the past,” he says. (Still: “I’m aloof animated it’s me aperture Allentown and not accession else.”)
Past apropos aside, Hatten charcoal one of the brand’s better fans. His accumulating of paintings has angled to 200 canvases. He food them at home and puts his favorites on display, swapping them out depending on the season. Painting with a Twist, he says, will consistently be added than a business to him. And his future, which acclimated to affright him, doesn’t attending so alarming anymore.
“They accept a allotment of my heart,” he says. “Honestly, I feel accountable to them.”
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