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Ego’s in check for Halal Guys operator


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Paul Tran, Halal Guys

So you’re in the mix with five partner owners, which is a lot. How do you make it work?

Because we’re five partners, someone will see something another partner won’t. So we can divide and conquer. I think all of us have a unified love of the brand and I think we recruited each other not because we’re friends and families but because we have core competencies and can get out of the way when someone else is better. I think a lot of the decision-making comes from corporate, so we can put our egos aside. So nobody feels like they need to keep the spotlight. As long as you can keep egos out of the way, you can see a clear path.

That ego piece is important to you, why is that?  

That’s the biggest rule I made for myself, and I say this quite a bit: You just need to eliminate ego out of the equation. It causes a lot of issues when someone says, ‘I need all the credit.’ You don’t hire people better than you, you don’t allow people to contribute, and ego just prevents enjoyment of the business—there’s no fairness or respect.

Whatever you do eliminate ego from the equation, create an empty space to have opportunities to have growth or success to fill the bucket instead of ego. When you’re filled with ego, you’re focused on yourself, not finding someone to help.

You mention hiring people better than you, what do you mean by that?

What brought us together was not that we were the best operators, but because we loved the brand. Because we came in with that, we knew we had to hire people better than us because our limited knowledge wouldn’t get us that far. Our district manager was a 75-unit Panera bread operator. He was a little more expensive but it paid off 10-fold because he was best in class, and then he hired best in class.

What’s the best lesson you’ve gotten from some of your seasoned team members?

My CEO, Dan Rowe, taught me that you will always pay for bad real estate, but good real estate will pay you. That’s helped me be really maniacal in finding good sites. It’s one of the only fixed costs in our business. So that’s been really helpful for me on a real estate side.

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.

Much of your ownership group is fairly young, how has that affected the business?

I think in the beginning not a lot of people took us seriously. The combination of Halal Guys being a new brand and we were young, it was really hard to get real estate in Southern California. Landlords were used to really well-capitalized groups. We had to wait to open our first store, but after it took off, magically real estate was made available. We were thankful for a landlord that was willing to take a chance on us that wanted something new and fresh.

Do you think young franchisees get a fair shake?

No. If you’re young, that’s not a weakness, it’s a natural advantage. You don’t have bad habits, you have energy, and you can think of business in a different way with a new perspective.

And it helps you keep your ego in check, right?

Totally. I think that’s an advantage of not being too experienced, just being young and passionate and willing to be coached. I think that’s so much better than coming in with bad habits.

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