As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Titus. Ray is the CEO of United Franchise Group, a group of affiliated companies and brands that share a common business expansion approach — franchising. Mr. Titus is a life-long entrepreneur who began his career with his father, franchising legend Roy Titus, and went on to develop a group of successful brands and franchise development services. Today, the company has over 1600 franchisees in more than 80 countries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Besides my dream of becoming a professional athlete (I loved basketball growing up), the only career I’ve ever wanted is this one. My father was an entrepreneur and an amazing role model and mentor to me. I started my work in this business when I was 23 years old in 1986 and never looked back.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
In the early years, our company faced a major lawsuit that almost put us out of business. We hadn’t done anything wrong but proving it was extremely challenging. When you know you’re in the right, it can be difficult accepting any outcome other than the case being dismissed or the company being exonerated. We ended up spending many years on this and lots of money in legal fees. We finally ended up settling the case. By doing so, we learned that mediation and coming to a mutual understanding about differences is usually better (and less expensive) than fighting.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
#1 Hard work — outperform everyone, every day.
#2 Recruit the best people and franchisees.
#3 Set high standards and goals — for yourself and others.
#4 Hold everyone (including yourself) accountable.
#5 Plan strategically each year.
What are the 5 things I wish someone told me before I became a CEO
#1 What you say matters — speak less and listen more.
#2 Be prudent voicing your personal beliefs all the time. Leadership is more about doing the right thing for the company, not necessarily for yourself.
#3 If you hire family and friends, be prepared to fire family and friends!
#4 Get comfortable saying no.
#5 Good leaders delegate, but great leaders are never above doing any task necessary to help the company succeed.
What advice would you give your colleagues to help them thrive and not burn out?
#1 Always arrange private time with your spouse. My wife and I take morning walks regularly before our days get hectic.
#2 When you are at home, be at home. “Turn the office off” once you walk through your front door.
#3 Plan real family vacations — not “working vacations” where you’re still connected to the office while you’re away.
#4 Have dinner with your family every night. It gives you and your loved ones a chance to stay connected.
#5 Go to church on Sunday.
Nobody is able to achieve success without receiving some help along the way. Is there a particular person or persons you are grateful for, who helped you get where you are today?
I’ve been blessed with three great champions in my life — my dad, Roy Titus; mentor, Gary Rockwell; and my father-in-law, J.J. Prendamano. Each of these men inspired me and provided me with the tools I’d eventually need to be a good leader. They listened and gave advice when I needed it. Most importantly, they were honest with me — whether I wanted to hear what they had to say or not — and especially if it was something I needed to learn.
What goals do you still have and are working to accomplish?
One of my personal goals is to continue to be a lifelong learner. That’s why I challenged myself this year to read 50 books. I believe the more I learn, the better I’m able to face whatever lies ahead. This is important to me because I’ll eventually be passing along my company to the next generation. It’s my responsibility to train them to make it their own and achieve new levels of success. Hopefully I’ll pass along the spirit of lifelong learning.
What do you hope your lasting legacy will be?
That I was a positive force in a negative world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some important way, what would it be?
A positive movement. To look for the good in everyone and stop talking about the bad. If we’re always focused on the negative, we miss the positives around us. Having a positive outlook attracts other positive people and opportunities to you.