Market domination on Sun’s mind
What’s your motto for driving growth?
You have to pick a good brand; even if you’re the best operator and don’t have a good brand, you won’t make it. Once you have a good brand, then you have to get good operators, and with good operators, you have to grow. We’re a constant developer. We’re constantly, aggressively looking for new sites, we’re constantly developing as much as we can. That’s always been top of mind: grow or die.
You strive for complete control of a market. Why is that so important?
It’s all about economies of scale for marketing, pricing, training. When you own the market, you don’t have to deal with other franchisees. Basically, you dictate the pricing, the marketing strategy and salaries so you don’t have other people stealing your employees. It just makes you a better operator.
How do you organize a company as wide-ranging as Sun Holdings?
Each brand has a very strong brand president that has been at that brand for a very long time with full reign. They are managed on a budget base, but they run the brand. That brand person really has a lot of say and needs to work on all sides, all the issues. They have to see the full picture, all of everything.
Supporting your employees has long been an objective of yours. What does that look like?
We support different programs like scholarships through Burger King and our own company. Last year, we did close to 200 $1,000 scholarships to mostly Hispanic students, but
we do it for all our employees, not just Hispanics. The challenge is to find enough students to apply. I think we’ll step up to 250 to 280 scholarships this year and find ways to improve it.
Who helped you along the way?
My brother-in-law has been with me since almost day one. He’s always been fully committed to operations and he oversees all the brand presidents. He’s out there in the stores a lot more than I am. We have a lot of respect for each other.
You no doubt received a lot of advice, solicited or not. What is something that stuck with you?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some people will say, ‘Don’t open another store until you fix this one.’ Forget that. If it’s a bad location, it’s a bad location. I’d rather keep the growth and then close the bad location—that’s probably some of the worst advice I’ve received.
What was a turning point in your business?
The beginning was hard until we got scale. Three years ago, we bought 100 Burger Kings from corporate when they refranchised. In the same year we bought 50 from Arby’s when they refranchised. That year we added 160 to 180 stores and put us close to 400 units, and that was really a turning point. It’s a cycle. You have more stores, therefore you have a lot more sales, you have a lot more projections. You then go to the bank and they give you more money and we use that money to grow and buy.
You’ve become a role model in the Hispanic business community. How important are those accolades to you?
It’s good to be an example. Hopefully others will follow as they jump into an entrepreneurial career and be their own bosses.