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Women Leaders in Franchising: Tara Riley of Fresh Coat Painters

As President of Fresh Coat Painters, Tara Riley is looking to help the brand expand to 400 units throughout the next five years.

Fresh Coat Painters President Tara Riley’s foray into the franchising industry had humble beginnings. Like many high schoolers, her first job was at her local McDonald’s in Grand Forks, North Dakota. But Riley had bigger plans in store. Over time, Riley climbed up the McDonald’s corporate ladder and made her way through the brand’s management development program. Her hard work and drive paid off, and she was eventually promoted to McDonald’s Field Service branch, which is the franchise support side of the brand. It was there that she discovered her passion for helping individual business owners.

She has been fortunate to work with other esteemed franchise concepts, including Sport Clips and HouseMaster. The industry veteran came to the Fresh Coat Painters team in 2014 and is using her experience to help the brand expand to 400 units in the next five years and mentor the next generation of franchise executives.

How did you get your start in franchising?

My first-ever job in high school was working for our local McDonald’s franchise in my hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota. I continued working for the McDonald’s franchisee to help pay for school. I ended up working through the McDonald’s management development program, which included a trip to the famous Hamburger University. After I graduated, I eventually ended up switching over to working for McDonald’s Corporation in Atlanta where I was assigned to Field Service, which is the franchise support side of operations. It was there I realized that I absolutely loved working with the individual business owners and had a knack for helping them improve their quality of life, run more profitable organizations, and achieve their goals.

Who was your mentor in business?

I’ve been blessed with amazing mentors throughout my career, but I’d have to say the reason I made a career of franchising, and the person who most influenced my leadership, is Ed Long. When I was working for the McDonald’s franchisee in Texas, Ed was our director of operations. He consistently pushed me to be a better leader and developer of people. He eventually convinced me to work with the McDonald’s corporation, where my career was really born.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My natural leadership style is a very participative and coaching one. I strive to create paths for people to develop within our business and try to set high expectation for achievement. I think we always have something to learn from each other and I have often found that our newest team members are the ones who bring the most unique ideas into the business.

What advice would you give to other women that are considering a career path in franchising?

Don’t ever hesitate to let your leaders and peers know your career aspirations. I found when I started telling people around me I aspired to lead a company, I gained access to the development opportunities I needed. Definitely get your Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) and participate in the International Franchise Association (IFA); it will expose you to the finest minds and leadership in franchising.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

I plan to see Fresh Coat expand to 400 units and over $100 Million in system revenue.