Mark Sanborn | Rethink, Reinvent, and Renew — Things To Think About During Career Transition

On this week’s episode of the Franchise Freedom Podcast, we speak with special guest Mark Sanborn. Mark is president of Sanborn and Associates Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. He is also an international best selling author and award-winning keynote leadership speaker and advisor to leaders, teaching how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. His latest book is The Intention Imperative: 3 Essential Changes That Will Make You a Successful Leader Today.

“I’ve done a lot of work with a lot of franchise organizations around the United States and I’ve met a lot of successful franchisees and franchisors, and one of the things I like about that space that franchises operate in is that you have a couple of things that the average entrepreneur doesn’t have right out of the gate— that is a proven system and big support network,” says Mark.

We chat about Sanborn and Associates, as well as:

  • Learning from your setbacks
  • Mark’s three R’s of business— rethink, reinvent, and renew
  • His advice for those looking to make career transitions
  • The importance of maintaining the passion you had on day one throughout the duration of your business
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host, Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. We are speaking with Mark Sanborn. Mark is president of Sanborn and Associates Inc, an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international best selling author and award-winning keynote leadership speaker and advisor to leaders teaching how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and has a client list of over 2600.

Mark has written eight books, and the Fred Factor has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. That’s pretty amazing. His latest book is The Intention Imperative: 3 Essential Changes That Will Make You a Successful Leader Today. Back in 2019, last year he was ranked number five leadership expert in the world by Pretty amazing. Mark, wanted to welcome you to the show today.

Mark Sanborn: Well, thank you, Giuseppe. Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to sharing some ideas with you and your listeners.

Giuseppe: Yes, I’m very excited, and very impressive bio. It’s a lot of books to sell. I definitely hope to follow in your footsteps here. So, just like to start the show, just for everyone listening in, fill us in a little bit on your background, how did you get into this business and what does that journey look like?

Mark’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Mark: Sure. Well, I came out of a sales and marketing background. I actually started selling part-time in college. And I also started speaking part-time in college. I’d come up through the Future Farmers of America, now called FFA and four H and some other youth organizations where I had taken an interest in learning how to be a public speaker. And in college, I was able to convert my interest and my hobby into a part-time profession. I became a full-time speaker 33 years ago.

This is my 33rd year in the business. And probably what, if I were going to, if I were asked what I’m most proud of, it’s the 33 years because, you know, the speaking business is a lot like the entertainment business. You know, it’s very flavor of the day newest, greatest, next best thing. And whenever somebody falls off a tall building and lives they think, well, there’s another competitor, because, you know, he’ll be out there talking about how to overcome catastrophe.

And I’m only saying that partly tongue in cheek because we’re always looking for new ideas. And so for me, I’m not the new kid on the block. I hope what’s driven by business is a valuable message that’s designed to help people improve their businesses and their lives. That, to me, is the test of whether or not I’m doing good work.

Giuseppe: Right. So 33 years, I should say, in business. You don’t hear that very often. People, you know, you tend to hear about the brand new business starting out. It’s very difficult just to start any business. Doesn’t matter if it’s a, you know, whatever industry you’re in. So what advice would you give to someone that has been in business and, you know, maybe they’re hitting their first few years, or maybe they’re even hitting year 10, to staying in business for 33 years?

Creating Long-Term Sustainability in Business

Mark: I’ve done a lot of work with a lot of franchise organizations around the United States and I’ve met a lot of successful franchisees and franchisors. And one of the things I like about that space that you operate in, Giuseppe, and that your clients operate in is that you have a couple of things that the average entrepreneur doesn’t have right out of the gate. That is a proven system and big support network. And most solopreneurs, you know, when they start out, other than friends and relatives and maybe a partner business partner or two, they’re making it up as they go along.

And that, of course, is a wonderful thing and I admire people that can do that. But one of the thing that I’ve noticed and to me, and you can tell me if I’m wet behind the ears or not, is that a lot of people get into a franchise business and they are very successful and they learn the business but then they start to play around with it. And I’ve had franchisors say to me, you know what, we just want people to follow the system because when they don’t, it makes the system off-kilter. So you’ve got kind of two tracks you’ve got to stay in between.

One is being a very good business operator, and the other is being innovative without going outside that, you know, coloring outside the lines, you know, without imposing a difficulty or creating a conflict between franchisee and franchisor. So I think for somebody that has business skills and leadership skills. I have a lot of friends that have made a lot of money in franchise businesses. Matter of fact, I’ve had a few friends that were full-time professional speakers that are now killing it in food service franchises. So I have a great deal of respect for anyone that makes that transition.

Giuseppe: Right. Yeah. And to your point, yes, you know, when you are investing in a franchise, that’s that vehicle that you chose. And it’s not the end all be all, but if you are in as you mentioned, kind of in the restaurant, franchise business, you need to follow the system. And if you want to branch off, then you can look at another franchise business or non-franchise, but more importantly, and we can do a whole show just on this, but what I always advise everyone is maybe you got into the wrong business initially.

And that’s my specialty is basically finding the right business for you. But sometimes people are just getting into businesses for the wrong reasons. They feel that, you know, they see lines out the door, they like the franchise’s product and they decide to invest in it. And I say that’s not really a good reason to invest in that business.

So you can always eat that food at that restaurant but you don’t have to necessarily invest in the franchise. So we always like to start from the very beginning to find out why. But that’s, you know, that’s a whole nother episode and I’m sure we can talk about that at length. So tell me a little bit, you know, more about your business. What’s a, you know, a lot of stuff going on in the world, what’s, you know, what’s most exciting in your world in your business right now?

Going Forward is the New Normal

Mark: Well, are the time lag between when we’re having this conversation and when people are listening to it, we’re coming out of, I hope, COVID-19 and the pandemic. And maybe we’re past the latest deadly insect, and we were talking about murder hornets. But business has always been subject to change. And I know people that say we’ve always had change, and I agree, but we haven’t had this magnitude or this velocity of change in our lifetime. This pandemic has probably been the biggest setback to most businesses in the United States, and globally for that matter.

And to me, it really begs the question, not, you know, specifically, what did we do right or wrong in COVID-19, but how do we deal with this kind of massive change? And one of the phrases I’ve always hated and, you know, my business is very simple. I speak, I write books and I have training resources. I do some advising to leaders and speakers, but my primary revenue streams are speaking, which right now is pretty much on hold until we figure out how we get a lot of people together in a room without getting them all sick, and writing books and selling training materials.

And so, I’ve always hated the phrase, you know, the new normal. God, I don’t know, probably back in 2008 we started using that phrase. And the problem with the new normal is when you think you know what’s normal, you stopped paying attention. You get flat-footed and you get blindsided. Mark Cuban famously said going forward is the new abnormal, and I love that not because it’s negatively tinged. I think it’s just a realistic way of saying pay attention.

What happens probably won’t happen long enough to ever be truly normal. You know, I like to think of it that maybe normal is simply what happens next. And so vigilance and agility are key right now, whether you’re in a franchise business, whether you’re in government. And that is you’ve got to be able to change quickly. 30 years ago, I was working with an executive at Hewlett Packard who went on to do some very great things.

And he told me, this was 30 years ago, he said, My goal is to be able to ramp up an entire division in a month and shut it down in a week. Now, back then, that was incredibly aspirational. But when you look at what we’re able to do today when we’re forced to, and by the way that’s usually the test of how good we are, nobody signs up for a tragedy, setback or crisis, right? But you get put in the course and you only have two options.

You can either learn from it or you can languish, you know, and be defeated by it. And we’ve learned that when you really have to, you can do far more amazing things than you thought were possible. So that would be maybe another lesson is, you know, don’t run scared, but run fast. You know, act like what you do today will prepare you for whatever crisis you might meet in the future.

Giuseppe: Right. No, that’s, I could not agree more. And, you know, this stage of the game and going forward, we just, we have to be ready. We have to be ready to pivot in the franchisor world. A lot of the franchisors are supporting their franchisees. And, for example, taking, you know, in-person tutoring to online tutoring via their digital platform. And it’s not like in the past where we had a hurricane and one section of the country was affected. This is the whole world, so as you mentioned, when we talk about the new norm, the abnormal, new abnormal it’s, you know, we have to, I guess constantly prepare for something to happen. ‘

But, you know, this is it. If you’re in the food industry and I have friends that are both in franchise and non-franchise, it’s, they’re reconsidering how they’re going to do business forward. Are they going to even have any tables? Is it going to be takeout? And but that’s it. I mean, the entire restaurant industry is being affected. So you do need to kind of roll with it. But you do have to prepare. You can’t just sit comfortable, right?

Rethink, Reinvent, Renew

Mark: Right. And I’d like to suggest what I call the three R’s. You know, growing up, it was reading, writing arithmetic. I’m old and maybe nobody remembers those three R’s. But I say in business, we’ve got three R’s we’ve got to live by, and the first is rethink and that’s what we’ve been forced to do. Leaders rethink voluntarily, people who aren’t leaders tend to only rethink things when they have to. So we’ve had to rethink restaurants. And one of the things I’ve said is that too many times we stay tactical, rather than aspirational. What customers in a restaurant want, my brother is a restaurant owner, operator and a restaurant broker.

Glutton for punishment. He and I talked about this, you know, what people want a security. They want to know that they’re not gonna get sick, they’re not going to catch a disease. And so really what you’ve got to design for is security. If somebody comes up with a UV light or a mister system like you see in hot climates that could spray something into the air so that all, you know, bacteria and viruses were killed, then you could sit close together in a restaurant to other people and not worry.

So the pain points are what you can always make money if you address them successfully. So rethinking is intellectual. Then you gotta reinvent. And I think reinvention is what you do. Rethinking is what you think, reinvention is what you do. So if you know the goal is security and safety at a reasonable price, then how do you do that, right? And that becomes operational. You have to operationalize it. And then the third thing is you got to renew because renewal means you stay fresh.

You know, you talked at the beginning, if you’ve been in business for 10 years, what do you have to do? You got to stay fresh. You’ve got to bring the same enthusiasm you had in the first year with maturity and wisdom you’ve got in the 10th year. Because a lot of people get wise and they become mature, but they lose their fire, they lose their vigor, their passion, call it what you will. And it takes both. You know, that’s the energy and the drive and wisdom, of course, hopefully, will keep you from making the mistakes you made in year one.

Giuseppe: Right. No, that’s some really good advice here. Switching gears just a little bit here in the beginning of right before we started the show, we were just chatting a little bit and we talked about the audience and, you know, a big, I would say a large percent of, percentage, excuse me, of the audience, our career transition people. You know, corporate executives, people looking at potentially owning a business.

Now with the pandemic, it’s, you know, I’m either potentially losing my job, I have been furloughed, I don’t know what to expect. So there people are, I guess, the decision is kind of, you know, really Kind of laying on them. I have to make a decision as to what I want to do. And a lot of people have thought about business ownership, but most people just don’t do anything about it. It’s a thought and then, unfortunately, becomes a regret.

You never tried it. I should have looked into it. You know, you weren’t, you went the corporate route, started, you’ve been 33 years in business. What advice would you give someone specifically looking to make that career transition? What advice would you give to them? And, you know, what are the, what’s kind of the one thing to decide if business ownership even is the right fit for them? Something they should maybe ask themselves?

Keep the Passion Burning

Mark: Well, several things that I think are important. First, truth is transferable. If you were successful leading a division or a group, a department, a team, in your corporate life, those skills will translate. And you’re not starting out of college with very little real-life experience taking over a business to run. You’re coming from one successful business to another potentially successful business. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of burn the bridges. You know, burn the bridges so you can’t go back. I know a lot of people that let their enthusiasm get them into an opportunity that bankrupted them because they had no reserves.

I think, and especially having been through now, at my age, a bunch of economic downturns, reserves are the one thing I tell everyone they need to be building. First financial reserves. The average American has about two months of financial reserves, which is frightening. But you also need spiritual reserves. You also need physical reserves. Those are the reserves that help you deal with the inevitable challenges and difficulties you’re going to face. Number three, who you choose to do business with is as important as what you choose.

You know, we talked a little bit about this, how people can get into the wrong franchise. Sometimes you can get into the right franchise with the wrong people. You really have to have trust level and a synergy with the corporate team. Just like, I mean, the same thing in corporate America. If you’re a middle-level manager and you don’t get along well with the people above you, you know how painful that is. That happens in the franchise business too. Only now, you know, you’re even more dependent in some ways.

And then my final thing is for me, and of course, I’ve often told younger people which is pretty much everybody these days to me, but, you know, long term balance requires short term imbalance. If you think you’re going to make this smooth transition from a nice comfy job with perks and benefits and, you know, and it’s just gonna be a, you know, different location, you really need to reassess because you better make sure your spouse or your family depending on the age of your kids that they’re on board.

And then be willing to do the work. Because one thing I’ve noticed is that people are willing to do the work in a proven business franchise or otherwise always succeed. You know, short of some unforeseen circumstance, you know, they get eaten by a bear, right? I mean, I’m being silly here. But short of something like that, if you work hard enough doing the right things, you’ll succeed. But those are the things that I would think about because going into your own business, whether it’s a franchise or not, is above all else, a lifestyle decision, not just a business decision.

Giuseppe: Correct, right. Because no matter what you do, there’s no, they talk about the balance, right? Personal and business. I mean, in that business, franchise or not, let’s be honest, it’s going to be a lot of hours that first year. So it’s going to take away from some of your personal time. And when making that decision, I always, especially on the very first call, I have a call later today. And I have husband and wife, I have them both on the line and well, and sometimes they’ll come back and say, Well, you know, my wife or my husband, they’re on board.

And I said I appreciate that but I would like to speak with them because you find out quite a bit. And, you know, I always bring up you bought, you know, you purchased your home together, this is just as big of a decision. I mean, this is a business, this is going to be generating income, this is going to be taking up, you know, a lot of your time. These are big decisions. So I always advise at least on that call to, for both husband and wife to, you know, both spouses to be on that original phone call.

So completely agree there. Mark, so let me ask you, so someone listening in, they have an interest of potentially learning from you. Maybe they’re looking at coaching or training or the book, what’s the best way? Because you do have eight books. You do have, you offer the training materials, speaking engagements. What is the best way for someone to contact you or where should they start? And by the way, we’re going to put this all in the show notes. So, you know, you just click on it and it’ll go directly to the link or to the website.

Mark: Terrific. Well, thanks for asking. All things Mark Sanborn are at my website MARK SANBORN. When you go to right now, you’ll get an annoying pop-up, and I hate pop-ups as much as the next person, except this one’s offering you a free ebook, the book that I wrote 10 years ago in 2010, about the great economic setback and financial challenges that we all faced.

That book is pretty relevant in 2020. And all you have to do is fill in your email address and you’ll get a free copy of the book. But all my training resources, 70 or 80 little video vignettes, a blog that I do weekly, those are all accessible for free through

Giuseppe: Oh, wow. Okay, great. So yeah, so everyone listening in, we will add that to the show notes. Just definitely go to There’ll be a link we’ll add. Mark, anything else that you’d like to let the audience know today?

Mark: Well, maybe as a parting thought, I made a lot of mistakes when I was young. Probably still make a lot of mistakes but most of the time I’ve been able to learn from them. One of the things that got right is having grown up on a farm and I didn’t, you know, I was just luck of my birth, right? To be born into a farming family. I learned a very good work ethic. And I like to work but, you know, but I learned that working at something you don’t enjoy becomes drudgery.

So my goal early on, you know, over 40 years ago was to find a profession, find a job, find a business that I enjoyed so much that whether I was working at it or wasn’t working at it, I would have just as much fun. In other words, I wanted there to be a demarcation between what I did for fun and what I did for business. And you know, being a speaker and a writer, you know, I’ve been able to integrate those two things into my life.

And I enjoy what I do outside my business, but when I work in my business, I never begrudge the effort because I’m ultimately doing what’s most fulfilling. And that’s my final suggestion is to look at whatever opportunity you’re facing and say, Well, I enjoy it so much that when I’m working hard at it, it won’t even seem like hard work.

Giuseppe: Right. Gotta be sustainable, right? You got to look at this for the long term, not just for the next 12 months. So some really good advice from Mark. Mark, I really wanted to thank you again. I really appreciate the conversation, the advice. I hope everyone goes to, once again in the show notes. Definitely take advantage of the free book and videos. Mark thanks again and I hope to talk to you soon.

Mark: Well, Giuseppe, the pleasure’s all mine. Thank you and Godspeed.