Problem Solving

PofE 017: How To Solve Problems Like Auntie Anne’s Pretzels And Build A World Class Franchise


“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” -Theodore Rubin

Her Challenges:

  • She was the baker and bread maker for her seven siblings and parents.
  • Only had a ninth grade education.
  • Learned how to make pretzels at a food stand at a farmer’s market the Pennsylvania Dutch way. Before that she worked as a waitress and she learned about costumer service.
  • Had a market stand in Maryland in 1987 where she handmade pretzels.
  • Rented a stand in Pennsylvania in 1988, calling it Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
  • Had to redo the recipe for the pretzels because they were dissatisfactory.
  • After a year, she had eight stand alone stores and her first store in a mall.
  • Only advertisement was the costumers talking about how good her pretzels were.
  • The franchise spread throughout Central Pennsylvania in 1989.
  • Her daughter, Angela, died from an accident when she was 19 months old.

Who is Anne Beiler?


Some Highlights:

  • In May 2005, she received an honorary doctorate from Elizabethtown College and a doctorate from Eastern University.
  • She wrote the books Auntie Anne: My Story with illustrations by artist Frieman Stoltzfus and Twist of Faith: The Story of Anne Beiler, Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels.
  • Delivered a speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention in September 2008.
  • Provides fundraising ideas for schools and non-profit, community groups.
  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels received the Best in Food Category Award in 2009 and the Franchise Satisfaction Award in 2010.
  • Has received the World-Class Franchise honor for the past five years.


How can you solve problems like Anne Beiler?

  • Approach the problem with a structured process by asking the following questions:
    • Why does the problem exist?
    • What is the real problem?
    • How did it happen? 
    • Where and when did it occur?
    • Who is involved in it? 
    • What are the different ways we could approach this situation?
  • Develop a list of 5 solutions based on structuring the problem as a question.
  • Another option is to use the 20 Question Grid below:







Current State

What happened?

Where is the confusion?

When is it done?

Who does the work?

How are the activities sequenced?

Future State

What should it look like?

Where will the process change?

When will it change?

Who will do the work?

How will the activities be timed and resourced?


What is different?

Where will the change make a difference?

When are the differences considered?

Who will identify and validate the gap?

How will the gap be improved and managed?

Is there a better way?

What alternative solutions are available?

Where would the alternative solutions be considered?

When is there a better window of opportunity?

Who makes the decisions on alternative solutions?

How will the alternative solutions be viewed by the organization?


What methodologies do you use to solve problems in your professional or personal life?


Principles of Execution Key Concepts:

  • Anne Beiler
  • Auntie Anne's Pretzels
  • Problem Solving

Share your ideas or thoughts!

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