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About-face for Juice it Up operator


Willie Smith

What was the biggest shock when you actually started operating your first location?

It was a big learning curve. There were a lot of things I did in the military that didn’t transfer over.  The biggest thing I had to learn was that my employees are not Marines. When I was in the military, it was all Marines. We looked at them as trainable and capable. We just had to train them; it was just a matter of how to train them.

When I came to the civilian world I had the same mentality, so I didn’t really care about who I hired. I thought no matter who it is I could train them on the vision and the mission, but that didn’t work. I was going crazy training these people, and they all had attitudes. And these guys can actually quit on me. It’s not like the military where you’re stuck.

So what did you do?

I had to change my whole way of thinking. What I discovered is that I had to find the right people. I couldn’t make people friendly, couldn’t make them happy. So I had to find those people. Then I had to take a different approach. I realized that they didn’t need to change, I had to change. I had to become a better leader. I had to be more of a teacher, had to have a little more patience and change my expectations a little bit. They’re still high but I needed to find a path to meet them. I have a great team now.

Was that the most important lesson you had to learn about civilian business ownership?

The most important thing for me is to not get distracted. Instead of being busy, work on things that are important. Sales and marketing, employees and customers are the most important. Focus on things that are vital instead of getting distracted by things that steal your time.  

When I first started in business, I noticed that when I was there you get pulled away so often, and when the day’s over you didn’t really accomplish what you needed to do to keep the business growing. I could never find the time to focus on growing the business. I had to learn that when someone calls, take a message. When someone visits, make an appointment so I could focus on what made an impact.

Nicholas Upton

Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

What was the biggest lesson you brought from your military career?

A lot of people think the biggest thing is leadership ability, but I think the biggest thing is courage: Courage to do the right thing, courage so even when things go bad to keep going. And just the courage to face fears. I faced them many times in the military, and then fears in business like making rent or payroll. You just need the courage to keep pushing forward—even if you’re not feeling your best.

What was something you had to push through?

When we first started, my rent went back up after the recession. And of course my labor was pretty high. And people weren’t buying a lot of smoothies. I talked to a mentor, and when he went through a similar time he said you have to continue to market and get out in the community and let them know you’re still there.

So I focused on really marketing, getting into the best magazines, networking through the Chamber of Commerce. Anywhere I could give out samples or coupons to drive traffic to our store, that’s where I was. Once you plant those seeds, they grow.

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