Knowing your team

This message was sent to all franchisees of a brand that I developed in the past (that later on went public; so it carries some merit). It’s a great reminder that one of your biggest investments – one of your biggest parts of your business that is in your company – is taking care of the home team. Happy customers, profitability, culture, etc. all take care of itself thereafter.

Tip of the Week: Knowing Your Team

How happy are your team members?
Extremely happy?
Looking to leave?
Can you confidently answer the question? Does your answer include the words “I think”? Or is you answer, “I don’t know?”

Are seemingly happy team members quitting for what seems like no reason?

How in touch are we really with our team members?

Do you employ a team? Or are they just a bunch of people who work together?

How do we find the answers?

First let’s understand why people don’t feel content in their jobs:

The may be surprising to realize that most people don’t quit their jobs because of money. If money comes into the equation it is generally about a perception of fairness issue. “Others are paid more for less work or less dedication.”

Quantity of hours. Team members being unhappy over not receiving enough hours can be about not being able to pay bills, but is often times a perception issue, “I am not getting as many hours as others.” Sometimes the issue of hours is about team members feeling that they are being pressured to work more or longer hours then they can handle.

Favoritism. Team members feel that some of their colleagues are given preferential treatment, praise or privileges that are not afforded to all.

Criticism. Team members feel singled out or are being publicly admonished.

Lack of appreciation. Team members feel as though their work is taken for granted or not noticed.

Internal disputes between team members. Sides are taken, and a negative environment is created for all.

Not being set up for success. Team members often feel that they cannot accomplish goals because of poor training, or not having access to the necessary tools. This creates frustration and possibly quitting.

Problems outside of work adding to the pressures of the job.

What should we, as managers of people do?

Always take five minutes out of every day to sit down and have a one on one conversation with a team member. Ask them how they are feeling, if their schedule works, what they feel they need to be successful.

Foster an environment of fairness and openness. The team looks to the manager to set the example.

Listen to what team members are really saying. Don’t just brush issues of as having a bad day. People need to feel heard.

Conduct exit interviews when a team member leaves the company’s employ. This is a good opportunity to hear the truth; after all there is nothing to lose at this point.

The biggest investment you can make at your company is in your team. If your team is happy, guests are happy, there is low turn over, there is heightened efficiency, and it’s a total win. If even one team member is miserable it can damage the whole business. Just communicate and the wins will more than justify the time.


How to grow rapidly? By doing non rapid-growth things

This is from a podcast I listened to by Reid Hoffman – founder of LinkedIn – who interviewed Brian Chesky, founder of AirBNB; and the topic was “scaling.”

In order to scale, you need to work on things that don’t scale (say whah?)

Stop thinking big, and start thinking small. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invite 1.8 billion people when he started Facebook. He just invited a few people, created fans out of them, and made it easy and more fun to use when they invited others.

Hand-serve your customers at the highest level before scaling; the growth will be an automatic byproduct. Just like helping your customers should be the main focus, as the monetary rewards will come naturally.

It’s hard to get 10 people to not simply “like” you, but LOVE you. But you can get there by spending time with them, caring about what they say, and crafting the product/service of their dreams – one they are fanatical about.

When you handle everything personally in the beginning, this is when you are most in-tune with your fans; and this is where you are most creative. Only until you master this can you ask for more; but try not to forget that when you grow and can afford to add more people and systems in place that create distances from the customer.

Brand leadership through differentiation

On Step 58 in the book “Double Your Profits,” author Bob Fifer says:

“Brands like Clorox, Crest, Kleenex, Jell-O and McDonald’s tend to retain their strength for a long, long time. And brands in relatively new categories like Pampers and Huggies (disposable diapers) spend small fortunes establishing brand image, because they know that once they’ve achieved it, it will be with them a very long time.”

This reinforces my belief that you can’t just be a better company than your competitor. You instantly have a super-high barrier to entry – with customer loyalty to an incumbent, difficulty in getting consumers to change habits, people are too busy or bombarded to give you a chance, and you’re unknown and risky right out of the gate.

The best way for an organization to have a foothold on customer interest, trial, acquisition, and loyalty is to be different. Make products or services differently. Deliver your products/services differently (i.e. Amazon’s drone delivery and supermarket shopping without cashiers). Experiment with doing the exact opposite of what you and your competitors are conditioned to do. Combine two different worlds (think Netflix meshing entertainment with the membership model). Create a new category name and own it.

Only in this way do you have a fighting chance to thrive.

Don’t be greedy

Being in the restaurant franchise industry for 10 years, I’ve met the whole spectrum of food entrepreneurs – from the 1-2 unit mom-and-pop shops, to the big organizations who own and operate hundreds of stores of different concepts. 

Regardless of what you consider “success,” a glaring common denominator to achieving it lies in the avoidance of being greedy.

If your goal is to have more time with family and friends, or focusing only on what you’re passionate about doing (your “art”)…not being greedy means delegating tasks that you’re not excellent at or in love with, to very capable people who want to help you grow, and paying them well to show appreciation. It means knowing when to stop building more stores if it doesn’t align with who you are, and just focusing on delivering an incredible experience for loyal customers for your existing platform. There is always enough to do with what you’ve got.

Customer’s see immense value in what you provide, and will pay and refer others to you. Employees feel appreciated, will work together in protecting and sustaining your company, and will stay there for a long time. 

If your goal is to be a market leader with strong penetration – something my Halal Guys SoCal team and I are trying to achieve here in our home market….not being greedy means finding great partners who will bring their unique strengths to the table (I love love LOVE my partners), divide and conquer, and lighten the load so you can focus on your work, and sharing in the risks and rewards fairly. It means that we empower and handsomely compensate a great management team who will hire and train a great operations team who will deliver a great customer experience who will build a sustainable customer base – the gift that keeps on giving. It also means you can attract investors who will gladly fuel your growth to heights you’ve never imagined nor reached without, and that you’ll never have to ask for money again. 

Being greedy means that you will not allow employees to develop and feel useful – and they will leave for a company that will appreciate them, pay them well, allow them to grow, earn their commitment – causing you to continually have to replace and re-train staff. It means you will cut corners on food quality, portions, and service to save a few pennies – and lose customers who don’t feel taken care of and who don’t believe you’re worth their money. You won’t be able to focus on your craft because you’ve hogged all the duties and you’re busy putting out fires that you haven’t allowed capable teammates to learn and help with. Being greedy means screwing investors over that lead to a dry well, regret, a horrible reputation, potential lawsuits, and constantly having to look for money. 

Find out what your unique definition of success is, and jot down your list of things you can do to grow your business without greed. These two to-do’s are oversimplified, but it definitely will set you on the right path to doing amazing things. 

Company culture is everything


I had a meeting today between the owners of Cauldron Ice Cream – an emerging food concept in our Fransmart portfolio that I am fanatical about (and you should be, too) – and a potential franchisee interested in building the brand’s stores in their home market – and both sides were talking about company culture. That topic made me happy.

Company culture is so damn critical to the sustainability, identity, growth, and success of a brand; yet it’s difficult – almost impossible – to directly measure.

And because of this, a lot of company owners just don’t give it the attention it needs – sadly and to their detriment.

“What gets measured, gets managed” is more important, right?


Think about your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, kids, domestic partner, and/or best friend. Can you directly measure how much you love someone? Not really; but you can absolutely see its results: How much time you spend together, how you can complement each others’ thoughts/sentences/actions, how you stand up for each other, the tenure of your relationship, and the list goes on. Loyalty game is strong.

Because you can’t measure love – do you refrain from trying to pursue, enjoy, and expand it? No fricken way – life is all about relationships.

Starbucks, Amazon, and other life-changing companies of our time have legendary culture; and their success is very correlated to their focus on building an environment of loyal, fanatical employees and customers.

How you do that and what you do is up to you, and each industry and organization has its own unique way of achieving this. But if there’s a common denominator that jump-starts your thinking…it’s love.

Love defies gravity, love overlooks mistakes, love grows exponentially when you invest in it, love doesn’t try to shortcut, love is patient, love is kind (yes, I’m stealing from the Bible, too, lol), love makes your life rich and worthwhile.

Going back to the above example…do you notice that when you get into a fight with your loved one, nothing else really matters? For me – I can close the biggest deal of my life or win the lottery – maybe even both at the same time – but if I got into a fight with my wife that morning…you can forget about trying to enjoy any of that. I’d even trade those circumstances for a chance at reconciliation.

You can have an amazing handle on your COGS, labor, marketing, etc…but if your employees hate working there or your customers don’t love you…don’t expect to be around for long. There’s little-to-no forgiveness when they aren’t taken care of.

On the flip side – what if instead, your employees were loyal to you? What if your customers are head over heels for you?

Employees offering to stay longer; long lines and wait times; making mistakes on orders; high costs; little-to-no marketing; etc. They are all forgivable.

So why are people driving all the way from Los Angeles, San Diego, and traffic overall; willing to wait in line for sometimes an hour; pay a premium on ice cream they easily get half as expensive and immediately at their local Baskin Robbins or even supermarket? The answer is a culture of love in the product, delivering the customer experience, and team. Think about that when constructing or recalibrating your organization.

So yes – manage the facets of your business that easily pump out data for your analysis. They help you survive, and it’s good to measure.

But don’t forget the part of your business that you can’t see but feel. They help you thrive. Beyond measure.

Ideas: An app that easily records & for attaches a voice message in email responses

I’m going to share an idea that I think will make you billions…or at least $1.99 from me as a customer in the Apple Store lol!

When I read emails and want to respond to them, I have two choices:

  1. Type them via traditional keyboard. Which is sometimes not convenient, the message is too long for me to comfortably do it on my phone, or I’m just lazy lol. Or
  2. Turn Siri on and have her dictate it. There are a lot of words that she doesn’t understand, and it frustrates me. 

I wish there was a third option

A way for me to record a 30-60 second voice message as my response – right where I’m composing – and send it away as an attachment. 

Right now, the only way to do this on my iPhone is to open a separate app – the Voice Memos one, for example – record the message; save it to my Dropbox or iCloud Drive; switch to my Mail app, and then attach it. Inconvenient and unsustainable. 

In my ideal world, when composing an email, I can click a blank area in the response body – and along with the below options I can choose “Insert Voice Message” or some variation. 

I would then record the email response, press done, and send it off like any other attachment. 

Hopefully, this will reach the right developer and they will make one of my deepest wishes come true. 

Growth opportunities and doing the math

If it’s the right thing for your company to expand rapidly, consider giving some of your profits away.

This can be engaging a marketing company; hiring a top salesperson or sales organization; accepting money from investors; and whatever is relevant in your industry that fosters growth.

I talk to many business owners who are so focused on costs and percentages in a vacuum, that they lose the context of those numbers, don’t appreciate the ability of strong partners, and lose sight of why they want to grow in the first place. And because of that, their performance hits a ceiling and they set themselves up to either get eaten alive or remain unfulfilled.

Owning 100% of a million-dollar company sounds sexy; but for me – I’d rather own 1% of a billion-dollar company.

Of course – the above is over-simplified and there is much more to making a decision that relates to this. You need to make sure that growth is truly a lifestyle and decision with consequences that you’re prepared for (which is why I wrote “IF it’s the right thing…” in the beginning); you need to properly vet growth partners (they are not created equal, and the cheapest is never usually the best); you need to play out best/average/poor-case scenarios (plan for the best but prepare for the worst); and you need to take inventory of your current resources (is your existing manpower, capital, experience, and team reflective of your 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year goals?).

But don’t be so consumed with how much something costs that your blinders are on to how an investment could return for you. Marrying your spouse COSTS you. Having kids COSTS you. Buying a nicer, more reliable car COSTS you. Going to the gym COSTS you. But they can be exponentially rewarding, and if you only lived life based on what’s safe and how much something costs…it’d be a sad life on at least, 1,031 levels #exaggeration

If you really want to measure costs, compute the loss of opportunity as well. Don’t orphan that super important metric.

Let go of what is, so that you can receive what’s possible. If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.

The Halal Guys – Store #4


I am BEYOND EXCITED that my team and I are opening our fourth store in the city of Cerritos, California next week!

I have a nostalgic relationship with this town. Back when I was a college kid with little funds (student loans bankrolled my adventures, lol) and had a machine-like metabolism (I still eat like I do *sigh* *smh*) – my friends and I would frequent this area for cheap  desserts (Guppy House was my jam) and Filipino food (Jeepney Asian Grill and Red Ribbon bakery). It made my childhood delicious.

Since then, it’s grown so much into a major foodie hub in Southern California – with the entrants of iconic brands like 85 Degrees Bakery, North Shore Poke and Neptunes Raw Bar (owned by one of our partners); and upcoming monsters 7 Leaves, Cauldron Ice Cream, Afters Ice Cream, and soooooo so many more of our friends and peers in the industry.

This place was a no-brainer for the brand.

I am proud of my partners, vendor partners, staff, and corporate. It’s unreal to think that over the last 16 months we’ve grown to four stores (along with Costa Mesa, Long Beach, and Koreatown), three more in construction, I’m hoping for five more by year-end, and we have 40+ more to go…but it’s not surprising when God’s involved, and when you have an amazing team.

If you want to go fast – go alone; but if you want to go far – go together (we got best of both worlds!).