A sunny future Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Todd Beckman gets up early. He says the drive to be successful propels him out of bed at 5:30 a.m., to the gym for a good workout and straight through a 10-hour workday at The Tan Co., the tanning franchise company that he founded.

That drive gives the president and CEO the energy he needs to keep his company on the edge of change and also serves as inspiration for his employees, who have helped him grow The Tan Co. to 72 stores in 13 states and $30 million in 2007 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Beckman about how to earn the respect of your employees and why CEOs should always have their phones on.

Q. What advice would you give to other CEOs?

Build respect with your employees and the leadership to where they want to look up to you and to the point where they want your job. Show your appreciation to them.

You need to show them that you’ll do the work, too. Show them that you’re not worried about telling somebody to do the job that you won’t do. That’s what’s got me to the level that I am at with the respect of our employees.

That friendship and that love between the CEO and their employees just has to be there. They just have to like you.

Q. What are pitfalls that a CEO should try to avoid?

A big one is just taking their eyes off of the game. Leaders can’t be thinking that everyone else is going to do it for them. They need to stay on it every day themselves and make sure they’re in control and have a great team underneath them.

You should be involved every day. I’m on it every day, seven days a week. I’m never more than one phone call away.

From every franchisee to every manager, they all have my number. That’s just always been my motto. I’m always going to be there.

Q. How do you attract quality employees?

We start from the ground up with most of our employees. We look at them from young kids to growing into management.

When we train them from the very beginning when they first get a job, they end up being the most successful employees we have.

They live it, and they learn it the way we want them to learn it, and they love it the way we love it.

It makes them so motivated to love that brand. That’s what makes them strive to be a winner.

We really work hard in developing winners — all the way to where we hope they can own their own franchise store.

Q. How do you train employees?

I try to lead them with the way I would want the business run. There’s a lot of motivation, a lot of training. Understanding what they’re doing is important — living the job, loving the job. Expressing that throughout the whole team; that’s pretty much what I focus on.

If they’re not liking what they’re doing, then we’ve got to find somebody else.

Q. What are some other ways you motivate employees?

We have a complete commission structure and bonuses for them to receive. We have your normal 401(k) as well as a car program. We will logo their car and pay them to be advertising on their car.

That’s a really big incentive. They really love it, especially the younger kids. It helps them buy a new car.

We put $5,000 toward their franchise fee after they’ve been with us for one year. We’re always driving to keep them happy.

Q. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in business?

The greatest challenge for us is just getting to the customers, getting to the possible franchisees and letting them know what a great plan we have. Just getting the leads to show people how successful this brand and program is to get them involved.

Q. How do you communicate your vision to your employees?

We have a newsletter that goes out every Friday, which keeps franchisees updated on every single thing that’s going on from a week-to-week basis. We have a VP of operations who can handle any e-mails back or phone calls back from all franchisees.

Everyone has my telephone number, too. So if they see an issue or see something that is not getting done, they can call me.

HOW TO REACH: The Tan Co., (636) 305-8222 or www.thetanco.com