When Shawn Eby took a job at a local Dairy Queen in high school, he never imagined that his future career was in foodservice. But fast-forward to today, and Eby’s résumé includes corporate stints with Burger King and Arby’s, and most recently the position of vice president of operations and training for Wyoming-based Taco John’s.
Working with franchisees across the country on a daily basis made Eby contemplate a move to the operator side, and last year, the right fit finally presented itself. He was visiting his daughter in Long Beach, California, and discovered Dog Haus, which impressed him so much he quickly signed on to become a franchisee.
Eby is slated to open 100 units in Colorado, Wyoming, Kentucky, and Louisiana over the next five years. He also introduced Dog Haus to American Development Partners, which has led to a deal for another 300 units to open over seven years. Here, Eby explains how past corporate experience will inform his future franchising.
1. Keep a corporate mindset
I started in foodservice back in high school as an opening maintenance person. I think they were afraid to put me in front of customers, but I quickly showed them differently. I took the job because everyone in high school was doing it. I had no desire to get into food at that time, but fell in love in with it. I quickly became the store manager of the Dairy Queen, continued to move up, and ended up making it my career.
About 15 years ago, I started working with the corporate level, helping on the franchising side of the business and working with franchisees. That’s when I decided that some day I wanted to be a franchisee myself. In that time, I also traveled the country. Last year alone, I had more than 140 flights. I’ve met with all different types of organizations. Even though it was under one brand, each franchisee has his or her own philosophies, values, and way of running the business. I had to quickly adapt and learn those differences from them, instead of just telling them, “Here’s the way to do it.”
I’ve helped many, many people make a lot of money by showing them what I believe is the right way to run a business, how to treat people, how to budget, and how to plan. I think it’s been school for me for the past 15 years to do it myself. I’ve been looking to find the right concept and the right partners, and that happened about a year ago when I saw Dog Haus for the first time.
2. Rethink your ROI
It’s challenging to find the right properties, because I really want the A locations, but sometimes you want to settle for that B or C location because of price or time. I’ve seen franchisees do that and then five or 10 years later, they’re wondering why they’re not doing the sales they should be. If you maybe had spent the extra $50,000 or $100,000 and gotten the A site, then you would have those sales.
A lot of times people go for the cheaper option, so I’ve been holding my ground on that, looking at tons of properties. It’s also about consistency. It’s still the Dog Haus brand, but it’s my company, as well, and I want my same beliefs for taking care of employees, training, and all of that to be the same across the country. In each state, I’m setting up certified training restaurants, and they’ll be nationally certified by Dog Haus. Any time I bring on a management person, they would go to that certified location, because I think it’s really important to get that consistency throughout your entire company.
You’ve got to do your due diligence. You need a huge plan and a backup to that plan, because something’s always changing, and you really have to pay a premium price to get the premium talent that you need. Sometimes it’s easy to say, “Oh, I can get so-and-so for $25,000” as a GM, but that’s what you’re going to get. I would get the premium talent and pay the $50,000 or $70,000 or whatever it is in that area and give them a good bonus and keep them happy, and then be successful.
3. Give an extra degree
It’s huge for me that I’ve been in restaurants my whole life. I’ve worked every position, and they’ve even created some positions for me. I know what’s it like to be at the front counter. I know that’s where it starts; those employees are the key to our success. I want to treat my employees like gold. I want them to have an opportunity like I had. I’m not saying that you have to work on the frontlines to be a great franchisee, but I think it can certainly help you. A lot of people just think they can open a restaurant and make $1 million—that’s not the case. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very fulfilling and it’s also nice that you can get that beginning-level employee and maybe help model their careers, as well.
I believe in what’s called 212 Leadership. At 211 degrees, water is hot. You add an extra degree and it’s 212 and boiling. When it boils, it creates steam, and with steam you can power a locomotive. And that’s what I talk about with my entire team. If everybody can just give an extra degree of service, then we’re going to be huge. Now, that also falls on my shoulders, because I can’t just say that without doing the same thing. If I walk in a restaurant, I go around and shake every employee’s hand and talk to them, ask them how their families are, and ask him how their goals are going.