Sometimes college degrees are necessary in business. Sometimes they’re not.
Russ Umphenour would make a good poster child for the latter group. He used what he learned by working in fast-food restaurants — supplemented by reading hundreds of business books to compensate for his lack of formal training — to become the largest Arby’s franchisee. When he sold out seven years ago, his business had grown to 775 stores with nearly $900 million in annual revenue.
Since 2008, Umphenour has been CEO of FOCUS Brands, an Atlanta-based franchisor for a half-dozen fast-food chains — Moe’s Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon, Carvel, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and for the international market only, Seattle’s Best Coffee. Systemwide revenue from more than 3,700 stores around the world is estimated at $1.6 billion. The company is owned by Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private equity firm.
Umphenour, 68, talks about how he built his Arby’s business, as well as the need to change his leadership style to run FOCUS Brands.