American Dreamer: Sharing the Wealth with Employees and Community

American Dreamer: Sharing the Wealth with Employees and Community

Nachhattar Chandi is not exaggerating when he describes his story as one that began with "colossal odds" and resulted in "triumph."

From walking 3 miles to school on India's dirt roads to founding and running a multimillion dollar business in his new country, Chandi believes his life embodies the American Dream. He came to the U.S. in 1991 and became a manager at a small gas station in Coachella, Calif. Three years later he owned the station and converted it into his first ARCO am/pm franchise.

Since then, Chandi, with his wife Susana and four children, has continued to build the business, creating hundreds of jobs in his Southern California communities. Today, the 43-year-old operates 17 ARCO am/pm locations, 3 Del Tacos, 6 Express Tunnel Car Washes, and one Subway.

He credits his company's achievements to a wife who is the "engine to my success," great franchisor partners, his father's advice about procrastination, and the opportunities available in the U.S. "Not waiting on doing things until tomorrow will many times cause one to be at the office until very late. Thus far the hard work has paid off quite handsomely, and I am humbled by what we have been able to achieve," he says.

In addition to his myriad charitable contributions and participation, an important part of his work lies in helping the young people he employs stay on track and follow their own dreams. "I take special pride in being able to offer young adults their first job, some while still in high school," he says. "This is a method by which I, as a business owner, actively improve the quality of individuals who will grow to be the fabric of our communities."

Name: Nachhattar Chandi
Title: CEO/principal, Chandi Group USA, Mecca, Calif.
No. of units: ARCO am/pm, 17; Del Taco, 3; Subway, 1; Express Tunnel Car Wash, 6
Age: 43
Family: Wife Susana, 4 children, Amandeep, Gurvinder, Davinder, and Angelie
Years in franchising: 17
Years in current position: 20+


Formative influences/events:
Growing up in India was by far the most influential factor in propelling me to seek a better future for my family.

Key accomplishments:
Opening the world's largest Arco AM/PM, Mecca Travel Center. This site is in a rural area where it seemed difficult to see my business grow. However, with the right team and countless hours of work, we have made record sales and we continue to grow. Also, joining a fantastic brand like Del Taco has been an extraordinary experience. The Del Taco team has stood by our side from day one and we are incredibly thankful to be a part of such a successful enterprise.

Work week:
Monday through Saturday, and sometimes even Sunday.

What are you reading?
Online news sites have temporarily taken hold of my reading time.

Best advice you ever got: My father once told me, "Don't do tomorrow what you can do today, and if there's something you need to do today get it done now."

What's your passion in business?
I feel passionate about building businesses that improve the infrastructure of our communities, promote economic growth for our cities, and offer individuals a means to support their families in a dignified manner.


Business philosophy:
Growing conscientiously while keeping in mind the ethics with which our company was built. There is also a large "do it yourself" spirit that I regularly project onto my team. This means that if a challenge arises, each team member should strive to figure out the best solution and make our individual efforts coalesce into the best result.

Management method or style:
We believe in a hands-on approach where all of our team members work proactively to achieve the highest level of efficiency. Transparency and open lines of communication are also key aspects of our work life.

Greatest challenge:
At this moment my greatest challenge is to balance work and family life. I find myself continuously balancing and looking for ingenious ways to spend more time with my family without losing track of the office work.

How do others describe you?
As the hardest-working person they've ever met. This description probably is the result of my effort to follow my father's advice about procrastination.

How do you hire and fire, train and retain?
We recruit and hire personnel based on individual aptitudes. After this, we have made it a personal business philosophy to cross-train everyone, which allows us to identify particular skills and rearrange personnel as necessary. Our employees are part of our extended family and we are very receptive to their voices, which makes it easier to pinpoint problems. Letting go of someone is done through a step-by-step method with ample notification and hard copy documentation. It is always done keeping in mind the company's needs and the employee's fit in our enterprise.

Bottom Line

Annual revenue:
$300 million.

2014 goals:
$350 million to $380 million.

Growth meter: How do you measure your growth?
Our growth is not only measured in numbers from our P&Ls and balance sheets, it is also measured by my personal assessment of the quantity and quality of people we have on our teams.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years?
We anticipate the addition of two or three brands to our portfolio in the upcoming 5 years. We expect to successfully complete the development of our largest project at the moment, Northgate in Indio, Calif., within the next 18 to 24 months. In the span of 5 to 10 years, my personal goal is to drive our company to the billion-dollar mark. This will be a landmark, and I believe we are in the right direction.

What are you doing to take care of your employees?
Our employees are the backbone of the company, the first line of interaction with the customer and the reflection of our values as a company to the public. As such we are continually monitoring their successes and shortcomings to offer improvement and ascension within the company ranks. Wage incentives are the key method by which we compensate an excellent employee.

What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
An exit strategy for me is not an option, simply because of the effort and time I have invested in building my company. Nonetheless, if my children feel that at one point my venture and vision are no longer theirs, then they can put in place any exit strategy they feel is best. We have built a network of multiple business connections that would make a sale an easy option for them.

2104 MVP American Dream Award

For Achieving Remarkable Success In Their New Country

Why do you think you were recognized with this award?
I believe it was because my story represents one with colossal odds and a triumphant result. This is very much the substance of the proverbial American Dream: the notion that no matter how bad your situation is, if you exert yourself through hard work and dedication then you can make something great of yourself.

How have you raised the bar in your own company?
One of the ways is by being unafraid of expansion. This does not mean making careless decisions in business deals. Rather, it is showing your corporate team and employees that you believe in them so strongly that a new project is always in the works. It also helps improve your employees' sense of job and performance if they feel they are part of an enterprise that is constantly growing.

What innovations have you created and used to build your company?
My strategy has been simply good old-fashioned hard work. I also have the best right hand in the world, my wife Susana. She has been with me since the beginning and we make for an incredibly balanced team. I firmly believe that she has been the engine for my success.

What core values do you think helped you win this award?
Values like integrity, devotion, and ethical growth are at the core of our company's mission statement. Our success did not happen overnight. We have a track record and relationships within the business community that vouch for our reputation.

How important is community involvement to you and your company?
Community involvement is our way of connecting back with the people who make our livelihood possible. As such, it is extremely important for us to commit to community support, and that the community visualizes the efforts we make to improve their surroundings. Every event, grand opening, and fundraiser we support is an invitation for our community to celebrate with us and join our efforts.

What leadership qualities are important to you and your team?
Leadership for me and my team is not being afraid to hire the best and brightest. Being a leader can sometimes make an individual weary of competition. However, by adding capable individuals, I believe that this does not have to be the case. As a leader, it is my responsibility to be constantly learning, and hiring the best and brightest will keep me perpetually aware and informed.

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