I started in this business in 1987; I’ve been in hospitality since I was a busboy at 16. I saw myself doing something like this for my career from a young age because I had great mentors and great role models, and I went to hotel school and had a strong passion for hospitality.

I like to put people in business for themselves, but not by themselves. This is why I love the franchise business model; it’s that simple. My favorite thing is meeting people with the entrepreneurial spirit. I love watching ideas and dreams turn into open restaurants, and seeing the success from a concept to an execution.

I try to understand before being understood, so I ask questions when someone starts looking into opening a franchise. Are you looking for a lifestyle? Are you looking for something that’s really simple, easy to operate, and low in investment costs? Or do you like interaction of dealing with customers and catering? Based on someone’s feedback, I’ll direct them to a brand.

What I tell people is that we have a pot for every lid at FOCUS. We have snack brands that are simplistic, low investment, easy to operate, and fun to work. These would be Carvel, Jamba, Auntie Anne’s, and Cinnabon. Then we have restaurant brands that are fast casuals; Schlotzsky’s has been around for 50 years and has probably the best sandwich in the business. Moe’s is Mexican and it’s a hot, popular concept. And then McAlister’s Deli is a healthier, cleaner diet with soups, salads, baked potatoes, etc.

New franchisees that come into the system are what inspire me, and I’ve learned more from my franchisees, my prospects, and my customers through watching them develop, finance, and operate than I could from any other business endeavor. I love to watch something go from a conversation to an idea to an action step to an execution to a store opening. It’s like watching a tree grow. Plus, I like to be around people, I like the customer interaction, and I like to serve people—and I like foodservice, catering, and eating. It’s just fun; it’s like I never have to go to work.

What was your first job?

When I was 16, I was a busboy at a Harrah’s hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

What’s your favorite FOCUS Brands menu item?

I like any Jamba smoothie, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, and Carvel ice cream. And I love the queso at Moe’s and the club sandwich at McAlister’s Deli.

What’s your favorite cuisine outside of any FOCUS Brands?

Pizza; I’d eat pizza every day.

Who has inspired you as a leader?

My dad, Mike Levin, and my brother, Mike Muir, who I lost to cancer.

What’s the best piece of advice you think franchising executives should hear?

Seek to understand before being understood.

What are some of your interests outside of your career?

Fighting cancer. I lost my younger brother to cancer, so outside of business and outside of my career, I spend all of my time with CURE International helping raise money to fight it.

Franchising, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, FOCUS Brands