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The main benefit of not feeling rushed is time for reflection”, with Don Fox

I think the main benefit from not feeling rushed is time for reflection. All too often, people are on “automatic pilot,” which leaves little opportunity for discovering new or better ways of doing things. I had the pleasure of interviewing Don Fox. Don is Chief Executive Officer of Firehouse of America, LLC, in which he […]

I think the main benefit from not feeling rushed is time for reflection. All too often, people are on “automatic pilot,” which leaves little opportunity for discovering new or better ways of doing things.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Don Fox. Don is Chief Executive Officer of Firehouse of America, LLC, in which he leads the strategic growth of Firehouse Subs, one of America’s leading fast casual restaurant brands. Under his leadership, the brand has grown to more than 1,160 restaurants in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, and is recognized as one of the best franchises in the country. Don sits on various boards of influence in the restaurant community, and is a respected speaker, commentator and published author. He was recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News as 2011’s Operator of the Year. In 2013, he received the prestigious Silver Plate Award from the International Food Manufacturers Association (IFMA), and was recognized by FastCasual.com as the №1 Executive in the fast casual restaurant community. Also in 2013, Don received the National Restaurant Association’s Advocacy Leadership Award and is currently a member of the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors. Passionate about traveling to baseball games with his family, Don is also a trumpeter, historian, and the published author of Patton’s Vanguard, a book about the United States Army Fourth Armored Division.


Thank you for joining us, Don! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

My first job was washing dishes at an Italian restaurant in Lakewood, New Jersey. I’ve been in the restaurant industry ever since…45 years and counting. However, that wasn’t the original plan: my aspiration was to be a professional trumpet player. By the time I was 22, I realized that as much as I loved being a musician, it wasn’t going to pay the bills. Simultaneously, I was working my way up the ladder in food service, and in 1980, decided to put down the horn and focus on a restaurant career. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

2. According to a 2006 Pew Research Report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

Well, given that only 26% of women and 21% of men feel they are “always rushed,” I can’t say that it is prevalent!

3. Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

I think the biggest issue with feeling rushed is the opening it creates for making mistakes. Feeling rushed is not in and of itself a negative thing. Having a sense of urgency can be a very positive thing. But the dividing line between it being a positive or negative is whether or not it detracts from the quality of the work.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

I think the main benefit from not feeling rushed is time for reflection. All too often, people are on “automatic pilot,” which leaves little opportunity for discovering new or better ways of doing things.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I think it is important that you maintain a diversity of interests. It helps you manage your time better and channel your energy in a different way. You may also find that learning in one field becomes transferable to another (not always in ways you might have predicted).

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I would define it as being aware. Aware of your purpose. Aware of your surroundings. Aware of the implications of your actions. Being aware of how your actions impact others.

7. Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

One thing they could do is to reduce multi-tasking. Though frankly, my perspective on this is changing over time as people become more and more capable and efficient at it. Multitasking today is a byproduct of technology, and I am not sure it is an entirely bad thing. For some trades, it could be disastrous. But depending upon your line of work, it can be a valuable asset.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

I think the most valuable thing I can do is visit with people, whether at our Firehouse Subs Headquarters or out in the field. Increasing personal interaction leads to greater awareness of the needs of others and the needs of the business. If you live in a silo, you are too limited.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

I wish I could say that I have one or more, but candidly, I don’t!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When U.S. Army Major General John S. Wood was asked what the nickname should be for the Fourth Armored Division, his response was, “They shall be known by their deeds alone.” I live by those words. More than anything else, we are judged by and remembered for our actions.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Quite simply: If I could inspire people to be kind in all of their thoughts, words, and actions, the world would be a heck of a better place.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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