Adventures in Franchise Recruitment: Getting to Know Cam Cummins

Cameron Cummins with his wife, son and two daughters on a brisk Chicago day.

Cameron Cummins has spent the last year getting his emerging franchise incubation organization, Pivotal Growth Partners, off the ground. Between Cam and his business partner Bryon Stephens (who you might recognize if you’re a fan of CBS’s Undercover Boss), PGP’s co-founders offer a combined 50+ years of franchise industry experience to emerging franchises hoping to grow.

Cam’s own record of business growth speaks for itself. With nearly 30 years of experience expanding some of the world’s most widely recognized brands (think Lexus, A&W, Bob’s Big Boy, Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts, Long John Silver’s, Yum! Brands, and, most recently, Marco’s Pizza) and still going strong, he’s at the top of his game.

We sat down with Cam to take a look at the man behind the curtain and learn about the key people and motivators that have driven his career in franchising.

Kristian Einstman: You’ve been in the franchise industry for almost three decades. But what initially drove you to it?

Cameron Cummins: In the early part of my career, I was looking for a way to see compensation proportionate to my work output. Just out of college I had to learn, literally, learn how to work. I did, and that meant that I was working more and harder than my peers without being rewarded for it. I hoped that moving into franchise sales would translate to that kind of model – I was ultimately right about that, but it also took a change of industry.

I later started my own company and grew companies through results-driven marketing. And that work, because I had more personal accountability, was more rewarding. And that’s also what pushed Bryon and I to team up and jump into Pivotal Growth Partners.

KE: How do you measure the success of a franchise salesperson?

CC: What makes you really good – it’s really about creating a meaningful relationship with the person considering the investment. It’s not about selling – we’ve been pulling “sales” out of the titles in our organizations for years. It’s about treating franchisees’ money as if it was our own money. We want to grow the business but, more importantly, we want to do what’s right.

KE: Was there someone in your life that you’d consider a mentor, that was essential to getting you where you are now?

CC: There are really four. And I kind of learned different things from all of them.

  • My parents. I come from an entrepreneurial family. My dad owned his own company. My mom, when she couldn’t find a good nearby nursery school for us kids, started her own nursery school – and ending up owning a few more after that. I learned my work ethic from them.
  • My college roommate, Stuart Frankel. He went on to start his own company that has become the leading edge of AI and interpretation of big data – his number one investor is the CIA.
  • Dave Illingworth. He was there when I got started out of college and he taught me how to work. He taught me that you don’t go home until every phone call is returned, until everything you promised to do is done.
  • My wife, Ana. Ana’s influence has been crucial because you need that support system. You need someone to be there saying “Why don’t you go for it?” And that’s what she’s always been for me.

KE: What do you wish you knew earlier in your career?

CC: A few things, actually.

I think I’ve learned more about business in the last 18 months than I have in my whole career. Learning how to structure a company, learning how to finance a company, term sheets – it’s totally a different universe. So, I wish I would have realized earlier on how important it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and into new avenues to ensure continuous learning.

I also wish I’d learned earlier in my career that the journey is more important. I know now that, because we’ve been successful in the past, we’ll be successful in the future. I didn’t realize that earlier and I wasn’t enjoying the journey. Before I’d say, “I would cut off both my arms to get to where we have to get to,” but now I like where I am. I like the long road with the bumps and bruises.

Finally, there’s people with positive energy and people with negative energy. You’re going to run into all of them. The stuff we’ve overcome and solved in the last 18 months has been amazing, but sometimes it’s a battle at every step. If you’re surrounded by negative people and it’s a battle every day, you’re in the wrong spot. You need positive people that will rise to meet those challenges and keep pushing forward.

Our partnership with the franchise growth team at PGP started just last year when they brought us on to develop their brand, website, and information materials as they presented their concept to investors all over the country. With their funding in place, ‘t’s crossed and ‘i’s dotted, they’ve jumped right in and started growing impressive up-and-comers like Conrad’s Grill, Vitality Bowls and Balance Grille.

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