Tammy Whitworth wasn't aiming to become the CEO of the Remodeling 550's biggest replacement contractor firm when she and husband Todd started their first Window World franchise location in 1999 in Wilmington, N.C. But then things got complicated. In 2007, she and Todd bought Window World from Todd's father. In 2008, Tammy's first child was born prematurely. In 2010, Todd died.

"I became a CEO overnight after the passing of my husband," Whitworth told Franchising.com in a wide-ranging interview/profile. "I was a mother of three children. So when I became CEO, leading this company was something that I felt very strongly that I had to do, that I wanted to do." And she's been CEO ever since, even while overcoming breast cancer. As the author put it:

Facing these struggles, she says, made her stronger and she has thrived at the helm of Window World. Under her leadership, Whitworth has moved the organization to a franchise model to create consistency within the Window World family, established world-class training for franchisees, and formed an advisory board. Despite the challenges, Whitworth's mission has remained focused on steering the company toward success, adhering to fundamentals, and keeping the core values of the brand and its family approach intact.

Today there more than 200 Window World locations nationwide. For Franchising.com, Whiteworth talked about leadership and its challenges, whether it's better to be liked or respected, how she makes decisions, industry trends, company plans, and advice she'd give to CEO wannabes.

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