Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen multi-unit franchisee Ali Shahid Butt learned long ago that success in business depends on other people. "Team work makes the dream work," says Butt, president of AR Group of Restaurants, which operates 25 Popeyes restaurants in 5 states.
Butt and his wife, Arian Rahmani, received the MVP American Dream Award for achieving remarkable success in the United States. Born in Pakistan, he journeyed to the U.S. in 1992, "based on the desire for achievement and success," he says.
"I had friends who always talked about the United States, its greatness, and the opportunity," Butt told the New Jersey newspaper The Trentonian. "This country inspires a person to succeed. People willing to work hard can always make a life here."
When he began his franchising journey in the U.S., the choice of which path to take was easy: he was a big fan of Popeyes' fried chicken. "Once I tasted it, I loved it and started looking to get a franchise," he said in a recent Popeyes video. He opened his first restaurant in Philadelphia in 1999, working tirelessly with his wife to build the business.
"I remember working 18 to 20 hours a day, full focus without having a back door," he says. "It was a very exciting time, as I had an opportunity to achieve the American Dream, and I wanted to do everything possible to achieve it. I knew I was not afraid of hard work and I am very honest. So once I had the opportunity, I knew nothing could stop me. It was a very exciting time."
His passion for growth, along with his desire to pass his success on to others, is still expanding: he plans to add at least 10 more restaurants by year-end and 100 more restaurants to the company in the next 10 years.
"As you grow, the dream grows," he says. "I don't think I have reached the American Dream yet, but I am happy with what I have achieved. I remember I was opening my Olden Avenue store and there were lots of hurdles. I remember sitting on the curb across the street wondering if this store would ever open. In the end, everything worked out and when that store opened, I had a feeling of achieving the American Dream."
Butt credits his father, who owned a construction business in Pakistan, not only for his work habits, but also for teaching him to have a passion for giving to others.
"My father always said to share your wealth," he says. "Create opportunity for others. When others grow, you grow automatically. Today, I have helped seven other people obtain a Popeyes franchise and I am happy that they have an opportunity to create opportunity for others, the way I created opportunity for them."
The Popeyes team, he says, has given him "full support from every aspect" and vows to work to do the same for his company and the communities his restaurants serve. He believes that striving to identify and meet the needs of his employees makes for a happy workplace. His advice for others seeking success is simple, yet powerful, and has served him well since he arrived in the U.S. almost 25 years ago: honesty, hard work, humility, and focus.
"Work hard, have passion, and close all the back doors and just focus on one thing. Try not to chase too many opportunities at one time," he says. "The problem with young people today is that they want to achieve everything yesterday. The only way to achieve the American Dream, I believe, is to have focus, passion, be honest, and do hard work. There is no shortcut to success."
Name: Ali Shahid Butt
No. of units: 25 Popeyes
Family: 4 daughters
Years in franchising: 18
Years in current position: 10
Coming to the United States.
Starting from scratch to grow to a company with 25 Popeyes.
No set hours.
Best advice you ever got:
My father gave me the advice, "Don't ever be greedy."
What's your passion in business?
To serve as a role model for people starting from scratch. I strive to be the best I can be. I want to be a role model for others who are trying to achieve their dream. I want to mentor upcoming entrepreneurs. I want to coach and guide them so they do not make the same mistakes I did.
Honesty, hard work, and service.
Management method or style:
Involved. Humble. Relationship builder. My father is my role model. He is a very hard-working man and very honest. I learned from him that you cannot do anything alone. You have to rely on other people and create a team. Team work makes the dream work. Today, I have a group of people I can rely on, and I think I have created a very good team. The sky is the limit for this team.
Having 100 percent satisfied customers.
How do others describe you?
How do you hire and fire, train and retain?
QSR is a high employee turnover business. We hire after a series of interviews and do not like to fire people. We have our own training restaurants and we all work together like a family.
For me, growth is new store openings and creating jobs, while maintaining or improving the service standards in the existing restaurants. Growth is taking the Popeyes brand into new markets and operating successful stores. It is so satisfying to see people get an opportunity to achieve their own American Dream.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
In 5 years I would like to have another 50 stores, and 50 more in the next 6 to 10 years.
What are you doing to take care of your employees?
Every manager or owner must have the vision to identify the needs of their employees. Those needs must always be satisfied to achieve a good working environment.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
American Dream Award
Why do you think you were recognized with this award?
How have you raised the bar in your own company?
What innovations have you created and used to build your company?
What core values do you think helped you win this award?
How important is community involvement to you and your company?
What leadership qualities are important to you and your team?
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