Make Yourself Valuable: Man of Many Talents Strives for Perfection
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Make Yourself Valuable: Man of Many Talents Strives for Perfection

Craig Horn is such a perfectionist that he'll probably never give himself a grade of "A" for performance as president and CFO of Fresno, Calif.-based JEM Management Corp. After almost a year-and-a-half at the helm of JEM, , which owns 22 Wendy's and 15 KFCs, he gives himself a "B."

On the plus side, he says that he's had more success dealing with franchisors since he became president of the company, and that his experience in accounting, real estate, and securities (he has a Series 7 securities license) has helped him find new store sites, negotiate purchase agreements and leases, and build new stores. He's even done a little merger and acquisition work, which might come in handy at some point. But, he says, "I still need to work more on delegating and working well with upper management."

Overall, Horn is pleased with his company's performance. Despite the current economic slump, "We're expanding now where a lot of companies are going on hold. I've found there are some good deals to be had," he says. "I guess I'm a little more optimistic than the average person," he says.

A graduate of Fresno State University with a degree in accounting, Horn had been a partner in a CPA firm for 17 years, when a client (JEM) invited him to come on board as CFO of the restaurant management company in 2000.

"This was my first involvement with franchising," he says. It came with something of a rude awakening. "I learned that we're at the mercy of the franchisor, so we're constantly adapting to that," he says, tongue-in-cheek.

Horn added the title of president of the 1,000-employee company in January 2008, when JEM's board found him the "logical" person to step in for owner Joseph Desmond, who died in August 2007.

When Horn isn't working, he's playing baseball in a senior league, or doing things with his wife and five children, aged 6 to 23. Volleyball seems to be a big in the Horn family. His second-oldest son Evan plays on the Fresno State University volleyball team, which just won the national championship. His daughter Megan, 13, plays in a power club volleyball league. "She's following in the footsteps of her brothers, who both play volleyball at a high level." Steven, 12, also is a volleyball player--and a "bright" boy, the proud father adds.

Eldest son Ryan, 23, works at the CPA firm where Horn was a partner until 1999. And youngest son Nathan, 6, is a kindergartener who "is a total joy to be around," he says. Giving credit where it's due, Horn says his wife Cathy is the "authoritarian in the family--the one who does all the hard stuff."

Horn says he's never happier than when he's sharing his favorite snacks with his family: Wendy's grilled chicken sandwich, and KFC's tender-roast chicken sandwich.

One lesson he has tried to impart to all his children: "Make yourself valuable and you will get playing time in sports and in employment--your company cannot afford to lose you."


Name: Craig Horn
Title: President and CFO
Company: JEM Restaurant Management Corp.
No. of units by brand: 22 Wendy's, 15 KFCs


Age: 51
Family: Wife Cathy, 5 children (4 boys, 1 girl)

Years in current position:
Years in franchising: 9

Key accomplishments: I obtained a CPA license at a relatively young age (23), and then became partner at a large local CPA firm at a relatively young age (30). In my first year as president of JEM, I inked deals to open two restaurants including the purchase of the underlying real estate.

Biggest mistake: I acquired the real estate for one of our restaurants from the landlord, and then flipped it in a sale/leaseback in a couple of months for a $400,000 profit. If I had it to do over, I would hold on to the property.

Smartest mistake: I backed out of an 11-store acquisition transaction during the due diligence process. That turned out to be a good thing.

How do you spend a day typically? I review reports in the morning, meet with senior officers as needed and visit stores, at least one a day around lunchtime. I spend most of the afternoon listening to and responding to voicemail and email.

Work week: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; after hours as needed.

Favorite fun activities: I play outfield in a senior baseball league, and the season is starting up so I'm looking forward to that.

Exercise/workout: Playing baseball is a good workout. When I can't do that, I ride a stationary bike and listen to my iPod.

Favorite stuff/tech toys: My personal computer.

What are you reading? It's Your Ship by Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff--I heard him speak at a KFC convention.

Do you have a favorite quote or advice you give? Do your best.

Best advice you ever got: Go into the accounting field.

Formative influences/events: I was influenced by my father who believed if you work hard, good things will happen. He also taught me to make yourself valuable to the company so it cannot afford to lose you.

How do you balance life and work? It's difficult at times, but spending time with the family and attending the kids' events and functions has to be a top priority.


Business philosophy: Make as much money as possible while being fair and honest.

Would you say you are in the franchising, real estate, or customer service business? Why? I'm in the real estate business right now. We're in the process of building two new stores and getting a third one leased.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? My wife's alarm clock.

What's your passion in business? Growing the company.

Management method or style: I'm probably more hands-on than I should be. I should delegate more.

Greatest challenge: Managing people. I'm glad we have a couple of good HR people.

How close are you to operations? Closer than I should be.

Personality: Shy and reserved.

How do others describe you? Smart and creative, always thinking of new ideas. They'd probably say I'm a better listener than talker, although my wife thinks I am listening-challenged at times.

How do you hire and fire? I let our HR people handle that most of the time.

How do you train and retain? We have a pretty good orientation for everybody hired, and we offer competitive fringe benefits that help us retain good people.


Annual revenue: $42 million

2009 goals: We'd like to beat our 2008 numbers, which is difficult to do in these economic times. But we'll give it our best shot.

Growth meter: How do you measure your growth? Bottom-line profit.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? I'd like to be involved in a much larger company. In other words, I'd like this company to grow.

How is this economic cycle affecting you, your employees, your customers? Our customers are struggling in central California. The area is struggling with high unemployment rates, and there's lots of farming here. As a company, we're trying to find ways to save money and be more efficient to offset the reduction in sales.

How do you forecast for your business during these trying times? Can you even forecast at all? We don't do much forecasting, we just adapt on a daily basis.

Where do you find capital for expansion? We have some other businesses that generate pretty good cash flow, so we're trying not to borrow to expand. We're using our existing cash flow to expand, and we've actually been paying down our debt.

Published: August 10th, 2009

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