As a youngster, Frank Montaño spent his summers picking cotton alongside his father, a migrant worker. His hometown of Douglas, Arizona, was literally divided – half of the community lay in the United States and the other half in Mexico, with a fence running down the middle.
When he was 5, his father got a job at local smelter, so the family moved "to the good side of town" and bought a house for $4,800. The younger Montaño began elementary school and learned English.
"Even though we were extremely poor, Dad always said, 'You don't want to grow up to be a dummy like me.' So I went to the University of Arizona," says Mr. Montaño. Faced with a shortage of money, though, he dropped out to work in the local McDonald's restaurant. It was there that he found his calling.
"I decided this was going to be my life – and I could flip burgers or I could run one of these things," he says. "So I worked awfully hard and became assistant manager, then manager."
Many jobs and long hours later, Mr. Montaño is now the president and chief operating officer of Moto Photo Inc., a chain of retail photo-processing stores with more than $140 million in annual sales. From his corporate offices in Dayton, Ohio, he oversees 400 franchise stores in the United States and Canada. He is responsible for such company operations as franchise sales, marketing, accounting, customer care, and technical support.
A 49-year-old father of two teenage girls, Mr. Montaño believes strongly that people can create their own future.
"You have to think about it, crystallize it in writing, and be willing to work at it," he says. "We teach a lot of goal-setting and planning in our training sessions. We get trainees to paint a mental picture of what they want their lives to look like 10 years from now."
From that first job at McDonald's, Mr. Montaño set out for Huntsville, Alabama, where he walked into an Arby's and was hired as a restaurant manager. He worked his way up to become a corporate vice-president. Other top-level executive jobs followed, including positions as senior regional manager at PepsiCo (Taco Bell Inc.), vice-president of franchising at Marriott Corp., senior vice-president at Diet Center Inc., and senior vice-president at Sbarro Inc., where he oversaw 600 restaurants with more than $300 million in annual sales.
Despite his hard work, he credits a single person – a man at Arby's in Huntsville, Alabama – with setting him on the path to success.
"Ed Davis looked into my eyes and said, 'You know how good you are? You can do anything you want with your life.' He was a real motivator. That changed my life," recalls Mr. Montaño.
An avid goal-setter, Mr. Montaño encourages his staff to do the same. He frequently tells his own employees, "We're in the people business. We're in the business of molding associates, of making them feel better about themselves.
"I have a personal mission statement. It's to teach every member of our family that they can accomplish whatever they want to in life," he continues.
"My hope is to be an 'Ed Davis' to one other person, even if I never know about it," he says. "That's worth any salary in the world."
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