James and Sarah Cammilleri are the owners and CEOs of JSC Management Group, which owns and operates approximately 60 Burger King locations in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. James entered the business world at a young age working in his uncle’s restaurants, and later, with his father at the family Burger King franchise.
In the past seven years, James and Sarah expanded the JSC Management Group Burger King franchise ownership from two restaurants to 60 (and growing!). James attributes his business success to God, doing the right thing, and good planning!
James and Sarah are committed to giving back and serving others through their ministry in Haiti, Elevating Christian Ministries (ECM). Currently, ECM feeds 30,000 children per day in over 145 school programs. ECM focuses on facilitating sustainable development in Haitian communities through local business development and leadership training.
In 2021, James and Sarah’s goal for ECM is to walk through every open door available to them with the intention of continuing to serve and bless others.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I have a natural business instinct. I started selling golf balls at the age of nine. I was always doing something to make money. I knew that I could never work and create wealth for someone else. I knew that if I wanted to make real money, I would have to own my own business.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
Franchises have a 99% success rate. Full-service restaurants based on an owner’s concept have a 90% failure rate. I have experience with and have done well in both these types of businesses. However, franchises provide marketing and branding. It is a way of getting into business that I recommend, though I would never discourage those willing to set up their own business and take the associated risks. Obviously, there are more risks right now with COVID, but there are certainly opportunities, as well.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
I oversee many aspects of the business and am involved in the development of multiple stores. Many of my days are focused on long-term planning for the company and ramping up our resources so we can take on new projects. By adding 12 new stores, we will create nearly 400 new jobs! As the company grows, we must ensure we are prepared in the areas of human resources, accounting, communication, social media and marketing. We focus heavily on guest and employee relations.
What keeps you motivated?
I am very motivated by my work in our ministry, Elevating Christian Ministries (ECM). We feed children in Haiti with whole wheat bread. We started out with four ovens, but we now have 45! We established three full bakeries that make white bread to sell and whole wheat bread for the children. When Sarah and I went to Haiti and saw there was a need, we chose to come from a position of empowering the Haitians. We have over 150 people working for us there, and they are all Haitians.
How do you motivate others?
We motivate our team by constantly recognizing and supporting them and providing the resources they need to be successful. I think that is one of the things that we do very well. We value our employees and see them as family! We want them to feel that, as well.
There is a very large emphasis on communication in our company. We want our employees to understand they are working for JSC Management Group, a franchisee of Burger King, rather than working directly for Burger King.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My father was a role model to me. He taught me a lot about business strategy. I have also learned a lot by reading about different entrepreneurs’ success and formulating my own opinions on how to run a company based on my experience.
I firmly believe if you are constantly looking for advice but do not take action, you will never really get anywhere. I am the type of person that will assess a situation, evaluate it, and make a decision. I very rarely go to other people for advice. Though my father was a role model, we had disagreements on how to run a business. I learned a lot from those discussions, including what I did not want to do in my own businesses.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
My wife Sarah makes me slow down and keeps me in check. If I had it my way, I would work 24 hours a day, because I do not really consider it work. My work is my passion and what I love to do! Our ministry through ECM helps me slow down, also. When I focus on serving others, my mind is less concentrated on work.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
Treating others as you would want to be treated helps people trust you and want to follow you. As a CEO, I want to be approachable. I try to instill confidence in our employees that they are the drivers of the business. The business is not just about Sarah and I, it is about the company as a whole. There are franchisees that run their business from a cash-flow standpoint versus a people standpoint. I believe just the opposite. I believe that if my people are healthy, then my business will be healthy. We are constantly investing in people.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I see obstacles as opportunities and relish the chance to solve problems. That is what makes a person like me a CEO. If everything ran perfectly, what would you have to do? If there is an obstacle, I enjoy creating a solution.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
We are definitely the proudest of our ministry. I think people look at us and are wowed by how many restaurants we own, but we are the proudest of adding value to people and giving back. We aim to lead a significant life, not a successful life. Success fades away quickly. But when you add value to people, it is ongoing. You are not only affecting them, but also their families and others around them. It is very rewarding and there is nothing else like it.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I have two children. I love to fish, and my wife and I enjoy golfing. Outside of work, my main focus is the ministry, teaching about leadership, and inspiring others to become leaders.
What trends in your industry excite you?
There is certainly a trend right now towards takeout and delivery. People are dining in much less. That trend benefits our business.
Where do you see you and your company in five years?
I am glad to go wherever God leads us! Years ago, I set goals and was driven to work to achieve them. In limiting myself to those goals, I ended up in trouble and even losing most of my business at one time. I do not want to miss out on an opportunity because of a goal that drives me in a different direction. I would never have owned 60 restaurants if my goal had been to own 30. I never want to limit the opportunity for myself and our people. Now, I operate on a day-to-day basis. While still setting long-term plans, our business is dynamic and we operate from a philosophy of when a door opens, we walk through it. I want to live every day full of life and possibility.