Opportunity Knocks: Anil Yadav is Closing In On 200 Locations
When Anil Yadav hears people talk about the United States as the land of opportunity, he takes pride in the fact that his life since emigrating from India has been a testament to the promise implicit in that phrase.
From his first job as a teenage fry cook at the local Jack in the Box in Northern California, to his position today overseeing an empire of 181 restaurant locations, Yadav knows firsthand what that promise means.
Today, he takes pride in remembering his own humble beginnings and still likes to roll up his sleeves and jump in to cook burgers at one of his 155 Jack in the Box units. He not only knows how to cook--he could train most any of the thousands of employees who rely on him for a job.
"We've enjoyed a lot of growth," says Yadav. But being able to thrive in this prolonged recession requires a steady command of the basics: cost control, hard work, strong training, and earning employees' respect while demanding integrity and honesty from everyone on the team.
"Once you get to a certain level, you often change your fundamental values, but I have never done that," says Yadav. That steadfastness is one reason he has been able to command the loyalty of workers, some of whom have been in his organization for the full 21 years he's been in franchising. His success at staying focused has earned him a place among this year's group of MVP Award winners named by Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine at this year's Multi-Unit Franchising Conference.
Yadav got his start in franchising on his home turf in Northern California, a market he understood well. When he got the chance to acquire 25 Jack in the Box locations in the Sacramento area 6 years ago, he immediately grabbed for the brass ring. Later, as he had a chance to consider that he had yet to build a sturdy company operation to manage the units, he learned an invaluable lesson: Don't leap before you have a built-in safety net with a strong company infrastructure.
That experience proved a little frightening, but it didn't stop him. Today he has that operational structure in place and can continue to grow, knowing that he has a great team in place to ensure everything is run properly.
But what Yadav treasures more than anything is one of the first, most simple rules in business: Hard work can cure a host of small problems. He still shows the same zest for a 12-hour day he spoke of when Multi-Unit Franchisee profiled him in 2008 (http://www.mufranchisee.com/article/657/). He doesn't consider himself particularly innovative, nor is he looking for any high praise. But that can be a strength as well. "Being humble has really helped," he says.
In franchising, success stories are built one day at a time, doing the right thing again and again, no matter how small it may be. And for Yadav, every day is a fresh opportunity.
2010 MVP AWARD WINNER
You were recognized for demonstrating outstanding performance and innovation in growing your organization and the brand(s). Tell us more about what you did.
We learn a lot from the franchisors and other vendors we do business with. And there are things I have done personally to help people get into the business. We share with them and educate them on how the business is done, sharing best practices with everybody, whoever needs help in the community. We've been recognized for helping other people.
As a multi-unit franchisee, how have you raised the bar within your organization?
People have moved up with us, gaining promotions. We've given people a chance to invest with us. If I find a restaurant and I'm looking for an operator, I'll look inside the organization before I go outside. That has really done well for me with the loyalty factor and the talent I've been able to attract. One of the things I don't believe in is keeping everything to myself. I challenge my team to have a better today than yesterday as we continue to push for excellence in operations.
Give us an example of innovations you've made to build your company or system.
I've never invented something new. For me, it's about going back to basics, staying true to my beliefs. Whether you have one, two, or 100 restaurants, never change that focus. We create an infrastructure to support operations and the people who need to do their job. Whether it's training, hiring, legal, human relations, facilities, or construction, we have all the infrastructure in place to support all angles of the business. This is all back to the basics you should be doing. People forget that sometimes. Innovation to me is finding a way to simplify your day-to-day activities and be productive.
What core values do you feel led you to win the MVP Award?
Honesty and integrity. I keep my people, especially in top management, informed about what's going on. There's no sugar-coating of the good or bad. Being humble has really helped. You can't forget where you came from, and I have kept a perspective that helps me stay grounded. You stick with the fundamentals, doing the right thing at all times. You may make mistakes, but if you're intention is to do the right thing, you'll recover from your mistakes. That has really helped.
Name: Anil Yadav
Company: JIB Management, Inc.
No. of units:
155 Jack in the Box and 26 Denny's, with 2 Denny's and 1 Jack in the Box under construction
Family: My wife and three kids, two boys and a girl.
Years in current position:Â 21
Years in franchising:Â 21
The company has been able to grow in hard economic times. And I've gone from a fryer to where I am today. That's a big accomplishment. And I get a lot of satisfaction supporting the people in my company.
I trust people too quickly. Growing too fast without having the infrastructure in place (which is what I did in 2003 and 2004) was a mistake. I learned what it takes to build a larger organization, but you should be prepared before you take that on.
Building too fast without a sufficient infrastructure would be my smartest mistake, because it taught me the importance of infrastructure.
How do you spend a typical day?
I'm still working 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes on weekends. My phone is never off, but I am trying to spend more time with the family on weekends.
I'm more focused on keeping it to 5 days. I'm involved in every step in operations, from accounting to HR and construction, but we have really good leadership in place that gives me time to do other things as well.
Favorite fun activities:
Still cricket, still playing in the league. I play every Sunday for 4 or 5 hours. And I enjoy playing with the kids.
Two or three days out of every week I get a good 30 or 40 minutes of exercise. Of course, my wife pushes me for sure.
Favorite stuff/tech toys:
My 4G Sprint phone. I love new phones.
What are you reading?
I'm not a big reader, but I do read quite a few industry-related articles. I read a lot of market research and what others in the business are doing.
Do you have a favorite quote or advice you give?
When people ask, "What do you do to be a success?" I focus on three things: talent, hard work, and faith. You have to have talent. You have to have the knowledge. Luck you can't control, and all that's left is hard work.
Best advice you ever got:
Don't let work make you lose focus on the family.
My biggest influence on me is my wife. She's my biggest critic in a positive way. Lots of times when I'm confused, she's the one I go to.
How do you balance life and work?
I'm doing much better at that over the last few years.
Do the right thing, be honest, and work hard. You only get lucky if you do things right.
Would you say you are in the franchising, real estate, or customer service business? Why?
The customer service business. We interact with customers every day. Without that, there's no business.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My major motivation is just going out there and doing something different than I did the day before. I love my job and what I do. I jump out of bed in the morning.
What's your passion in business?
The franchisor-franchisee relationship is important growing a business like this. Doing the right thing and really taking people with me and continuing to strive for excellence.
Management method or style:
Be open, really open. I have an open-door policy in my entire organization. Everyone in my company has the same opportunity to talk to me.
Financing has been a greater challenge. Just finding the right people to lead the organization has always been a challenge. The challenge is the same everyone faces in the industry. But I love challenges, this is what drives me.
How close are you to operations?
I'm still very close. I love being in the field. I can take orders, cook, and I go in the field and work with people.
Easygoing, hopefully; likeable.
How do others describe you?
The same way.
How do you hire and fire?
I don't get too much involved at the restaurant level. That's the manager's job. I am available to anyone who wants my opinion, and if it's the area manager or higher I get involved. One of the things I always preached: Cut the cord fast. Don't let them linger for long if they don't fit the culture we have. We can't teach honesty and hard work. That has to come from within.
How do you train and retain?
We have created our own leadership training classes for managers and above. We have a lot of restaurant managers. We have monthly training programs for them to become a multi-unit operator. We also do quite a bit of computer-based training that everyone is required to go through. They must certify themselves at every station.
How do you deal with problem employees?
If it's a training issue we work with the employees. If somebody makes a mistake because they weren't trained, there's knowledge we can share. But we can't tolerate dishonesty.
Annual revenue: Not disclosed.
Acquire more restaurants this year and continue to build infrastructure and support systems, with more internal cost controls. For every new dollar we get at the top, we have to squeeze to get more at the bottom.
Growth meter: How do you measure your growth?
I don't have an answer. I never set the goal, whether it's 200 or 300 restaurants. If it's the right opportunity, we take it. We measure success by how happy we are.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
My son's going to college this year, and he desires to be part of the company. Hopefully, that's my exit strategy.
How has the most recent economic cycle affected you, your employees, your customers?
You have to say no to a lot of stuff employees want. We are all affected in some fashion, and that has been the toughest part: reevaluating the benefits, down to giving the increment we used to give. That has changed. We have to explain and educate why we are doing it.
Are you experiencing economic growth/recovery in your market?
Some pockets yes, some pockets no. It depends on whether employment rates are higher or lower. Northern California is different from the Central Valley.
What did you change/do differently during the recent tough economic times that you plan to continue doing into the future?
I think we all have gone back to basic business principles. We aren't taking anything for granted, from capital expenditures to even growing the company properly. In the old days you expected certain successes, but we can't take anything for granted anymore. We're very conservative at setting expectations and goals. It's back to basics from every angle.
How do you forecast for your business during trying times?
Can you even forecast at all? It's been really hard to forecast, but the experience we have helps visualize the direction we need to go monthly or even quarterly.
Where do you find capital for expansion?
Local and regional banks have been very good for our growth. As real estate and other income dries up, the cash-flow business has become more attractive for lenders.
Is capital getting easier to access? Why/why not?
I don't think it's easier to get access, but capital is available, provided you kept your debt ratio in check and aren't highly leveraged. Those are the companies that can grow and get loans in these times.
Have you used private equity, local banks, national banks, other institutions? Why/why not? The regional bank has become the best option for us, but large institutions are also looking at this industry and really working with franchisees and other companies that are properly leveraged.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place for your business?
I'm really too young to talk about exits.
What kinds of things are you doing to take care of your employees?
We have a lot of store-level incentives. We have a unique program every month where we recognize the top five performers. We allocate $1,500 toward the program. And there is a lot of internal recognition. We go out and make them feel good, showing them we care and appreciate the hard work. People look forward to the recognition.
How are you handling rising employee costs (payroll, healthcare, etc.)?
For production employees, we are trying to streamline as much as we can and get back to basics, looking into programs, figuring out the best way to take care of employees. Higher unemployment has helped reduce our turnover considerably. It's a work in progress. We're evaluating what the new administration is doing as far as health costs, but it's kind of tough putting your finger on the pulse at this moment. We are constantly evaluating the service program we have for employees who qualify.
How do you reward/recognize top-performing employees?
We have a bonus program for all the managers, assistant managers, and above. If they achieve certain numbers, they can qualify for bonuses. Then there's a 401(k), health care, medical, vision, and all that good stuff.