Franchising | August 2015 | By Robert Thomas

Leading by Example

Having climbed the ranks from janitor to multiunit franchisee, Farouk Diab knows that the best way to lead employees is by example.
California QSR franchisee invests in employees for strong job growth and promotion.
After rising through the ranks, Farouk Diab works to give his employees the same opportunity. Wienerschnitzel

When Farouk Diab immigrated to the U.S. from Israel in 1975, he secured his first job at a Wienerschnitzel Premium Hot Dogs in San Jose, California. Diab started as a janitor, but with a strong work ethic, he quickly climbed the company ladder to a managerial role. Recognizing Diab's dedication, the owner of the San Jose unit suggested he look into opening his own store. In 1977, Diab was hired into Wienerschnitzel's Limited Franchising program, which removes the obstacle of raising large capital for would-be franchisees. In just nine months, his store doubled its sales, and soon he was awarded another unit in the program. He left the Limited Franchising program in 1980 to become an independent franchisee.

Today, Diab has 40 years with Wienerschnitzel under his belt and a total of 18 units to his name, but he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he plans to open two new units each year at a minimum. Diab describes how franchisees can not only become successful, but also build a team through hard work, recognition, and opportunity.

1. Lead by example

When I first came to the U.S., I had no intention of making a career in the quick-serve industry; I just needed a job. Once I started working and seeing the possibilities, I realized there might be a future for me. My promotions through Wienerschnitzel all came from hard work and staying dedicated to the current task at hand. Because of this, I love the idea of any employee starting at the bottom. I believe there are certain experiences and lessons that cannot happen unless you start at the beginning. There are merits in working your way up, but it cannot happen unless you display that type of ethic for your employees.

I have no intention of slowing down my personal business goals, but I must also show my employees and managers that same drive. Six days a week, for 10 hours minimum, I make it a point to visit all of my locations. During that time, I oversee the operations, help problem-solve any issues, and provide any reinforcement that's needed during my time. I think a lot of franchisees need to ask themselves: Am I ready for the challenge? You have to commit to both the business and the brand. Lead by example, not only for your own benefits, but also to ensure your employees and managers have that visual.

2. Recognize and reward

One of the best parts of my job is developing relationships with my employees. I learned very early on in this industry that you need to find those great people to get behind you. If you don't implement strategies to find and keep those people, you'll constantly be backtracking as a franchisee. To prevent that, I designed an incentive program in 1990 to reward my highest-performing managers with the possibility of becoming partners and partial owners in my next purchased or developed unit. In this instance, the general manager receives a guaranteed salary and 49 percent ownership, and I have 51 percent ownership. This not only provides them with a long-term goal, but it also allows me to be successful as a business owner.

I have people that have been with me for more than 30 years. When you find the right people who learn fast, work hard, and want to do a good job, they'll stick around if you provide challenges and opportunities. Having programs like this also allows for expansion. More stores means less time you can spend in each store. Great managers who feel recognized and rewarded become your eyes and take control the way you would. There should be an incentive to encourage them to do so on a daily basis. All my managers know that I'm looking for this type of leadership that could develop into them being my partner, even with having no financial capital to invest. Currently, 10 of my 18 total units have partial owners through this program.

3. Be ready for change

I have a hard time kicking back and relaxing. I'm always looking to improve, build business, and add more stores. My wife and kids are my inspiration. They serve as an example of how I can run my units and encourage a family attitude across the board. When people work for a company that makes them feel like part of a family, they'll continually appreciate it. This industry, however, is always changing, and you have to be on your toes for the future.

I plan on being one of the first adopters of a new restaurant design from Wienerschnitzel with a smaller environmental footprint. I want to be on the forefront and not moving backward. That challenge is exciting, and I think every franchisee needs to look to the future and use it to their advantage. Part of adapting to change means having to do things unexpectedly, and that's where the family comes into play. Being able to rely on my employees, managers, and partner-owners means that I can roll with anything this industry throws at us because we're ready for the challenge.

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