Tra Williams is Chief Operations Officer for the Florida-based Lakeview Associated Enterprises, the for-profit arm that supports the work of Baptist Health Care.

Lakeview are a twist on the traditional franchising model where a non-profit becomes a franchisee to support their mission of “helping people overcome life’s challenges”.


Lots of non-profits become franchisees to support their mission, but Tra’s company is really doing it on a large scale. They have 3 Dairy Queen units now, and have a development agreement to build out 9 more over the next 3 years. They are also searching for sites for 1-2 Golden Corrals in the Southwest Florida area.

To find the people he trusts, Tra believes strongly in finding a value fit before onboarding any vendors or new employees. Once there is a value fit, “the rest is just paperwork” – love that!

Tra got his start 16 years ago in franchising when he founded then franchised Loozie Anna’s New Orleans Blues Bar and Grill. Through this experience over 6 years from 2000 to 2006 he admits he make a lot of mistakes but learned a ton and is willing to share any and all of those insights with up-and-comers in franchising.

The worst moment Tra has experienced in business was in the fall of 2008 during the real estate market crash. As VP of Operations for Shane’s Rib Shack he and the team were responsible for finding real estate for new franchisees. Unfortunately many prospective franchisees were using their 401k and real estate to back purchases and found themselves quickly insolvent. Tra had some tough times negotiating with landlords but stayed true to his values and helped franchisees as much as possible. It was tough to grow the brand 2008-2009 but he pursued the goal.

Tra moved on as President of a brand called Planet Smoothies with 125 stores. He noticed after the market crash in ‘08 that prospective franchisees were coming through under-qualified financially but hungry and with a great work ethic. The General Managers of the restaurants Tra looks after are on a great path to owning a franchise.

The co-branding opportunities and crossover of brands, with the example of Cinnabon popping up in retail locations, is what Tra is most excited about. He tells us there’s some exciting announcements coming up in fall of 2016 so we’ll stay tuned for that!

The number one piece of advice Tra has for single unit operators who want to take the step to multi unit ownership is that you can’t undervalue your time. He asserts, “If your sink is leaking, call a plumber.” Tra means to say that although you could fix it yourself and ‘save some money’ you had better call someone in an spend that time focusing on GROWING your business. Knowledge bomb: “You can’t save your way to profit!”

The IFA put out a daily email that Tra uses to keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry. Sign up here

Get in touch with Tra at [email protected] and he’s always looking for people wanting to grow brands in South-West Florida!