Leaving my 10-year career at Fransmart

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This picture was taken at a very pivotal time in my life. I was at the 14th Factory Museum in Los Angeles with my family (a MUST visit – even if you’re not an art fanatic), and while I was admiring the exhibit, I wasn’t entirely present. My mind was immersed in one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

For the past few months, I was feeling conflicted about my job. Which was the strangest thing, because I love the work I do at Fransmart – acquiring small food concepts and growing them into global restaurant chains, and helping entrepreneurs and investors win in the process.

It didn’t make sense that I felt pulled in a different direction. My job was rewarding on so many levels.

After a lot of time in prayer, thinking, and discussions with my wife and other loved ones…I felt a calling that told me it was time to leave Fransmart and put more chips on my entrepreneurial aspirations.

Telling you I was nervous was the understatement of the century. I felt tremors coursing through veins just thinking about leaving. While The Halal Guys was growing by leaps and bounds, we haven’t taken a distribution for two years; all profits went to either repaying our investors or reinvesting into fortifying our organization and new store development. Fransmart was my family’s main source of income; I love the company, my CEO Dan Rowe, my teammates, and my senior post; and I have insurance, a retirement plan, and other perks. I felt stupid and crazy for having these thoughts.

But if I look back at all of the game-changing moments in my life – leaving college DURING MY LAST SEMESTER BEFORE GRADUATION to pursue my first restaurant; being employed by Fransmart when I was trying to franchise my own restaurant; going through a difficult divorce after only six months of marriage; meeting my wife at church when I wasn’t looking; her kids adopting me before I later realized I couldn’t have kids; embarking on The Halal Guys as the largest franchise partner in the chain….I’m reminded that none of these events were ever planned, that these couldn’t happen by my own power, and that they were not decisions I would’ve normally made had it not been for God’s persistent calling and provision.

I put up a fight with myself and God. “Why?!” “This is my main bread and butter until the revenue from my other projects eclipse what I do at Fransmart. Isn’t this a little premature?” And “I’m able to handle multiple projects at the same time; there’s no need to leave if I don’t have to!”

Time and time again, without fail, and in the Bible as well as in my life…thinking I know better than God always fails. Not following His will always fails. Delayed obedience is still disobedience, and always fails as well.

So back to the museum story, where this picture was taken…I was moving from one exhibit to the next, where I was directed to exit the indoor part of the museum. The internal conflict of whether I should leave or stay with Fransmart was hit in the face with a sign that said “EXIT” and “MORE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t even part of the exhibit, but it was the most important artwork for me. It helped tipped the scale towards leaving. It was God’s way of yelling at me – all other subtle whispers and mediums to move me didn’t shake my indecision for months until this moment.

That night, I submitted my letter of resignation to Fransmart, and the new adventure began.

Ten years of service. Ten years of working long hours. Ten years of traveling all over the globe. Ten years invested into a career that I thought would last until retirement. But as the investment disclaimer always says: “Past performance is no indication of future performance;” success and comfort zones both breed complacency; and God tends to strip you of the life you knew so that you can depend on Him, build spiritual muscle, and give you more purpose.

I’m scared out of my wits for leaving – but it’s proof that I was dependent on my job more than Him. I’ve learned that when I’m scared, I am on the right track. And the Bible teaches me that there is only enough room for one of the two – fear or love. If I replace this fear with love, then I’ll remember that God cares for me unconditionally, is much wiser than my own knowledge, and has a plan bigger and more meaningful than I can ever imagine. So with that encouragement from Him…I am super excited.

I am thankful to have left my employer on good terms, as I plan on doing independent consulting for Fransmart; but now I have a clean slate to use my experiences, talents, and passions I’ve gathered along the way to help people the way I believe God has called me to help. I never really had a plan to transition to, but that’s a good thing – since I’m letting Him lead me; I just need to be comfortable with uncertainty. I’ve already received some excitement for my departure and opportunities from my network, and so having a clean slate definitely makes room for interesting and meaningful work (it also can attract jobs I shouldn’t be doing, too; but I’m trying to create boundaries in front of them).

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Here’s to the end of one chapter; and on to the next.

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Company culture is everything

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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?

Wrong.

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.

Real estate & insurance policies

One of my favorite jobs is helping franchisees look for real estate. It’s one of the three biggest ingredients for a successful store (along with having the right franchise partner and operations team); and arguably the most important since it’s pretty permanent (for 5-10 years at least); it’s a fixed cost that you can’t really change, no matter what you do; and it doubles as your marketing vehicle.

Anyway – I was checking out sites for my 3-unit Cauldron Ice Cream franchisee today, and taught him a few things that might be helpful for you, too:

  • You will pay for bad real estate, but good real estate will pay youDan Rowe, my mentor, legendary franchisee and developer for Five Guys Burgers, The Halal Guys, Qdoba, etc; and CEO of Fransmart.
  • Add part of your marketing budget to your real estate budget. When you are in an area where people easily see and drive/pass by your store every day, you will eventually get potential customers to enter your store and give you a shot. That’s the best type of marketing – being conveniently where the customers are, so that you are pulling instead of pushing. After that, the trick is WOW-ing and keeping them.
  • It’s not just about density around a particular site – it’s about TARGETED density. If there is heavy population but none of them are your type of customers, then you’ve used the wrong data. As it relates to desserts and fast casual concepts – you need a high concentration of residential/day-time populations with high incomes. You will be relevant to them and there will be less price sensitivity or confusion.
  • “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

I call these bullet points “multiple insurance policies” against failure or sub par performance. While I cannot guarantee success or a specific dollar amount of revenue/profit – as there are a lot of forces out of my control – this definitely sets you up for a better chance of winning.

Anyway – hang tight. One of the most delicious, innovative dessert concepts is coming your way. 40K+ Instagram followers can’t be wrong.