“Communicate — Emails Can Have The Wrong Tone, So Verbal Communication Is Ideal” Words Of Wisdom With Renee Maloney Co-Founder Of Painting With A Twist

I had the pleasure of interviewing Renee Maloney, the CFO, Co-Founder and Franchisor of Painting with a Twist. It’s the original and fastest-growing paint-and-sip franchise in the nation with more than 350 studios in 39 states.

Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was raised in New Orleans, the youngest of three children. We were living a regular, happy suburban life, but it all fell to pieces when my dad fell in love with someone else and left us. As a girl seeing that, I didn’t ever want to be in a position where I needed someone to take care of me. Now, my husband Craig and I have three kids of our own, all successfully off to college and in the working world.

In 2007, I was a New Orleans-area mom, caught in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Everything I owned in the city was gone. I teamed up with a friend, Cathy Deano, who I’d volunteered with at our children’s school, hoping to help our neighbors forget about the storm’s devastation, providing a much-needed “getaway” through art. Our idea was to turn everyone into an artist by providing them a blank canvas, step-by-step art instruction and a glass of wine. We tested a speed art concept in Cathy’s barn and people had a great time. Originally named Corks N Canvas, Painting with a Twist was born in 2007 and has since become the original and fastest-growing paint-and-sip franchise in the nation with more than 350 studios in 39 states. I’m the CFO, Co-Founder and Franchisor. I’m the business and numbers person, while Cathy is more of the creative mind.

Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

At one of our first studios, all of a sudden, the power went out. It was pitch black, but everyone was having such a great time that no one wanted to leave. There was seemingly no way to paint in the darkness, though. Then, one painter got in her car, maneuvered it in front of her canvas and turned on her headlights to continue the fun. Everyone else followed. It was a “flashbulb” memory for me. At that moment, I knew we were onto something big. That picture in my mind of dozens of headlights shining on half-finished canvases is worth at least a thousand words.

Yitzi: So how exactly does your company help people?

Headquartered near New Orleans, we create experiences combining art instruction, beverage of one’s choice and friends for people looking for a unique outing. Our company includes hundreds of franchised paint-and-sip studios across the country. The experience is like you’re attending a party. There’s art, music, and we drink and paint. We have fun artist instructors who create a lively atmosphere and take care of our guests. Artists walk them through step-by-step, often accompanied by dancing, and other enjoyable elements make it feel unlike an art class.

While guests traditionally paint on bare 16” x 20” canvases, we offer various mediums in specialty classes, including smaller and larger canvases, seasonal sets of mini canvases and wooden cutouts. There are more than 10,000 original pieces of copyrighted artwork, ranging from landscapes, abstracts and cityscapes, to creative renderings of animals, iconic buildings and florals.

Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re constantly innovating to ensure our guests have the best experience possible. We offer date nights, NFL and MLB events, switching out wine for coffee during the day, etc. In addition, Painting with a Twist is the original and largest paint-and-sip company. We started a business which gave an environment to creating art with wine, and it led to a social experience. In this vein, we not only do right by our guests and franchisees, but we do it accurately through our time-tested structure and methodology. A franchise partner in Philadelphia once said, “Painting with a Twist is everything that a franchise should be. As a practicing physician, I opened my first studio as an entrepreneurial and creative outlet. With the opening of my second studio, I stepped away from medicine and became a small business owner. Throughout my three-year journey, the franchise has supported, guided and befriended me.”

We’ve been franchising for a decade and have developed communications and processes that ensure successful working relationships built for long-term growth and unparalleled value for our franchisees.

Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

There are so many people who have helped me along the way. When I really think about where a majority of these people came from, it’s the International Franchising Association and its remarkable mentor program. People in the organization took Cathy and I, as emerging franchisors, and connected us with brilliant, trustworthy people in the industry. Melanie Bergeron, the chair of Two Men And A Truck® was an inspiring mentor to me. She guided us through new experiences with her expertise and was always available for questions. Her mentorship was the beginning of our networking in the franchise industry.

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Ever since we started in response to Katrina, with donations necessary for New Orleans to overcome the hurricane, we’ve instilled a fundamental commitment to give back to local communities. Painting with a Twist studios across the U.S. sponsor monthly fundraising events, called Painting with a Purpose. Proceeds from Painting with a Purpose events are donated to local non-profit organizations. We’ve donated over $4 million to local non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Multiple Sclerosis and Odyssey House. We are committed to giving back to the local community, one painting at a time.

Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

Over time, I’ve learned how to best take criticism. When you’re running a company and building a brand, criticism can’t be taken personally. Colleagues will have opinions that may not align with yours, so you need to be willing to learn and listen more than speak. You have to learn from it and be able to stay positive.

Also, whenever possible — communicate. I recommend over-communicating via various mediums, such as email, phone, in person, etc. Further, emails can have the wrong tone, so verbal communication is ideal. I’m a proponent of virtual meetings, for example. If communication is not multi-layered, it can get lost. When this happens, people can feel unheard or not committed to. Communication is crucial to be successfully aligned in your corporate mission.

Another important component is to have a work-life balance. When you over-prioritize your work, sometimes you miss dinner at home, as one example. You need to take care of yourself, your family and your business equally. When we started Painting with a Twist, I sat down with my kids and compared the new business to having another baby. I said that not everyone would get the same attention they’d been used to, as a business takes time, energy and passion. After we franchised several locations, my daughter asked, “How many babies are you going to have?”

You have to hire good people. I make sure to surround myself with people smarter than me. They help me grow and I enable them to grow too. If you provide people with necessary tools, you can let go of micromanaging and they’ll trust you.

When I multitask, I feel as though my work isn’t getting 100 percent of my attention. I still struggle with this skill. When I’m writing on an email and someone walks in my office with a question, I want to handle both at the same time. I constantly prioritize my workload — it’s an art of not multitasking vs. not being singularly focused.

Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

Oprah! She was told “no” and “you can’t” and “you’re not the right person for this position” early on in her life and career. This could have stopped her in her tracks right there but she believed in herself. As a woman, she wasn’t the prototypical broadcaster, but she persevered and didn’t let negative comments stop her. She built an incredible empire because she had the mindset of helping others. She has good intentions, which led to her success.

Originally published at www.buzzfeed.com.

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