David Bloom of Capriotti’s + Wing Zone: “Learning and growth are a lifelong pursuit, and is the responsibility of the individual”

The easiest ways I have learned to share this is the four P’s, which if done right, results in the fifth P: People, Plan, Process & Performance = Profit. As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Bloom. David is the […]

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The easiest ways I have learned to share this is the four P’s, which if done right, results in the fifth P: People, Plan, Process & Performance = Profit.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Bloom.

David is the Chief Development and Operations Officer for Capriotti’s + Wing Zone. He leads all aspects of franchise development, company owned operations, franchise operations and training for the rapidly growing Las Vegas based brand. Capriotti’s is widely recognized as an extraordinary franchise, fast casual restaurant brand whose franchisees earn exceptional returns by selling the best, highest quality food in the category.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started in the restaurant business at a very early age in the New York City area for a very upscale restaurant group. It was there that I really learned to love working and acquired my work ethic, and was exposed to working with people that were older and more mature than me. Those older and more mature people were in law school, medical school or working toward other advanced degrees at top schools, or worked on Broadway in the theater, sang opera, attended top art and design schools, so on and so forth. That opened my eyes to a whole new world of what was possible. My friends knew a lot about wine, food and travel, and they worked hard and attended the best schools. All of that was very motivating to me.

As a side note, my brother and both of my sisters also worked for that same restaurant group. My brother became an Executive Chef, and one of my sisters became a Pastry Chef.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

To be candid, I grew up in the old school of restaurants, before the days of celebrity chefs. Even at a young age, we often worked very long hours, in very tight kitchens where the temperature often exceeded 100 degrees. They would send beer and offer salt tablets during our shifts to keep us energized, although I could only drink soda since I was just an early teenager when I started. The majority of the kitchen crew were Chinese immigrants that all lived in very tight quarters right next to the restaurant, and they were some of the best, most talented, hardest working people I have ever met. They loved me because I respected them, admired them, and loved to learn from them.

My first job was as a handyman cleaning up the restaurant and the grounds, and I had to work hard and long just to be promoted to pot washer. Everything we did was old school, and it was a very fast-paced high-volume, high-stress environment. I kept moving my way up over the years, and was making a lot of money working all of the hours. It was an exciting new world for me, and my path to build a better life for myself.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I started many small businesses over the years, and although very common for the neighborhood I grew up in, some of them were not very legal. In one instance in my early teens, my friend and I started a company selling pot pipes and all of the related gear at flea markets and outside of concerts. We made little concert emergency kits to sell outside of Madison Square Garden to people that forgot their supplies. One day we got a letter from the IRS telling us we owed a lot of back sales taxes on all of the merchandise we had bought. We wrote them a letter telling them how young we were, and telling them we were really sorry. I think they were embarrassed that they had given business Licenses to two young kids and just dropped the issue. My takeaway was that as an entrepreneur, it is often better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I went on to start many other small side ventures over the years, the majority of which didn’t work. All of that led me to eventually starting my career in franchising and becoming a large multi-unit owner, area developer and eventually becoming a senior executive for many great brands and businesses.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My general experience is that it is very rare to have the opportunity and all of the resources, talent, experience required and alignment from investors, board members, senior and management teams, franchise partners and employees all come together at the same time, in the same place, to achieve a common goal.

When that type of culture and values alignment, opportunity, expertise and passion are given big goals and challenges, it can be a very unique experience and opportunity for those willing to dedicate themselves for the long term, leaving their egos at the door, and work together to build something great. That is what we have at Capriotti’s and Wing Zone, and I am very thankful to be able to be able to contribute, learn and grow in a meaningful way toward building our success.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To remember that great reputations are built over time. So enjoy the ride, and run the marathon seeking wisdom, experience and knowledge while building on your track record of showing up and giving it your best every day. No single event, relationship, win or loss determines where we end up over the span of a career. Every great player on every great team falls, fumbles and depends on those around them. If you help enough of the people be successful in achieving their goals, they will line up to work with you, support you and help you achieve your goals in the long run as well.

I often tell people that who you become along the way is a lot more important than what you get or what title you have in the short-term. Go where the learning and opportunities are the greatest, especially early in your career. Achieving your full potential often takes years and years of learning and growing and it often involves many unexpected twists and turns. Those that are dedicated to being lifelong learners and high performers, regardless of the obstacles, will always be in demand.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The list is endless. We’d run out of time before I could point to all the people that deserve a mention here that have had a tremendous impact on me, my career and my life. I consider myself blessed to have known them, and to have had them see something in me worth investing in. I work with, and for the people I work with today largely because of who they are, because they believe in me, respect me, value my opinion, and depend on me. They give me the opportunity and resources to do my very best work; they coach, mentor and support me through good times and tough times, and they care about me and my family. While I love what I do every day, what I truly love is the team I get to work with and for. While I don’t know what new challenges and opportunities we will face tomorrow, I know who I can always depend on, and that we will face the challenges and take advantage of life’s opportunities together.

Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

Good companies are those that are relevant in the moment, and are adept at taking advantage of present opportunities and market conditions. They often draw well qualified talent looking for an opportunity to join their winning team. There is usually a buzz about them in the media as they experience exponential growth.

Great companies are able to consistently perform at that high level regardless of market conditions, thus standing the test of time. Great companies develop people from within, and attract the best and brightest to join them for the long-term. They understand their “flywheel” and consistently apply it to build best-in-class dynasties. A comparison I’ll make is think of great sports teams that won their National Championships, only to fall away within a year or two and not be heard of again for quite some time. Then compare them to those teams that are year in and year out in the mix for a National Championship and have built track records that may take decades to break.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

The easiest ways I have learned to share this is the four P’s, which if done right, results in the fifth P: People, Plan, Process & Performance = Profit.

It starts with the first “P”, which is the “RPRS” foundation of having the “right people in the right seats.” The most important thing here is value alignment combined with the ability and desire to get done what needs to be done. Once you have the right people on the bus, you have a foundation to build upon. Without it, you are just building a house of cards that will eventually collapse.

The “plan” refers to the business or go to market strategy, your points of differentiation, brand attributes, competitive advantages, and so on.

The plan needs great “processes” to drive the performance, which is monitored with data and insights to provide visibility into the gaps and opportunities that may exist at every level throughout the organization.

All of this allows you to go back and adjust the plan, develop or add new people and to enhance the process to drive the performance trajectory upward.

All of that hard work may take years to generate the consistent profits you are looking for, but when done right, it builds a truly great business and brand!

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Purpose driven businesses have what is often referred to as a double bottom line. They create superior returns for the investors, shareholders and stakeholders, while having a positive impact on the world in which they operate. Businesses that create that double bottom line are often more sustainable and receive much higher levels of loyalty from consumers and valuations from the investment world than those whose sole purpose is maximizing their return on capital.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Learning and growth are a lifelong pursuit, and is the responsibility of the individual. One piece of advice I have is that reading is essentially free, and there’s a vast amount of knowledge, insights, experience and wisdom to be had. I am still a bit old school in that I still like to read versus listen to books. Some of my colleagues have taught themselves to listen to books at a 3x speed, which means they are able to consume and retain vast amounts of knowledge at an exponential pace. I also advise people to “read” a variety of books in addition to those on business and leadership including biographies and historical novels of great people and events that have gone before us. Just learning what they overcame to achieve their goals and achieve great heights despite the many obstacles they faced can be incredibly motivating. I also love to read what I would call the classics, great books written by timeless authors over the past. It gives you a perspective and an understanding on the world around you.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We utilize the “Entrepreneur Operating System,” and the EOS “traction” platform to help us strategically develop, organize and prioritize our plans, resources and teams. It has taken a tremendous investment and commitment of time and resources to develop the skills and muscle memory that our entire organization now has in leveraging that system, but it is what allows us to take on new challenges and opportunities while going fast and executing at a high level throughout the organization. Once again, we built a really solid foundation that is paying even greater dividends during the most difficult of times.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

I think it always looks a lot easier from the outside looking in, and especially when looking at it all in the rear-view mirror. The reality is we take risks and head into the unknown on a daily basis. Combine that with all of the personalities and global realities that are involved in running a complex, high-growth company that operates both domestically and internationally, and you can see why so few people are actually successful in achieving what we have. The key is being able to build the teams, plans, processes and performance to do it all from early start-up through global growth. Having great mentors and advisors on your board of directors, your business partners, within your investor group and in your relationships throughout the industry can be vital to navigating the headwinds that are sure to come. I can tell you that we have relied on those resources time and time again, and even more so in times of crisis like we have all just experienced.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

As a rule, I think a lot more of building a reputation, a personality and a voice for the brand and less in terms of one-time transactional sales events. Building a reputation that makes people want to be a part of whatever business venture you may be doing because they trust and believe in you is one of the greatest compliments we can receive. We work hard to be genuine, to invest ahead of growth and to do whatever it takes to fulfill our promises. Those are accretive to our reputation and pay off exponentially in the long term.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Remaining relevant to consumers of both today and tomorrow in ways they find valuable is critical, especially for legacy brands like the ones we operate. Providing the products and services they value in a way that they may not be able to get anywhere else while remaining true to our core values is also critical. We always seek to be best in class in whatever we do, and we always invest ahead of demands to make sure we are at the forward edge of technology and consumer trends.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

The good news is that we operate brands with a heritage of loyal, fanatical customers that often keep us honest. Many of our customers have been coming to us for generations, and if our quality or service isn’t at the level that they have come to expect over the years, they notice it immediately, and because of their passion for the brand, they let us know we have an issue that we need to address. Our business partners live that out every day in the same way. They protect the brand and the business they love and are so passionate about. They are deeply invested in their communities and care about their relationships they have developed over the years. There is magic there with local ownership that many big corporate brands sometimes find hard to replicate. However, we think it is critical to our success.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

We are careful of our brand voice, yet we also have a responsibility to be part of the conversation. That can be a tricky line to walk, and certainly has inherent risks. Conversely, not being a part of the conversation runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. We seek to be respectful of our stakeholders and all of our customers, which represent a wide array of backgrounds and experiences. The guiding light in all of our communications, whether on social media or through paid advertising, is to remain true to our core values as a company and as a brand.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Oftentimes founders are visionaries and risk takers, with very strong opinions and beliefs, which are table stakes for anyone seeking to start a new venture given all of the risks and sacrifices associated with any start-up. Surrounding themselves with trusted people with expertise in the various disciplines associated with the new venture, and then actually listening to those formal and informal inputs is key to avoiding the pitfalls which cause the demise of so many.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My wife and I are fortunate to be able to be involved with and in support of a number of causes and missions that have been near and dear to our hearts for many years. In general, the people that we are the most dedicated to supporting are typically in need the most — those that can’t help themselves for a variety of reasons. It always breaks my heart to hear from the orphaned or those most in need that are ignored by so much of the world. Children and woman that are subjected to sex trafficking, people living under persecution, children without access to the basics of health or education both here in the U.S. and abroad are of the great interest to us. So the message I’d say to answer your questions is that we live with the understanding that to those to whom much has been given, much is expected. We try to live our lives that way, and we admire so many people that are out there making great sacrifices to make a real difference in our world.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Probably connecting with me on LinkedIn is the easiest way:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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