Operations & Training

By Mark Liston, CFE, retired Neighborly executive

My story is one that will inspire anyone who wants to get his or her Certified Franchise Executive accreditation.

It was 2005 when I received my CFE and became a Certified Franchise Executive. I spent a couple years learning in the program and earning the degree. At the time I was with Valpak selling, or should I say AWARDING, franchises. I’ve always believed that if a person is going to have a profession that they should do all they could do to become a real professional. Case in point, don’t become an accountant unless you are going to be a CPA.

Starting from a manager, all the way to becoming the president, I believe my CFE played a large role.

The classes I took in 2003 and 2004 introduced me to people who I still call close friends. I can call them today for advice for any sort of franchise related issue or scenario. Walking across the stage in 2005 was the highlight of my years in franchising.

A short time later I took on more responsibility at Valpak and went from manager to director. The president of Valpak, as well as my VP, both decided to follow my footsteps and earn their CFEs. Their involvement in IFA grew and our company became a major IFA Convention sponsor – eventually sitting at one of the exclusive tables at the presence of key speakers like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The CFE program is a program that I believe in with all my heart. Why? Because of what it did for me!

Later on, I was invited to join the CFE Board of Governors. It wasn’t long before I was earmarked to become the chair of the CFE Board.

That’s when I left Valpak in 2010 and joined The Dwyer Group — now known as Neighborly — as the vice president of Glass Doctor. The opportunity came to be the chair for a second year. It was that year that my wife, Mary Kay, earned her CFE and I had the opportunity to read her name as she crossed the stage at the IFA Convention with the other Certified Franchise Executive graduates. It was such a surreal moment for me seeing my wife Mary Kay, a self-accomplished woman herself, walking across the stage, with me there to present her with her certificate. It remains an image I will never forget.

Mark: “Mary Kay, I’ll never forget when you walked across the stage when you got your CFE. I was the CFE chair and it was so cool announcing your name. Remember this?”

Mary Kay: “Of course! You said I was at the top of my class!”

Mark: “Of course you were. What was the best thing you remember about getting your CFE?”

Mary Kay: “It was a real sense of accomplishment. Even though I went back and got my MBA when I was in my late 40s, this is the greatest thing I’ve done to pursue an education in my chosen field.”

Mark: “Do you think it helped you in your career?”

Mary Kay: “The knowledge that I gained helped me perform better in my career. The contacts I made introduced me to key hires in my brands. Invaluable!”


Fast forward to the end of 2011, I was named the president of Glass Doctor. Starting from a manager, all the way to becoming the president, I believe my CFE played a large role. As I hired people over the years, I looked for people who have also earned the CFE. It meant, to me, that they cared enough about their careers to invest in themselves. It’s one of the reasons why CFE is important.

Today I still attend all of the CFE Board meetings as a past chair. The CFE program is a program that I believe in with all my heart. Why? Because of what it did for me!

Now I have the opportunity to share not only my story, but also help others who join the CFE program. I have insights on how I can help them earn their CFEs quicker.

It has been almost 18 years since I attended my first Certified Franchise Executive class. Eighteen years and several promotions later, I retired in August of 2020. However, I stay active on that Board because I see how much it has progressed since I first took classes. Other CFE members and I remain a close knitted family and community even past our careers and education.

There are tremendous opportunities for those having a desire to become a CFE. Opportunities, that I hope, will give them the memories and knowledge that I received because I made the same choice. 


Mark Liston is a retired executive with Neighborly. For more information and franchise opportunities for International Franchise Association (IFA) franchisor member Neighborly, visit