Learning from Leaders: IFA Leadership Conference’s Amit Kleinberger of Menchie’s

Amit Y. Kleinberger, Menchie's CEOAlright, franchise friends—you’ve now had a chance to meet our three distinguished IFA Leadership Conference panelists over the past couple of weeks. But now we’re here for the big reveal, our keynote speaker: Mr. Amit Kleinberger, CEO of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt.

Menchie’s is the world’s largest self-serve frozen yogurt franchise. If you haven’t held a cup of Menchie’s in your hand yet, you’re likely to soon; Menchie’s has nearly 500 stores in over 40 states across the U.S., and in 14 countries like China, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Canada, India, and more. And that’s not all—Menchie’s is currently developing over 500 additional locations around the world!

The most impressive part? Amit’s team started franchising in 2008. If you do the math, that’s an average of about 71 new franchise locations each year!

As you’re all now well aware, success in franchising does not happen by accident. Like our other panelists, there was and is a reason for Amit’s team’s tremendous achievements.

Amit’s Story

Amit has always believed that he was born to be an entrepreneur.

For that reason, his major first stint in leadership might surprise you. Amit was an active duty commander and sergeant in an infantry combat unit. He speaks fondly of his time serving: “The military is, in my view, one of the finest institutions in the world for leadership due to the fact that you’re making life and death decisions rather than decisions that impact a business scenario.”

It was there that he learned one of his first crucial lessons about leadership: “Leadership is about understanding that people don’t do what they need to do; they do what they want to do.” To help curb this natural disposition, Amit made it his duty to lead by example—to demonstrate that both individual and communal success are a product of good decision making.

Upon return from the military, Amit’s hunger for entrepreneurship was finely tuned. Utilizing the leadership training gained during his military tenure, he built several businesses in retail, wholesale and health care.

But it was not until 2008 that Amit got an—excuse the pun—taste for franchising. It was in that year that he and fellow business partners began franchising Menchie’s.

We knew at the time that we had an opportunity in the frozen dessert category, as we cultivated a brand experience that the world could appreciate.

Boy, was he right! Since 2008, Amit has risen to entrepreneurial distinction, appearing as a speaker with the International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Association, in numerous television segments, and two very special appearances on CBS’s Emmy Award-winning hit television show “Undercover Boss.”

During this time, he has fallen in love with franchising. He loves the elements of communication between franchisor and franchisee and, of course, between the team and the guests in stores. More than anything else, he takes pride in his talented team; together, they have built a brand that is making the world a better place. Menchie’s #1 goal is to make people smile.

What He’s Learned

When it comes to leadership, Amit warns against taking success as the end all, be all: “Success [should only] be a motivator to continue to do great things. I don’t believe in brands staying stagnant; there is always a lot to do and a lot to innovate and accomplish.”

That said, Amit points to two guiding principles that have allowed his team to shape such progress in a relatively short period of time, both of which he’ll tackle during his IFA Leadership Conference keynote:

  1. Taking a people-centric approach to company culture
  2. Utilizing experiential branding to sell your products

Companies don’t build or produce products. People do that. It’s the ability of the team to gather around one mission and to inspire each other into action. Put your mind and soul around caring for the people [you work with] and you will be able to create a great brand.

For more from our esteemed keynote, Amit Kleinberger, along with his panel of franchise experts, Heidi Ganahl, John Rotche and Meg Roberts, register for the annual IFA Leadership Conference today. We’ll see you there, Sunday, February 15 at 11:30 a.m. PST.

Want even more from Amit? Check him out on Deb Evans’ Google Hangout video as he discusses what’s to come at IFA 2015.

We’ll see you there.

Note: re:group is a sponsor of this event.

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