A former kindergarten teacher proves that paying attention and following directions is the key to success in both school and business.
Although her ancestors were from India, Karen Baney was born and raised in the island nation of Trinidad. She worked as a kindergarten teacher in Port of Spain, the capital city, but was looking to provide a better life for herself and her family, so she immigrated to the United States in 1988.
Mastering the Fundamentals of Success
Since settling in the New York City area, Karen has methodically followed the classic steps for success in America: work hard, save your money, establish credit, acquire assets, and establish a business of your own. Now, twenty years later, Karen Baney has just opened her very own franchise business in a thriving area of Brooklyn, and is taking advantage of that city’s economic resurgence. Here’s her story.
Starting from Scratch
Like so many immigrants, Karen experienced some culture shock when she first arrived. The New York City area has more of a rough and tumble culture than does the Caribbean, and her first job as a cashier at a fast food restaurant overwhelming at first. There were so many procedures to learn, and the customers were louder and more aggressive than people in the West Indies. “In America, people seemed less respectful. They’d tell you what they are thinking right away, and I wasn’t used to that,” she recalls now with a laugh. At her lowest point, she even told her husband. “I want to go home; I don’t like this place.”
“I started from scratch and I built myself up. You must creep before you walk, and that’s what I did.”
Learning to Love Fast Food
Although her cashier’s job brought in only $3.25 an hour, Karen stuck with it, and she soon moved up the ladder, becoming, in turn, a crew leader, shift manager, assistant manager, general manager, and finally a district manager. “I started from scratch and I built myself up,” she says proudly. “You know the old saying, you must creep before you walk, and that’s what I did.”
Over time, she grew to love America, and the quick service restaurant business too. “Now I love fast food,” she says, “and I love the customers and I like to be involved.” She’s learned to deal with the very direct manner of some Americans too. “I have learned to deal with the customers,” she says, smiling. “Sometimes they come in with the worst attitude, but if you say a kind word, it will sometimes change how they respond to you. We all have problems and sometimes you just need someone to say something nice to you.”
Establishing Credit: A Strong Foundation for Success
With each new promotion, Karen learned every thing that she could about the business, because she was determined to have a franchise of her own one day. Fortunately, she had taken an old-fashioned step-by-step approach in her financial life too. When she first arrived from Trinidad, her cashier’s salary was small and her husband, a hospital worker, was only making $200 a week, but they saved everything they could, and were eventually able to establish credit and buy their own home. With home ownership and the good credit rating that came with it, Karen was able to secure the loans necessary to qualify for a franchise of her own.
A Business of Her Own
Her first attempt at owning a quick service restaurant was with a partner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy marriage; she and her partner had fundamental disagreements on how to run the business. When their landlord ended their lease because he was going to sell the building, Karen decided it was time to go into business by herself.
Making a Decision for Checkers
After doing some research, she decided on a Checkers franchise. Why did she choose Checkers? “It’s more economical,” she says. “You save on the cost of food, labor and everything else. So, you see, you get a better return on your investment. You have to pay royalties, just like you do with every franchise, but the royalties with Checkers are lower than other franchises.”
Market: $160 Billion
Franchise fee: $30,000
Royalty: 4% Gross Receipts
Start-up Costs: $500,000 avg.
“Checkers is more economical. you save on the cost of food, labor and everything else. So, you see, you get a better return on your investment.”
Lessons Learned: Three Steps To Building a Successful Franchise Business
Over the last twenty years, Karen’s experiences in the quick service restaurant industry has taught her some valuable lessons: the importance of good customers service, delivering a quality product, and community involvement. For Karen,quality is not simply a question of getting top notch chicken, beef and fish from her vendors, but how well her team follows franchise procedures at the restaurant.
“You can have a restaurant with great food and good advertising, but if the service is bad how likely are you to visit that establishment again.
- Maintaining Quality. “If you don’t provide quality, you lose your customers,” she says, adding that the best way to get quality is through rigorous employee coaching. “I always tell my employees to follow the bible, which is the franchise manual,” she says. “If you do your own thing, new employees will tend to copy you, and eventually quality goes down the drain.”
- Customer Service. Equally important to Karen is customer service. “Franchises can prosper greatly or fall apart depending on how committed they are to providing excellent customer service,” says Karen. “You can have a restaurant with great food and good advertising, but if the service is bad how likely are you to visit that establishment again” According to Karen, customers always come back if they’re getting value for their money and good service. “You never want a customer to have a bad experience,” says Karen,” because they will go back to tell ten other people, and if you multiply that over a year’s time, that could mean hundreds of customers that you’ll lose.”
- Community Involvement. Quality food and great customer service are definitely keys to a successful quick service restaurant. But in Karen’s mind, you must be involved with your customers beyond the transaction that takes place in the drive-thru window. You also must be involved involvement with the community in order to have a business with staying power. This means being very visible in community events, contributing to charities, and integrating your business into the life of the community.
Now that Karen has completed the build-out of her new store, and has thoroughly trained her new staff, we look for great things for her new Checkers franchise. We’ll be checking in with her in the coming months to see how things are going.