Business Leader Magazine
2012 Nashville Legend honoree Jim Amos has spent a lifetime serving and supporting others both in business
and in our armed services.
The story of Jim Amos’ life of sacrificial service began when serving two tours in Vietnam as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He returned home the recipient of a Purple Heart and 11 other decorations, before spending 30 years becoming one of America’s most renowned leaders in the franchising industry. Amos is the author of three bestsellers, and currently serves as the Chairman and CEO for Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie. It is both his mastery of business format franchising, as well as his continuous determination to give back to military veterans, that make him the 2012 Nashville Business Leader Legend Honoree.
Values of service were quickly instilled into Amos as a child, who described his family as profoundly close. His mother
ran her own hairdressing shop in historic Westport, MO while his father, a World War II veteran, worked at the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch for 33 years. “He was a great patriot,” Amos said of his father. “He instilled in me a few basic things that I think were extraordinarily important in my life. He offered unconditional love to his family and was an excruciatingly honest man.” This development took another significant step throughout Amos’ eight years of service with the Marines. “I still utilize the basic tenants of leadership that were instilled in me during those years—which were just terrific,” he said.
As a franchising executive, one of Amos’ major accomplishments includes growing Mail Boxes Etc., currently The UPS Store, to a level of 5500 units and $1.6 billion in system sales as CEO. In 2001, he elected to sell MBE to UPS. “To me, it has all been about relationships and leadership. That is kind of the heart of matter for life,” he said. Amos has now been at the helm of Tasti D-Lite for five years, and has expanded the frozen dessert chain to an international level. After working as a CEO for the previous 18 years, he emphasized that he is grateful to have been able to maintain partnerships with some of the same individuals over the entirety of that span.
While Amos is thankful for his many achievements in franchising, he pointed out that he always works to seek out future opportunities. “I think it’s a healthy way to look at life,” he said. “I have been fortunate enough to have gone through a number of things through the years, but I keep looking forward to what is going to happen next.” In 2001, as Chairman of the International Franchising Association, Amos worked to lead the organization through a number of complications resulting from 9/11. He was also inducted into the International Franchise Hall of Fame last year. Despite these accomplishments, Amos stated that he is most thankful to have been able to provide business opportunities for so many individuals. “I have, over the last 30 years, been responsible for over 10,000 franchisees,” he said. “So the greatest reward is to know that the majority of them are still in business today and that it has had an impact on their families and communities. It has created revenue, tax dollars and jobs.”
As a Vietnam veteran, Amos dealt with a great deal of adversity upon his return from war. “My brothers and sisters in the military community came home to a nation that was largely ungrateful,” he said. “They really turned their backs on the veterans coming home. I don’t think it was intentional; they just didn’t want to be reminded of the last eight years. We had to welcome ourselves home.” In response, Amos has dedicated his resources to ensuring that veterans receive proper support. Working closely with Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate, Amos worked to coordinate a Vietnam Veteran Welcome Home Celebration in 2005, an event that honored more than 50,000 soldiers who served.
Amos has also worked with Michelle Obama and Joe Biden in the Joining Forces effort, a program that recently pledged 80,000 jobs to returning veterans along with 5000 to wounded warriors. “These people are coming home looking for a job and position in society just like we did over 30 years ago and so it is a privilege not only to remember that but to be in a position to help them back into our culture,” he said. Amos emphasized that it is important to keep in mind that there are 2.5 million Americans on active duty, many of whom will be without a job upon their return. “There is no better candidate to put into business than the disciplined veteran who has the skills, character, integrity, and experience of leading people at a very young age that translates well to almost any sector of the business community,” he said.
While Amos acknowledged that business format franchising is a rather distinct, peculiar way to conduct business, he pinned leadership and integrity as necessary to any business situation. “Leadership across the board is really what is the requirement. And credibility is about how leaders earn the trust and confidence in their contingents,” he said. “Without question, people have high expectations of leaders. Unfortunately, the heroic leadership myth has been shattered and often in its place is cynicism.” He stressed that credible leaders work to build the self-worth of individuals around them, using core values as a means to guide the level of their contribution. “Nobody wants to work for someone who makes them feel pitiful or intimidated, sad or worthless,” he added.
Dedication to core values and credibility are essential qualities for anyone looking to lead. Nevertheless, Amos established the simple truth that in order to lead an individual must have something to give. “If one aspires to lead you better have something that you know or that you believe in that is translatable in terms of providing to and for others,” he said. “And no one has anything to give unless they have earned it or learned it. Leadership is privilege, it’s responsibility, it’s sacrifice, and it’s heart.” In essence, Amos feels that in order to be a lifelong leader, one must be a lifelong learner. “All teachers are leaders, and all leaders teach, and all leaders read, and all readers ultimately lead— because you are learning,” he said. “It is a sacrificial effort in continuing to grow in every area of your life so that you can make net contributions to people who grant you the privilege of leading them.”
While Amos may not have received a supportive welcome home after completing his service to America in Vietnam, he has surely provided great opportunities to many in business and welcomed veterans home with open arms and great support.