Sustainable Growth: 'If you do right by people, good things happen'
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Sustainable Growth: 'If you do right by people, good things happen'

Sustainable Growth: 'If you do right by people, good things happen'

Name: Vik Patel
No. of units: More than 245 across various brands: 98 Dunkin’, 64 Rent-A-Center, 38 Popeyes (with 45 by EOY), 28 RimTyme, 23 Take 5 Oil Change (with 30 by EOY), 6 American Family Care (18 more coming, with half already in the works); 2 Brass Tap Craft Beer Bar
Age: 46
Family: Married, 2 daughters
Years in franchising: 19
Years in current position: 17

When Vik Patel takes a look at how his life has changed over the past two decades, he can’t quite believe what he sees. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we would get to where we are now,” says the 46-year-old multi-brand operator with nearly 250 units. He is especially proud of the number of jobs his franchise locations have created in that growth process. He says he thinks he knows what led to his success: “If you do right by people, good things happen.”

Patel had no formal business training, but while working in a commercial brokerage, he was inspired—and learned from—the entrepreneurs he encountered. “I must have met more than 100 business people who had varying degrees of success,” he says. He made two vows: The first was to remember how others had gone wrong, and the second was to always share his knowledge with people beginning in business. When it comes to that second vow, Patel says he makes sure “to give them a reality check, to not let the Hollywood side of it influence them. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on.”

He recalls the first weekend of franchise ownership that he and his wife, Sneha, now the CFO of the Patels’ business, shared. “We said, ‘What are we doing?’” he says of that overwhelming feeling. But they worked on and prospered. When the portfolio expanded to 40 units, Patel says he realized, “If we really want to scale this thing, I have to start trusting the people around me. I started hiring people and bringing people on and promoting from within.” 

With each growth spurt, Patel has responded to the need for people to support the larger size of the portfolio. “We recently hired a vice president of construction,” he says. “You do get wiser, although it’s pretty hard not to make mistakes. But when I do, I analyze them and try not to make the same ones again.”

Patel’s ambitions for ongoing growth are tempered by what he has learned is a healthy pace his team can sustain, which is between 5 and 10 units per quarter. He is sensitive to the work all of his employees do. “We wouldn’t be here without all our wonderful teams,” he says. “It’s been a team effort.” 

Personal

First job: Portfolio manager at Trust Bank in New Jersey.

Formative influences/events: My father was a businessman, and in my job as a broker, I met so many business people who influenced my viewpoint. I took notes. I still learn from everyone I encounter, in particular from people who do things that I admire.

Key accomplishments: Hitting the 100 Dunkin’ markets and then deciding to reset the bar for the next target. I set an initial goal to build a $100 million company, and hit it. Some of my staff have been with me since the start, and we wouldn’t be here without some of those people and the work family we’ve built. My wife is actively involved in the business. I am most proud that people to this day want to be a part of the journey/growth.

Philanthropy and giving back to the community: I am actively involved with a children’s hospital and my children’s school. We use the platform we built to give back. My grandmother told me once to give back, so I want to always do that.

Next big goal: Continuing to grow the brands we have, working towards becoming a $500 million company, and being successful in all those brands.

First turning point in your career: The recession in 2008. Everything crashed. I had to make payroll from my own pocket. We had some tough moments there, and that galvanized us not ever to be in that position again. We learned from it. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. We all do. Not every business decision is the right one. I make them once and learn from them. That’s helped us.

Best business decision: Getting started. Doing it with my wife. A lot of people questioned working with her, but there isn’t anyone on the planet I trust or respect more.

Hardest lesson learned: During the 2008 recession, I had to cover payroll out of my pocket but we survived. After that, I realized I always need to have a backup plan in case it happens again. I’ve put myself in a position where we are not going to be impacted by economic conditions.

Work week: I try to make weekends family time. I still run the development side, and all VPs and COOs report to me.

Best advice you ever got: It came from my dad. Never be jealous of anyone. If you want what someone has, ask them how they did it and go do it.

What’s your passion in business? I have strong values about giving back. Like with American Family Care, we know it is here to stay, and it is way to provide a service and fits with my mantra about giving back to community.

How do you balance life and work? On Monday through Friday, I don’t completely switch off. The reality is there are people who need me on the work front. The virtual world helps a lot, and I’m able to spend time helping with the kids as a result.

Management

Business philosophy: You are going to be as successful as you want to be as long as you take care of your people. Listen to them and connect with them. When it comes to operating multi-units in multiple states, the common denominator is people. We have 3,500 people working for us now. We take care of them.

Management method or style: I’m a social person. I like to be around people, connecting with people, building a chemistry and a bond.

How do others describe you? I think they would say I am driven. I want people to feed off the energy I bring into the room. I am intense and driven, but intense in a good way. Approachable, big heart, thoughtful, caring about people.

COVID-19

How did Covid-19 affect your business? During Covid, our staff worked their tails off and put their health at risk daily. They put themselves in the line of fire every day. I will never forget. It makes me proud. We limited travel and still do more Zoom conferences. 

What changes do you think will be permanent? We try to be more cognizant of employee flexibility and time. We recognized the emotional side of the business.

Bottom Line

Annual revenue: Approaching $250 million.

2024 goals: I just want a clean year without Covid, hiring struggles, stimulus checks, hurricanes in Florida. That would be great. We’re setting ourselves up for 3 to 5 years. Let’s be ready to take advantage of it, get ready for what is about to come, and train them better for what I believe will be a gangbuster 3 to 5 years.

Published: January 27th, 2024

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