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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Put A Succession Plan In Place

Anne said she wants this company to out live her and has acted on her goals by recruiting Sam Beiler and naming him President of the company. 

Key Question:


Hire and groom your replacement.  You can only take your company so far.  You need to find fresh talent and energy so that your business will grow without you.

Q: What qualified Sam to be President of Auntie Anne's?

First, Anne trusts him. They both used this most important word when talking about the success they have had at passing the leadership torch. The inability to place trust in another person is probably the biggest reason entrepreneurs fail to put a leadership succession plan in place.

Most companies die with their founder or they die when the founder decides to quit working. Some would throw these types of companies into a category called "lifestyle companies." In other words, the company was a vehicle for the founder to live a certain kind of life. We disagree.

Most small businesses would-could-and-should have a life separate and apart from the founder. If the founder would first learn to trust, it opens the way so the founder could find people in which to place that trust. And the business, with all its customers, suppliers, and employees, should continue to perfect relations, systems, and their contributions to their community and world.

Happily this is the case with Anne.

Q: What prepared Sam to be President?

A: He spent years in the field. He and his wife became Auntie Anne's franchise owners in 1989 then he became an employee of the corporation working with franchise owners. He was perfectly groomed. You might wonder about his last name being the same as Anne's. The two are cousins. The fact that Anne and Sam are related could bring up the seemingly endless discussion around family-business issues. Our observation of this situation is that endless communication internally in Gap and externally to the franchisees has made the family relation a non-issue. Sam worked his way to the top. He was not given anything he did not earn simply because his last name if Beiler.

Think about it

What keeps you from passing the torch? Do you have someone you are training that can move into your place soon? Are you nervous that if you pass the torch, you won't have anything to do? Do you think your life might feel empty if you don't have to be in the office everyday?

Clip from: Auntie Annes Pretzels

Anne Beiler says that everyone is teachable and lovable.

Gap, Pennsylvania:   An angel investor stood by her while bank after bank turned her down because the purpose of this business was to make money then give it away.

Meet Anne Beiler, founder f Auntie Anne's Pretzels.  Anne's generous spirit is infused throughout this company and it is their secret ingredient.  Anne has proven that her franchisees want to run a business built on love. While most franchise companies have to market to find new owners, Anne has to turn away hundreds who want to buy into her concept. Products topped with her love of people make Anne Beiler a leadership example to follow.

In 1988 Anne Beiler turned a mistake into a new product. Today, Auntie Anne's Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels are baked fresh in over 800 locations and are the perfect high carbohydrate, low-fat, back-to-the-basics snack so many people crave. Customers will part with over $500 million a year to enjoy this hot treat.

So now, we travel out to Gap in Pennsylvania's Amish Country; it is a simpler place. And though it may be an unlikely place to be running a fast-growing business, maybe there are lessons here for all of us in these hostile times.  This business is based on love and on giving. This is the American Dream. It has come alive for all the right reasons.

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Auntie Anne's Inc.

Anne Beiler, Founder

160-A Route 41
Gap, PA 17527

Visit our web site:

Office: 717-435-1610

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1988

Put A Succession Plan In Place

ANNE: My vision for the future is, number one, to stay in business.

We want Auntie Anne's to be here long after we're gone. And it's easy to start a business, but I think it's harder to keep a business thriving and successful, because you have to make so many changes along the way, to keep it fresh and vibrant.

What I decided to do was select carefully team leadership and allow them to actually run and they need to do their jobs in their departments.


I want to give you a bite of this one. This is the way you eat an Auntie Anne's Pretzel.


I'm still a part of the decision-making process at Auntie Anne's, but I'm not operationally involved in each department like I was 10 years ago. I mean, you can't be. But what's tempting, for you as the founder, is to say, 'I don't like what you did,' you know, so I want to get involved.

HATTIE: Get in there and muddle it up.

ANNE: That's right. I can't do that anymore. So we're putting together a team and we have a great team in place to carry Auntie Anne's to the next level.

SAM BEILER: When I began in 1989, it just looked like an opportunity that my wife and I were pretty excited about.

HATTIE: Sam Beiler became president of Auntie Anne's in 2000.

SAM: You know, at that point, it was in the very early stages, and I was really focused on entrepreneurial efforts, and there was a lot of room. The systems weren't established yet, and there was a lot of room for that creative energy.

ANNE: So he's been in every phase of the business all along the way, and so we chose him because we trust him, which is critical. If you don't trust, your foundation is going to crumble.

SAM: I think that the strongest link between Anne and I is trust, and some of that comes about because my focus for years has been to learn what's important to Anne and Jonas and then live that. I have tremendous freedom within the job to do what needs to be done for the business, but it's all built on a foundation that recognizes what Anne and Jonas have brought to the company as the founders and to keep applying that and to keep trying to train that and use influence to lead others to follow in that same way. So a lot of it's based on trust. That's what it comes back to. Now with Anne and her focus on the mission and vision, the purpose, the philosophy of the company, it takes away the short-term decision-making pressure that so many public companies are under. Her focus is on people, on creating opportunities for people, and in the meantime, we're running a very profitable company.

ANNE: It's a hard place to get to. I mean, really, because I'm hands-on. I mean, sitting here talking to me, you can't see that, but that's the way I grew up. I mean, you do it yourself. If it's going to get done, you're going to have to do it. So my mind-shift has been major in the way I think today about getting the job done vs. 15 years ago when I was completely hands-on.

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