After 21 years in the military, I knew I was given a first-hand learning experience on how to lead, stay disciplined and overcome adversities. As an attack pilot instructor flying the AV-8B Harrier, I was given the responsibility to prepare young pilots to fly and fight with an airplane. Training these young people toward safe operations and to combat effectiveness was founded in a proven, standardized approach to learning and practicing. I find I was attracted to the same strong structure when I chose a franchise to invest in and now use the same teaching techniques to train new employees.
Find the Right Staff
The military operates like a well-oiled machine, and one of the main takeaways for me is efficiency. The military makes sure each person fills a valuable role and has a distinct responsibility to contribute to the mission’s success. I make that point clear when I hire each employee. I want people I can motivate and depend on to fulfill their duty. From the cook to the cashier, everyone plays an integral role.
When it comes to staffing, we want to figure out what motivates employees and how we can give them the best opportunity to succeed. We can’t depend on the staff to treat their job like it’s their own business, but we can motivate them to give their best effort. Whether it’s a financial reward, public recognition, advancement or a simple thank you, there are ways to inspire an employee. Keeping open communication with your staff will give you the best chance to find out how to inspire them so they continue to be a valuable member of your team.
Be a Strong Leader
The key to being a strong leader is discipline. Maintaining a consistent training program, giving clear instructions and sticking to the proven business plan the franchisor has provided is how you become and stay a successful franchisee. It can be challenging, but discipline can keep a business operating at maximum profits. Even during the slow months of the year, I had the lowest drop-off in sales within the system because of this discipline.
Thankfully, my wife, Anita, has the same passion for our business as I do. Partnering with my wife in this venture has proven to be such a joyous experience. It’s important for one of us to always be at the restaurant to give clear leadership to the rest of the staff. I focus on internal operations such as payroll, accounting, and inventory and purchasing, and Anita oversees marketing and community outreach. In the military, there’s one leader everyone can turn to and with one of us being present every day, we are that leader for our staff. Just being present is very effective when it comes to making a decision, getting a task completed quickly or solving any potential issues from customers or employees.
Choose the Right Company Structure for You
Having a military background, I knew if I was going into franchising, I would need to find a company with a product I believe in and a strong business structure. Franchisors provide the road map to running your business, and it’s your job to follow the plan. Sometimes it can be challenging to maintain the discipline, but if it’s a proven structure, it is your job to follow the orders. A self-imposed policy of not having labor cost more than 25 percent of sales maintains top cost-effectiveness, which is an order that needs to be followed day-in and day-out.
Finding a franchise concept you believe in is important because it will become an extension of yourself. Serving in the military teaches you to accept a certain standard. Soldiers have a code of values we live by and I try to bring that same set of standards to my business. I want to serve not just a quality product but also provide a quality experience for my guests and staff.
After retiring from the service, I was eager to face my next challenge: operating a business. Thankfully, my military experience helped give me the tools to be a good businessman. The honor, work ethic and efficiency are drilled into you as soldier, and I instilled that ethos to my business. Now, I’m looking to expand with more locations because I’m learning what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly I’m with a franchise system in which I believe. As long as you maintain the discipline, you will be successful in most businesses.
Jan Michell is a retired Air Force and Marine Corps pilot. On active duty, he flew the AV-8B Harrier and A-4M Skyhawk. In 1991, he separated from active duty and joined first the U.S. Marine Corps reserves and later, the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He finished his 21-year career in 2004 as a C-5 Aircraft Commander at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife have owned an Urban Bricks Pizza franchise, a fast-casual chain serving customizable Neapolitan pizza, since June 2016.