How She Does It: Shirin Behzadi CEO, Home Franchise Concepts

Shirin Behzadi joined Budget Blinds as Chief Financial Officer in 1999, providing fiscal, strategic and operational guidance for Budget Blinds and the continually growing family of brands, including Tailored Living, Home Franchise Concepts, BB Commercial Solutions, Inspired Drapes, Concrete Craft and MADE Blinds.

She oversaw prudent management of the National Advertising Fund (NAF) across all brands, helping to ensure that the dollars worked hard for our franchisees.

Additionally, Shirin managed several departments and has been a critical member of the project management team, researching, planning, and creating Home Franchise Concepts and its subsidiary companies.

Today, as CEO of Home Franchise Concepts, Shirin leads the executive team to direct all aspects of the company’s operations to expand the family of brands to become the largest retailers in the home improvement space.

Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Shirin. How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

Shirin Behzadi: My “start” as an entrepreneur wasn’t necessarily conventional. I began my career with Ernst & Young’s financial services group as a CPA, working with the company’s financial services client base including multinational and national corporations and individuals. But, despite success in one position, I’ve learned as an entrepreneur to always be open to new opportunities.

From there, I went to an E&Y client, an Orange County, Calif., mortgage bank, to serve as CFO, where I was responsible for servicing a $1 billion portfolio. In attention to being involved in the operation of the bank’s 22 branches, I helped negotiate the sale and transition of the bank to a larger institution.

It was then that I realized my passion for helping to grow businesses – so I decided to fill a gap in the marketplace for professional financial management for small-to-medium-sized companies. It was in this capacity as an offsite CFO consultant that I was introduced to Budget Blinds in 1999. What began as a short-term consulting project grew into me becoming CFO and one of five Budget Blinds principals.

I’ve been involved in Budget Blinds – and eventually Home Franchise Concepts and our sister brands Tailored Living and Concrete Craft – ever since. In 2015, I oversaw the negotiations to secure an equity partnership for Home Franchise Concepts with a New York private equity company at which time I became CEO.

So, you can see the importance of being open to new opportunities, no matter where they may be leading you.


Deb: Are there any “lessons learned” that you’d like to share?

Shirin: There are three lessons that come to mind:

1) Recognize what’s most important to you and follow that. Being an entrepreneur means you have an opportunity to link your income to what matters most to you. This is something that most people don’t get the chance to pursue. I’ve found that my biggest success comes when I stay within my personal sweet spot – which, for me, is helping other entrepreneurs find the franchise opportunity that fits them best while striking the work-life balance that’s the cornerstone of my life. This is why we’re so eager to bring the same work-life balance or any other personal goals our franchisees have to fruition.

2) Don’t let others discourage you. Entrepreneurs and franchisees are a special breed of people that are comfortable with a measured level of calculated risk in exchange for financial and personal freedom and the prospect of something much better. Many may not understand or may be too fearful to pursue their own dreams. Often, these discouraging words are more about them than they are about you. Don’t take those comments to heart. Follow your path as paved by many.

3) Give Back. Probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the importance of following your moral compass and doing right by others. I firmly believe that HFC brands have been able to meet aggressive growth goals precisely because they care about their customers, franchisees, employees and communities. We can never forget there is a very direct relationship between doing good and doing well.

Earlier this year, we launched Heart & Home, a long-term commitment to caring and giving-back to transform the lives of individuals through ongoing national partnerships and local, community efforts. The initiative is an extension of HFC’s long involvement with veteran causes and other nonprofit groups.

As part of this, HFC renewed its partnership with Home for our Troops (HFOT), to which it has donated nearly $1 million in products, services and cash gifts through a five-year alliance that began in 2014.

Beyond this corporate support, the company has inspired its franchise owners to donate to HFOT at the local level – with some franchisees contributing as much as $45,000 in a single year.
We also renewed our alliance with Wounded Warriors Canada to help even more veterans and others in need realize their dreams of obtaining work, career advancement, homeownership and the ability to transition to civilian life after military service.

In addition, we just launched Budget Blinds Cares (#BudgetBlindsCares) in October, a three-month long initiative under our largest brand that reflects our give-back culture and is the largest community service initiative in HFC’s history. It spotlights Budget Blinds local business owners who give back on three local levels – to their communities, customers and customers’ homes – and includes a video-sharing contest to celebrate the most caring franchisees in the company.

And finally, we launched a new effort with Working Wardrobes called Give Me $5, a fundraising program that provides veterans and others looking for work with career training, job placement assistance, professional wardrobe services and spending money to get to job training, workshops and interviews.


Deb: Who are your company's ideal clients?

Shirin: All of us at Home Franchise Concepts are committed to working with other enterprising individuals, even if they don’t yet consider themselves entrepreneurs, to empower then to realize their business-ownership goals. These would-be entrepreneurs are Home Franchise Concepts’ ideal clients – and they are open to the latest trends in the home products and service space that will fuel their future.


Deb: What are some of your successes and challenges?

Shirin: We celebrated our 25th anniversary year in 2017 by hitting some major milestones for each brand. We successfully reached our goal of 2.6 million Budget Blinds window-covering installations for 2017 (and 25 million installations since Budget Blinds’ founding year of 1992) at a record pace of 50,000 per week. Budget Blinds now operates more than 1,140 franchise territories across 10,000 cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

From its inception through the end of 2017, Tailored Living organized more than 245,000 lives and Concrete Craft installed more than 3 million square feet of decorative concrete.

I’m proud to be ushering HFC into its next chapter with Heart & Home. Our goal for 2018 is to impact 300,000 families by transforming homes and giving families a sense of calm, dignity and pride. This is a challenge that we’re excited to meet.


Deb: What inspires you to do the work you do?

Shirin: As an entrepreneur, I always knew I wanted to chart my own course instead of following the path of others. I’m especially motivated to help others with similar dreams move beyond the conventional 9-to-5 to take control of their financial futures and their lives.

Probably what inspires me most is the ability to not only change financial futures but to change lives. In addition to Heart & Home at the corporate level, our remarkable franchisees are regularly changing the lives of those in their communities. Our people prove it every day: there really is no place like HFC.”

I’m especially inspired by franchisees like U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sohel Gilani. On Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2017, HFC awarded Gilani with a Concrete Craft franchise plus two-weeks training and $80,000 in operating capital. The new business package, valued at more than $300,000, represented the culmination of HFC’s “There’s No Place Like Home Veteran Partnership and Giveaway.”

Said Gilani: “Throughout my military service, I witnessed things that no one should ever have to see. It was a constant internal struggle for me and, honestly, I felt as through my faith in humanity was slipping away. But winning this HFC program has restored my faith in humanity and reaffirmed what I have always known to be true. When you stay true to yourself, the kindness of others will prevail.”


Deb: What’s your vision for your business?

Shirin: My vision is to work with my team to continue to offer our franchisees the ideal environment in which they can take control of their lives and futures to achieve their professional (and even personal) goals. We also envision adding to our 1,400+ franchise base with motivated individuals from all stages in life – from work-at-home parents and Millennials looking for an alternative to the 9-to-5 to seniors and veterans eager to transition into civilian life.

Beyond that, my vision is to continue to evolve as a corporate and franchise family centered on caring and making our communities vibrant and full of hope. At HFC, caring and giving back will also be in our DNA.


Deb: Thanks for joining us, Shirin. Please share website and social media URLs.

Shirin: Enjoyed it, Deb. Here are the URLs.

Website: www.homefranchiseconcepts.com
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/HomeFranchiseConcepts/

Listen to Shirin Behzadi's interview on Women Entrepreneurs Radio: http://womenentrepreneursradio.libsyn.com/shirin-behzadi-chief-executive-officer-of-home-franchise-concepts


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