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Unorthodox CEO Blends 'Servant Leadership' Into a Winning Recipe

The question isn’t so much what Mike Rotondo will do for his company but, rather, just how far he is willing to go to support the franchise owners and employees that have turned the 600-plus Tropical Smoothie Cafes into a major player in the fast casual nutritional eating segment. 

A partial list includes the day he promoted the opening of a New York City store by handing out free smoothies to jaded Manhattanites. 

Or the time he bolstered morale at another store by donning a banana suit during a site visit.

Most recently, Rotondo went into the tank – a dunk tank, that is – to herald the grand opening of the chain’s 612th cafe in Wilmington, N.C.

“There is very little I wouldn’t do for this brand,” says Rotondo. “I’m kind of old school in that I don’t like asking someone to do something that I’m not willing to do myself.”  

The CEO has therefore been known on other occasions to clear tables, sweep floors and pitch in as needed should the pace unexpectedly pick up during visits to cafes spread across 43 states. 

“If you say a job is beneath you then there are very few jobs above you,” explains Rotondo, a native Illinoian who launched his food service career as a district manager for Wendy’s International.

Rotondo has embraced “servant leadership” to triple the number of Tropical Smoothie franchises during his five years at the helm. 

In the spirit of Tropical Smoothie, it is a model that strives whenever possible to blend management with transparency.  

Making nice with a gatekeeper, for example, is not a pre-requisite to getting a call through to the boss at Tropical Smoothie.

Because the boss, Rotondo,  passes his cellphone number along  to franchise operators, company officials and anyone in the system with reason to be in touch. 

He credits honesty with easing the burden of tough  decisions, such as a corporate determination that tied company-wide growth to an increase in the operator-subsidized national advertising budget.

 The Tropical Smoothie brass could have summarily doubled the advertising outlay for each franchise from one to two percent.

Tropical Smoothie chose instead to notify franchises of the change seven months in advance, a heads up that gave owners the opportunity to adjust the finances of each store accordingly. 

“We have to show people respect with our decisions,” Rotondo explains. “And we have to be out front from a communications standpoint.”

Rotondo is equally upfront about circumstances that transpire beyond the corporate suite. Now 55, he was on the cusp of moving from COO to CEO when a health issue threatened to derail his career if not  very existence. 

Rotondo now deadpans that a heart attack suffered by a top executive delivered an inconsistent message to the customers and employees of a brand with a menu emphasizing  “superfood” fruit blends, wraps and other nutritional items.

True to form, he seized the opportunity to lead by example Today, Tropical Smoothie employees are invited to join the CEO on daily and charity runs. The staff at the company’s Atlanta-area headquarters is moreover encouraged to avail themselves of on-site, free-of-charge fitness trainer.

His heart attack, says  Rotondo, had the unintentional consequence “changing lives around me.”

The lifestyle is also consistent with a company that appeals to is for health-conscious millennials – customers and, increasingly, franchise operators and employees alike. 

Rotondo rejects the perception that the 18- to 34-year-old  demographic is difficult to manage.  

What some construe as laziness, he sees as resourceful.

“Millenials know how to figure things out,” Rotondo says, citing young employees capturing work schedules and Power Points on smartphone cameras, a task he’s been known to undertake as a “Fred Flintstone with pencil and paper.” .  

Through trial and error, Rotondo has discovered that Millenials above all treasure flexibility and honesty.  

In that, they have much in common with the guy atop Tropical Smoothie Cafe.


A peek into a travel photographer’s camera bag



Swee Ong is a Singaporean travel photographer who has had his work published in National Geographic.

As a self-funded photographer, Ong backpacks around the world, documenting his travels via photography. His trips can last anywhere from a week to three months at a time, affecting the camera equipment that he carries around with him.

For now, his camera bag holds a total of eight essential gear, including a DSLR, different lenses, a GoPro and a Macbook.

Ong recently added an iPhone 6S Plus to his camera bag and credits the new addition to helping lighten his load. Read more…

More about Iphone 6s Plus, Travel Photographer, Swee Ong, Photographer, and Photography


Scary Video Shows a Bounce House Floating Away Straight into Power Lines

Scary Video Shows a Bounce House Floating Away Straight into Power Lines

This is definitely what you don’t want to see at a kid’s birthday party: a bounce house flying away straight into the power lines after being swept up in the air by a big gust of wind. You can actually see it first fly away from the power lines but then suddenly make a quick U-turn straight into the transmission tower. After it makes contact, sparks fly and a mini-explosion could even be heard. Scary.

Read more…


How to turn your dopey idea into something great

At the memorial for his recently departed friend, Jony Ive recounted how he and Steve Jobs shared delicate new — and sometimes crazy — ideas in the pursuit of making something great. “Steve used to say to me — and he used to say this a lot — ’Hey Jony, here’s a dopey idea.’ And sometimes they were. Really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful. But sometimes they took the air from the room and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas.” — source You can picture the scene: Two great thinkers, creating the space to share ideas, no matter how bad they might be. Playing with…

This story continues at The Next Web




FanDuel acquires AlphaDraft to get into esports

This room is filled with people who would potentially love to play daily-fantasy esports.

Big companies are starting to see a lot of potential to make money in esports.

A day after DraftKings announced it’s expanding into esports next month with daily-fantasy games for League of Legends, competitor FanDuel is doing the same through an acquisition. The company has purchased the daily-fantasy startup AlphaDraft, which debuted earlier this year to provide a FanDuel-like experience for multiplayer online arena battlers and shooters. We’ve heard rumors of this acquisition for a few weeks — although AlphaDraft was also hearing offers from Yahoo Fantasy and even DraftKings.

Fantasy sports is a multibillion-dollar business, and daily fantasy is pushing that revenue to record highs. At the same time, the popularity of pro gaming is on the rise — and so are its earnings. FanDuel and DraftKings obviously both see this as an opportunity to get in on the ground level of what could turn into a mammoth industry over the next decade.

Former NBA Commish David Stern tells me that FanDuel has acquired @AlphaDraft, which he is invested in

— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) September 24, 2015

As we pointed out in our story yesterday about DraftKings’ esports ambitions, this acquisition by FanDuel is likely a move to ensure its revenues have a market that it can grow into.

From VentureBeat

Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we’ll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.

Traditional sports are massively popular right now — professional football in particular has probably never had the level of engagement that it has today. But concerns around the safety of contact sports, along with a generation of parents who are trying to grind their children into superstar with the 10,000-hour rule, has youth participation in sports like football, soccer, and basketball noticeably falling off.

If research keeps revealing that football and other physical activities will lead to brain disease, interest in these sports could erode with the participation levels over the next 10 to 20 years. And that’s where the rise of esports could make up the difference.

Tens of millions of people have tuned in to watch events like the finals for Counter-Strike, Dota 2, and League of Legends. Every competitive-gaming genre is seeing year-over-year growth in terms of viewership. Marketers and sponsors have already taken notice, and that has the esports business on a trajectory to reach more than $ 465 million in revenue by 2017. But fantasy esports could have the potential to push this market to $ 1 billion and well beyond.

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