The Proven Entrepreneur

TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches Coach


Melissa Hart Woods is a Business Strategist to business owners. Melissa is the author of “Secrets of Franchise Success“. Melissa supports franchise executives, franchise business owners, non-franchise business owners and teams.

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I Coach Coaches! Melissa Hart Woods – Proven Entrepreneur And Coaches Coach

I am so excited to introduce a very close friend of mine, Melissa Hart Woods, from San Diego. Melissa, thank you so much for joining us. She was my coach when I was part of Allison Maslan’s Pinnacle program. Melissa is the Chief Mentor and also the CEO of a new startup, Franchise CEO Mindset.

Welcome, Melissa. Let’s hop right in. Tell me what you are doing. Let’s talk about your new venture and what you do at AMI.

It is a pleasure to be here. This is so fun.

I am thrilled to have you.

Franchise CEO Mindset was born out of a book that I co-wrote a couple of years ago with a partner called Secrets of Franchise Success. In that book, we had over 50 different franchisees in systems across the board. We had every kind of business model you can imagine. We interviewed the top 20% producers of each system. We were interested in wondering what was it that made franchisees either in the top 20% doing really well, the 50% were where they were just getting by, or the bottom 30% were where they were failing. I was like, “Let’s figure it out. Let’s interview them and find out what they are doing.”

We wrote this book based on all these interviews and it was fascinating. It took us over a year and a half to get all these franchise interviews completed and then to distill them into what we thought was a relevant book for any franchisee, or for somebody that is interested in going into the franchising world, this would be a great book to read.

What we found was amazing and interesting, and that is their mindset had so much to do with their success. Failure was not an option. That was number one. The other thing was they were good people. They understood how to inspire, influence, and motivate their teams or employees. They put a lot of heart and soul into training their employees. They continually upgraded their training and made sure that they were developing them along the way.

It was fascinating because we found out that the real missing component in the franchise arena was that franchisors typically do not train their franchisees on how to be great leaders. We developed a program that does that. We have an online program that franchisees can do on their own or they can do it along with a coach to help with the facility and implementation. That is where the void is.

You were my coach for several years I have been coaching and consulting. I am a firm believer that changing mindset changes behaviors, changing behaviors change results, and changing nothing changes nothing. It all starts with a mindset, doesn’t it?

It does. It starts with what is between your ears. The first course that we do in our program is just on mindset. We talk about how most of us are on automatic. We automatically do what we have always done. We don’t even think about it. We get triggered and we react. It is a rinse and repeat process. I feel like if people, especially business owners, become aware of how they are operating and sit back and go, “That was weird. I felt it right here and I reacted,” rather than, stepping back and saying, “I am having a trigger right now. Maybe there is another way of handling this rather than doing what I always do,” because you and I both know that when you do what you always do, you get the same results. Typically, that is not what we are after. We want to grow, evolve, and change. It starts with that awareness piece.

Success starts with what's in what's between your ears. Click To Tweet

I love that because I am a firm believer that if you change nothing, nothing changes. Tell us a little bit about what you do as the coach’s coach at AMI.

We are now called Pinnacle Global Network. I started out as part of the mentoring team, and as the company began to grow, we needed systems and processes in place and we needed to make sure, and this is my franchise background, that most of our clients were having similar experiences. In order to do that, there had to be a lot of structure put around the way that we deliver this.

That is when I came into the picture. I said, “We need this. We can’t operate without it.” I pretty much developed my own role out of need and growth. We have fifteen mentors on our team and we are looking for two more. It is a lot of amazing personalities that I get to talk to every day. I don’t look at my role as being a manager. I support them with other client issues that are going on or their own life if things are happening. I am there to support them and also be a bridge between the client and the coach.

That sounds like a true leader. It is someone who sets the vision and then enables people to go and make it happen. Let’s go back to the beginning. Were you raised as a child in an entrepreneurial home?

I was raised in a very traditional home. My mom stayed home, attended to the house and the kids, my sister and I, and made sure that my dad had what he needed. She was such a great ‘50s wife. My dad was a lawyer. He went to law school in his early 30s. At that age, you were considered an old man if you went to law school. He was a traveling salesman. He sold braziers and plastic boxes. He would always say that had my mom not come along, he probably would have been a salesman living in a bar and on the road all the time, but he went to law school and decided early on that he was going to be his own boss. He never wanted to work for anybody else.

He was an entrepreneurial lawyer if that makes any sense at all. I thought all lawyers operated the way he did. His career ended up becoming mergers and acquisitions. He put together incredible deals if mergers and acquisitions, and he always had a way of looking at how to do it from such a creative point of view or an entrepreneurial way of doing it. It could have been that nobody did it before, yet he was like, “Let’s try it and see if it works.”

He always colored outside the lines but within the boundaries of the law. He invented things that you would never have thought of that most lawyers did not. He encouraged me early on to be my own boss and be creative about the way businesses work. We talked endlessly about business. He taught me when I was probably twelve to read the Marketplace in Wall Street Journal.

Every Thursday, we would sit down and I would read the Marketplace. It consisted of stuff that was interesting. It had what businesses were doing, how they were growing, and new ideas that they were putting out. They were toy companies that were inventing new toys for the new child coming up in the ranks. I thought it was so fascinating. He planted that seed in me so that all the time from that point on when I would go to any business or see a need in a market like, “That would be a great business. I wish I had that.” I would be constantly thinking like that.

It sounds like he was a problem solver. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and many times, they won’t quit until they get it solved. They keep trying solutions.

He was a problem solver and also a risk-taker. He encouraged me to take risks. He was like, “You have got to do it. You have got to try it. It is a great idea.” He never shot my ideas down. He always encouraged me.

TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches Coach
Secrets of Franchise Success: The Formula for Becoming and Staying a Top Producing Franchisee

You and I both know the biggest risk is probably not taking a risk. That is much riskier than taking some risk. Tell me this. Way back in little Melissa’s life, what do you consider to be your first job or something you did that you got paid for?

The very first thing I did that I got paid for was my grandfather had given me a handheld vacuum cleaner. This was before handheld vacuum cleaners were a thing. He might have even invented them. I was 11 or 12 at that time. I thought, “I am going to go from house to house and ask people if I can wash their car and vacuum it,” because that is the best part of getting your car washed. I knocked on people’s doors and washed cars. My dad encouraged me. I don’t even remember how much I made, but that was the very first job I had. The second job I had was working at a pizza parlor. That was a legit job. I was fifteen.

It depends on how you look at what was the legit job to the entrepreneur. Going door-to-door screwing up your courage, putting a smile on your face, knocking on that door, and asking, but to some people like me, that is probably a more legit job than the pizza parlor. Talk about the work ethic that your parents instilled in you as a child.

The work ethic was you had to work to pay for the things that you wanted. That is why I had a job at fifteen. Here is the other thing about work ethic. My dad was home every single day at 5:30 PM. He had dinner with us every night and was available on the weekends. He made it clear that when you work for yourself, you don’t have to be a slave to somebody else’s schedule. You get to make your own schedule. If being with your family is what is important, then that is what you are going to do. I observed that.

We also took vacations. There was never any like, “I have to work.” That was never part of it, yet he was always working during the week. I am thinking he did not look through his cellphone or even a computer at home. It was probably all done when he left the office. He had ten lawyers that worked under him and they probably knew not to call him at home. I don’t remember him ever talking to anybody at home about work. As much as he loved it, he had that balance happening. That was part of the work ethic. It is noticing that there was a balance and that it is okay to have that.

That is huge. Many entrepreneurs have the choice. Your calendar controls you or you control your calendar. There is no tie game. One side is controlling the other, and that is for certain. I know that some people make it look easy, but it does not mean they are not working hard. I remember my youngest son introduced me at a Meet Your Teacher Night. He was maybe ten.

I showed up in my normal uniform of shorts, flip flops, and a polo, which is what I would wear to the office. He introduced me to the teacher and said, “This is my dad.” You can tell as he raised his hands up and down pointing to me. He said, “He does not work.” We had to have a little conversation after that. I was like, “Just because I make it look easy, it does not mean it is easy.” What was your path? Did you go through school, the military, or the Merchant Marine? Where did you go from there?

I went to San Diego State College. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I started a business when I was in college. That was a great business. It became too big and I had to choose one thing or the other. At first, I was dabbling and then all of a sudden, it was like, “This is a legit business. I would have to quit everything and do this.” I went to college and got married right after.

I worked for Estee Lauder after college. I was an account representative, which was very glamorous to go from store to store. I got trained in New York and I was living in San Diego. I got to go to all these different fancy Neiman Marcus and big department stores and train the counter girls on the newest products that we had. The funniest thing about it was I never liked makeup. I was never a makeup person. I was the surfer hippie girl that never wore makeup. I had to learn how to put makeup on and then teach these pros all about the new products that we had. I always felt like such an imposter in that role.

Those sound so entrepreneurial. I cannot tell you how many people have told me, “I wrote my first business plan by going to Google, copying a business plan and presenting it the next day.” Imposter syndrome is rampant amongst entrepreneurs, but I think it is a human problem. Everybody is the CEO of something even if you are just the CEO of you. There is a quote that says, “You are far better, far smarter, and far stronger than you think.” That is true for everybody. I will put you on the spot. Do you know which famous philosopher said that?

When you do what you always do, you get the same results. Click To Tweet

I don’t.

It is from one of my very favorites, Winnie the Pooh. That is true. Tell me about either your first business in college or your first business after college.

I forgot what my first business in college was. We have this new program in Pinnacle Global Network called Trailblazers. It is for the children of all the members of Pinnacle. It is a wonderful program. It has six different sessions on what it is like to be an entrepreneur, what it means to start your own business, and how to start your own business. I pulled this out of my archives and I was like, “I forgot about that business I did. It was such a great business.”

I worked at my dad’s law firm in Century City, Los Angeles. It was a big office building. I was a receptionist. There were two sides. One was creative artists, which is they hire and manage actors. The other one was my dad’s law firm. I had all the switchboard and everything going. This person would come up every so often and they had lunches for all the people that were sitting at their desks. I thought about what a great idea that is.

People would also always ask, “Do you know if the sandwich people are coming?” I go, “I have no idea. They come every now and then with no rhyme or reason.” When they would come, then I would get on my switchboard and let everybody know that the sandwich guy was out in the front lobby. They would all run out and buy sandwiches. I thought, “I am going to do that in San Diego.”

I called it Melissa’s Movable Lunches. I ended up renting a commercial kitchen. I hired somebody to help me with the different kinds of food that we would be using, and he also helped me put together the lunches. I would go there early in the morning and put together all these box lunches. I had these different kinds of rolling coolers that I used. I would go from office building to office building. I had quite the reputation. It was a legit business. It cost me nothing to make the sandwiches and the different things and put them in the little plastic things that I got from Smart & Final. The margins were so great, but it was a full-on business. I was like, “I don’t know if I can do all this.” That was my first business.

You were the precursor of the food truck. You were the food cart.

I was. I had a vegetarian sandwich and a Turkey sandwich. I would also ask people, “Is there something I am missing? Is there something that you wish I had that I did not have? I will make it next time.” They would go, “We want this,” and I would go, “I am going to bring it.” It was weird because I was not nervous about it. I was like, “I am going to be the savior. People are going to be so happy.” I thought I was solving such a great problem.

I know this, but our audience does not. Share a little bit about your business where you had a very nice asset.

Right out of college, I got married. My dad was encouraging us to get into a business. My husband at that time was really great with kids. We opened up a kid’s gym. My dad gave us $10,000 and said, “This is for you to open up this business. It is not much. It is not going to do a lot for you, but I am not going to give you any more after this. You are on your own.” We each got a credit card. We put most of everything on a credit card. We have rented the space in Solana Beach where I live. That was our original location.

TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches Coach
Coaches Coach: Franchise owners typically do not train their franchisees on how to be great leaders.


We set about ordering all the toys and putting this program together. People would walk by and they would say, “What is this?” We would say, “It is a gym for kids.” They would be like, “Why do kids need gyms? There is no reason for it.” We say, “This is an organized program where kids learn how to follow directions. They learn all of these incredible skills. I invite you to our grand opening.” We had so much success out of the starting gate. It was crazy. We were this young couple. A lot of times, they thought we were brother and sister and that we were starting this business together.

We had no idea what we were doing with the business, but I liked business. I understood the nuts and bolts of the business part. I was not even that crazy about kids quite honestly. My husband was a magician with kids. He was amazing. We opened our doors, and six months into the program, we had waiting lists. We could not handle it anymore. We had to hire our first employee. We then hired our second employee. Three years later, I was like, “This is a great business.” We worked seven days a week because we did birthday parties for kids on the weekends, but I was tired. I love the business. It was in our blood. That is all I wanted to do. We would go to work at 7:00 in the morning and did not get home until 11:00 at night. We were happy as can be, but after a while, it became a lot.

I was impressed with how we were doing. My dad would say, “Never stay at the top.” We had more money in the bank than we could have ever had. We also paid off all of our debt, but I was burned out though. I was tired and I was like, “Is there any end in sight working 6 or 7 days a week?” My dad said to me, “That is great that you are having all this success, but you are not successful until you can leave your business and have it run without you there,” and that struck a chord with me. I was like, “That makes sense.”

I took that piece over. I was like, “We are going to figure out what we do so well. We are going to train other people to do it and we are going to leave. We are going to go on vacations,” and we did. We went on amazing vacations. We would always see one of our members on one of our vacations. If we were in Europe, we would run into them in some little tea store. We would be like, “What?” If we were in Bali, we would run into them on the beach. We were able to travel quite a bit, and then we went with the family. It became essential that we were not the only ones delivering the service.

We then grew. We licensed the program, and then, unfortunately, we split up. I bought him out of the business and I legit franchised it. We had licenses, but we did not have control over what they were doing. When I bought him out, I knew that I only wanted to be in the business for 5 or 6 years. That is all I wanted and then I wanted out.

That was a whole new hat to wear to be a franchisor. To go from business owner to franchisor was a big jump for me. It was a stretch for me too because all of a sudden, I had to be a corporate girl. I was the creative free spirit in developing all the programs that we had and staying on top of how to be the leader in that industry. All of a sudden, I was all about numbers, audits, and fears. It took the fun out of it for me, but it was still fun. When I sold the company, we had 40 locations worldwide. We were in five different countries, and we sold it.

It was a happy day. 

It was also very strange. It was an eighteen-year run, and all of a sudden, I was like, “Now what?” Much of my identity was wrapped up in that business. That is what happens.

We have to remember that we are not living to work. We are working to live and keep things in perspective. That is a great story. Can you think back during that business to a hard moment or something that was painful that you persevered through? It could have happened now or maybe even earlier where you looked back at that moment and said, “It was painful when it happened, but it turns out that it probably was for the best.”

I have had many of those.

Take everything in stride, and don't be afraid to take risks. Click To Tweet

It is interesting how our success stories often include some stories of failing. For a long time, I thought that was the opposite of success until I learned that it is an integral piece of success to fail and learn. What about a work speed moment? Business is going pretty good, life is good, the birds and angels are singing, and the sun is shining, but something happened and all of the sudden, your business has seemed to explode. Do you have one of those you could share with us?

Our business exploded from the very beginning. When I got into the franchising mode, my dad said, “Let’s put an ad out in the Wall Street Journal and see what happens.” I had no idea what I was doing. The ad was something like, “If you are tired of the 9:00 to 5:00 grind and you want to have fun and play with kids all day long, give us a call. We have a business opportunity that will blow your mind.” After that, our phone rang off the hook. We struck a chord, and that was quite incredible.

There were other things that we did too. We would put a new program together. We did these kids’ night out. We called it Kids’ Night Out, but it was really parents’ date night. We started this whole program. Nobody was doing this. We put it out in five of the gyms that we had. Again, our phones were ringing off the hook. They would be like, “How did you know? That is what I wanted.” I was like, “We did it.”

I feel like so much of that is understanding who that customer is, what pain they are in and how you are going to help solve it for them and creating a message that speaks to them. They are like, “They know that I am tired of my job. That is me. Do I want to own my own future? Yes.” Having that kind of response, we put together camps. We also did summer programs in some of the country clubs. We then got the news channels to come out and interview us in the camp situations. Our phones would ring off the hook. Whenever that happens, it is an incredible feeling to know that it works.

From those phones ringing off the hook, that is about the same thing as the cash register ringing. When people are calling you, that is a good thing. If you could go back in time and have a conversation with the twenty-year-old hippie chick with no makeup who is probably still in there and you could say, “Young Melissa, I wish I knew then what I know now,” is there a piece of advice you would give yourself?

The piece of advice would be it is all going to work out. It always does.

I love how positive you are. Positivity is huge. I have thought about that many times for myself. I would have told myself to listen to people with diverse views more open-mindedly, which took me a while to learn. For a long time, I thought if you disagreed with me, you did not understand the real issue and the right answer. I then realized there are many ways to look at something, and it pays to include all those diverse views.

I am about to wrap up. Let me ask you this. If you were queen for the day and had a magic wand, how could we support you? It is always the toughest question because entrepreneurs are so reluctant to ask for something for themselves. They are typically big givers. It is a pure ask. No motive. What could we do to support you?

I do want to launch this leadership program we have for franchise business owners, so if anybody knows of any franchise business owners that are struggling in any way, this is an amazing answer to a lot of their issues of being burned out and tired of having to work so much as well as not making the revenue that they hope they would make. If anyone knows of any franchisees out there that are struggling, send them my way.

How would we send them to you? 

TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches Coach
Coaches Coach: When you work for yourself, you don’t have to be the slave to somebody else’s schedule. You get to make your own schedule.


You can send them to me at

I will echo that leadership is many times the ultimate skill for an entrepreneur to be able to lead, train, inspire, and motivate people to go do the best job that they can. That is how you get to take those vacations in Europe and Bali. If you are an entrepreneur, you certainly deserve that. Do you have any passion projects you want to share with us? It could be something that is not business. It could be something that gets your time, attention, and energy?

I am growing some vegetables. My garden is big. We live on a lagoon, so I have all kinds of wildlife there. At the beginning of the pandemic, I put together this huge thing. I had fences and everything. The wildlife got in no matter what. Nothing stopped them. I started to grow things that maybe they would not like, like broccoli and kale, and it is working. I have giant broccoli stocks coming up and it makes me so happy.

It is early spring here in North Texas, but the kale is already overflowing. The tomatoes and onions are looking good, and we love that. Do you have any last thoughts you think you should share with the audience?

It has been so fun to hang out with you.

It is my pleasure.

I will say to take everything in stride and don’t be afraid to take risks. You have to take risks on things that you don’t know and do it.

I agree. I have a lot of faith in Melissa. I worked with her personally before. That is it for this episode. We will see you next time. Thank you, Melissa.

You are welcome. Thank you.


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About Melissa Hart Woods

TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches CoachMelissa Woods, Former Franchisor, entrepreneur, and current Business strategist, has a passion for Leadership and business growth.

Melissa has been working as a business strategist for over 20 years. After growing her franchise business to 40 locations worldwide and selling it, her focus has been in developing effective business leaders, who have gone on to have incredible success in their careers and businesses.



For information on how to work with Don visit Work With Don Williams
You can also reach out to Don Williams at
Please join Don and his businesses in support of St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital in its Mission to cure Childhood Cancers. You can donate to St. Jude at
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TPE S1 E26 Melissa | Coaches Coach