Thirty Golden Corral restaurants, $155 million in sales annually, and providing jobs for more than 3,000 people would most certainly qualify as a success story for Eric Holm.
But when you ask the Winter Park, Fla., resident about his life and career, he's just as likely to tell you about his two bankruptcies, or the time his independent restaurant fell into a sinkhole, as he is to tell you that he is the most awarded franchisee in Golden Corral history.
"I've been broke two times in my life and I didn't enjoy either one of them," he says. "But I didn't hang out and have a pity party. I got out and went to work and tried different things to be successful. I guess you could say I actually 'failed forward.'"
So, Holm, who has been Golden Corral's Franchisee of the Year eight times and the highest-volume operator in the system for the past 15 years, urges restaurateurs and would-be franchisees to understand that failure is a learning tool. "Soak it up. Live and breathe it. Learn from it and own it," he says. "Then move on."
Holm came from humble beginnings and always worked hard. His first restaurant job was in high school, as a busboy in the restaurant where his mother was a waitress. He bought his first businesses--four Dairy Queens--when he was 21.
Later, after struggling as an independent restaurant owner for years, Holm filed bankruptcy twice before listening to his friend and former business partner, Golden Corral founder James Maynard. "He told me I should get into franchising with Golden Corral, so I did," says Holm.
He opened his first Golden Corral in 1996, and within a year turned around four under-performing stores and won his first Franchisee of the Year award. Customers and employees alike were confounded when the new owner posted his personal home phone number in the restaurant, asking people to call him with "the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Seventeen years later, Holm, who describes himself as a "risk-taker, but not a gambler," continues to lead by example. On Christmas, he can be found working alongside his employees at a local Golden Corral, and on Thanksgiving he and 1,200 volunteers serve up to 25,000 free meals at the Salvation Army.
In addition to embracing failure along with success, Holm advises franchisees to "be engaged" in their businesses. "This is not an investor-based opportunity," he says. "It's an operator's opportunity."
Name: Eric Holm
Title: Owner and CEO
Company: Metro Corral
No. of units: 30 Golden Corral, 1 Daytona Pig Stand (original concept)
Family: Wife Diane and three daughters, Danielle, Erin, and Erica
Years in franchising: 17
Years in current position: 17
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