Better Late Than Never!: Shahid Hashmi is Making Up for Lost Time
Hashmi is making up for lost time in a big way. The multi-unit franchisee, whose holdings in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions include 45 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens, 2 Burger Kings, 2 Retro Fitness gyms, and, most recently, ZIPS Dry Cleaners, has hatched an aggressive growth plan that he predicts will top $150 million in revenue in the next 10 years.
Armed with two MBAs and 20 years of financial experience in the telecom industry, Hashmi considered his initial foray into franchising an investment, when he opened a Popeyes store in Washington, D.C., in 1994. He soon would quit his day job after discovering he needed to be more than just a weekend boss.
"If you are an entrepreneur, you can't be part-time," said Hashmi, managing partner of Pure Foods Management, which operates in the D.C. area and New Jersey.
A native of Pakistan, Hashmi, the eldest of seven children, says his parents emphasized the traits of honest and hard work and were "hard on us" when it came to education. After earning a graduate degree from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1971, Hashmi decided move to "the land of opportunity" where he earned his second MBA in finance at Western Illinois University. He worked as a financial analyst at two large telecommunications companies before his entrepreneurial spirit took over. After 20 years in the corporate world, he found franchising appealing because of the built-in customer base that comes with a strong brand.
"With good brand recognition, you can put up a sign, open the door, and people are waiting to come in," he says. "With a non-franchise business, you have to build business gradually."
Hashmi used his own capital and understanding of numbers and projections to grow the company, starting with Popeyes. He added Burger King and ZIPS Dry Cleaners in 2014 and now has two Retro Fitness gyms under construction. In five years, he hopes to have 100 Popeyes, another 50 or 60 Burger Kings, and expand the ZIPS brand into new markets.
His decision to diversify was to avoid "putting all his eggs in one basket." A former connection with Popeyes introduced him to the New Jersey-based Retro Fitness brand, which provides personal trainers, group fitness, and its Cardio Movie Theater, featuring popular movies to work out by. Initial plans are for two gyms, one in New York and one in Connecticut.
Hashmi didn't have to look far for his most recent investment. For more than 10 years, he has been a customer of a neighborhood ZIPS Dry Cleaners, which gave him a firsthand look at the same-day, low-cost, one-price business model. ZIPS has also garnered attention for its eco-friendly practices, including the use of biodegradable bags and environmentally friendly technology and cleaning techniques.
Founded in 1996 by a group of eight competing dry cleaners in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, ZIPS has grown to nearly 40 locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. The company has been franchising since 2006, but growth is on the upswing because of interest from multi-unit franchisees, such asHashmi.
With ZIPS, says Hashmi, finding the right location that will also draw a loyal customer following is key. Because garments are cleaned on site, the brand requires a larger facility than a traditional dry cleaning establishment. Hashmi sees great promise for ZIPS as a multi-unit franchise.
While he may not have started in the franchise business soon enough for his liking, Hashmi is taking advantages of all the opportunities coming his way. He recommends anyone looking to prosper in franchising to remember the advice of his parents and stick to the basics.
"Planning and hard work are the two ingredients for success in franchising," says Hashmi. "If you are persistent, your planning and hard work will pay off."
Shortly after receiving my MBA from Western Illinois University, I took a job as a financial analyst for a telecommunications company in Washington, D.C.
I was the oldest of seven children. We were raised by two extremely loving parents who always emphasized the importance of education, reading, and studying hard. And they taught us to dream.
I've received two separate MBAs: the first from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan, the oldest business school outside North America, and the second from Western Illinois University. My Popeyes restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island was recognized as one of the top five restaurants in the system in 2014.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have started my career in franchising much sooner.
Decision I wish I could do over:
I wish I had started my career in franchising 10 years earlier (in 1984, rather than 1994).
60 to 65 hours.
How do you spend a typical day?
I'm constantly on my phone and Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet, reading and replying to emails, scheduling meetings, confirming appointments, etc. In addition, I'm constantly setting goals and strategizing for the day/week. This is vital for long-term success.
Favorite fun activities:
Spending time with my family, traveling, listening to music.
I need to make time for this.
Favorite tech toys:
I would be completely lost without my Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet.
What are you reading?
Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. The book paints a sweeping picture of the defining moments of the end of the British Raj, the independence of 400 million people, and their division into India and the newly created Pakistan.
Do you have a favorite quote?
"Always work hard, be honest, and be proud of who you are."
Best advice you ever got:
Never lie (from my parents).
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Long ago, I developed an internal clock that wakes me up at 6 a.m.
What's your passion in business?
Success. Whatever I do, I need to succeed in it.
How do you balance life and work?
I place equal emphasis on both.
A couple of weeks in 2014 visiting my parents in Pakistan.
Person I'd most like to have lunch with:
Both my grandfathers. I never met them.
Always be up front and honest. No perverse incentives or hidden agendas.
Management method or style:
Hands-on. Such management benefits employees and the organization as a whole because it builds a workforce that is empowered and well trained.
Make sure I don't make any stupid mistakes.
How do others describe you?
Disciplined, hard-working, and honest.
How I give my team room to innovate and experiment:
I give my team autonomy and empower them to make the decisions necessary to run the business. However, I expect that our procedures are consistent throughout the different brands.
How close are you to operations?
I don't deal with the day-to-day operations. However, although I'm not in the stores daily, I'm always in the loop on what is going on. I'm also constantly planning and strategizing with my partner.
What are the two most important things you rely on from your franchisor?
Assistance and expertise for all the factors that are important in effectively running a franchise, particularly brand marketing and operational systems.
What I need from vendors:
Have you changed your marketing strategy in response to the economy? How?
Both Popeyes and Burger King have invested more in television advertising over the last few years. This strategy not only boosted our brand awareness, but also put us in a great position as the economy rebounded. I expect the same from ZIPS as we continue to expand our national footprint.
How is social media affecting your business?
There is no doubt that social media is the most innovative and dramatic marketing vehicle to come on the scene since television. Through various social media platforms, we can build and promote our brands at a greater level than was ever possible before.
How do you hire, fire train and retain?
Our supervisors handle those issues. They are on the front lines every day. As long as they follow the guidelines put in place, the processes are much easier and less stressful for all concerned.
How do you deal with problem employees?
Handled by supervisors.
Fastest way into my doghouse:
Not following systems.
Grow annual revenue by 10 to 15 percent.
Growth meter: How do you measure your growth?
By number of units and volume.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
More than 100 Popeyes units and another 50 to 60 Burger Kings in the next 5 years, while bringing ZIPS Dry Cleaners to Connecticut and New Jersey. In the next 10 years, I would like our annual revenue to reach $150 million.
How is the economy in your region(s) affecting you, your employees, your customers?
Fast food restaurants tend to fare better during an economic downturn than pricier restaurants do, so we haven't been affected much. Dry cleaning is a recession-resistant business as well. When the economy is bad, people still have to go to their jobs and job interviews. They still need clean suits. They may go to their dry cleaners a bit less often, but they're still going in solid numbers.
Are you experiencing economic growth in your market?
How do changes in the economy affect the way you do business?
We obviously have to take these changes into consideration and change our policies accordingly (e.g., determine how fast or slowly we should grow).
How do you forecast for your business?
We follow trends and business pulse, look at forecasts, and adjust accordingly.
What are the best sources for capital expansion?
We've been using GE Capital for the past four to five years.
Have you used private equity, local banks, national banks, other institutions? Why/why not?
They all have their place. To date, our needs have been met by GE Capital. No need to turn to anyone else. If we need to, we will.
What are you doing to take care of your employees?
The number-one concern of most small-business owners is the happiness of their customers. But that's not possible unless you're taking care of those responsible for keeping your customers happy: your employees. We provide a good work environment and offer cash bonuses based on sales and profits.
How are you handling rising employee costs (payroll, minimum wage, healthcare, etc.)?
Cost of labor is always a very sensitive topic. As costs keeps rising, we naturally have to adjust our prices. While we try not to pass these costs on to consumers. That's not always possible.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
Working on it. Don't have one right now. Hope to have something rolled out in the next 12 months.
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