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Tips From The Top: One On One With Carl Howard, CEO of Fazoli’s

I spoke to Carl Howard, CEO of Fazoli’s, about his journey and his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Carl: To my knowledge, I am proud to say that I am one of a few CEO’s that has successfully worked their way up from busboy to CEO and everything in between. It has been a journey of hard work, and one that has taught me the value of continued learning and staying positive that has helped me achieve my goals.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Carl: I have had my share of failures and every one can directly be tied back to not having the proper guest data or moving forward on an idea without seeing the consumer’s demand for a certain initiative. Hopefully the learnings from these mistakes will continue to keep me focused on our true north star “the consumer”.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Carl: Great leaders are normally great listeners. They understand that they do not have to be the smartest person in the room and they surround themselves with great people. Great leaders are also kind to their team members and remember that the people who interact with the consumer are the most important people in your organization.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Carl: Don’t take your fortunate position for granted. Do not let people “out work” you or slow down because you are in charge. I am not suggesting to not have a work / life balance, but I am saying one of the best things you can do for your career is always make yourself available to your teams.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Carl: Wow, that is a tough question as I have has so many great mentors. So I will share what I tell young college seniors or people entering the workplace or team members starting to get serious about their careers.

1. Always have a great attitude. Executives will not promote people they don’t enjoy working with who have a negative or cocky attitude. If someone asks how you are doing say “great or fantastic”. No one really cares. If you say “terrible” or “oh I am so tired,” it works against you. PMA goes a long way!
2. Go anywhere when you are young. Take the toughest job, move to a new city, go on the road and roll up your sleeves. Do it when you are young so you do not have to when you get older in life.
3. Dress for the part, and I am not just talking about your wardrobe. Yes, it helps if you look pressed and sharp but also your work product should be buttoned up and impressive. Put time into any presentation you are a part of as this is normally your time to audition in front of people who will help you in your career.
 4. Keep learning and find some mentors. Know or look up to two or three people in your organization or industry and study them. They got there for a reason!

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Carl: It seems like a canned answer but help others. Help the young people in your organization. Coach them; it is ok to speak directly to help people regardless of where they are in the organization. Make yourselves available and help people grow in their careers. Also, since most CEO’s are truly privileged, start or support a cause. Giving back to people in need is beneficial for your community and your soul.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Carl: I am not sure it is a hobby but besides spending time with my wife Rocchina and my animals, I still have a group of High School friends that shape me every day. They not only keep me humble, but they remind me to enjoy life. We love animals and just owning horses and two Newfoundland’s is a full time hobby!
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Carl: I believe that anyone can be successful in life, regardless of talent or the environment within which we once lived. I grew up without, or as a “have not,” and it did not stop me nor did it ever become an excuse for why I did not win. Go out on the limb! That is where the fruit is, so take calculated chances.
Finally, know you will not always win, you will suffer losses and you need to take the time to deal with them or study them so you learn something from the experience. If you are always pushing yourself for excellence, then you can look in the mirror and the losses don’t look so ugly!
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