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Tips from the Top: One On One With Eric Keshin

I spoke to Eric Keshin, President of Great Harvest Bread Company, about his journey and best advice

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

Eric: I went from managing hundreds of millions of dollars in national advertising campaigns to working with a budget of $25 per day for local owners in small-town markets. While many in the industry have deemed local radio and digital display ads as ‘dead,’ we’ve seen the immediate ROI stand true for our bakery and bakery cafe owners. So much so, that we’re the only franchisor I’m aware of that has a money back break even or do better guarantee on its franchise advertising investment programs.

AM: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Eric: When re-visiting my previous positions with franchise clients like Apple Bee’s, Burger King, and TGI Fridays – I realized the frustrations that most franchisees experienced with the major franchisor groups. Many of them stemmed from the lack of flexibility as a business owner to the control of pricing, product mix, advertising fees, etc. Great Harvest Bread Company is established as an extremely localized and community-driven business model – known as a ‘freedom franchise.’ The bakery-café gives the franchisees flexibility to personalize their locations as they know their markets much better than anyone else will. This aids in overcoming any possible disconnect from the overarching parent company. 

I wasn’t aware Great Harvest was a freedom franchise when I started, I assumed that all franchises were ran the same. I believe that recognizing how much elasticity the business model offered partners compared to others was instrumental, not only to my franchise experience, but my growth as a CMO. This being said, with solutions also come challenges – marketing and advertising funds are optional to franchisees in the Great Harvest system. Sometimes, too much flexibility can lead to a lack of participation. But this has challenged me to think outside-of-the-box and strategically to create turnkey initiatives that will work with any situation at hand.  

Adam: What are three things everyone should understand about marketing?

Eric: 

  1. It isn’t an exact science – Marketing consists of trial-and-error to prove it’s effective with your target consumer base. You can’t search for an ‘ideal’ solution – you need to test out various strategies and analyze the ROI. 
  2. You must be agile and flexible – Business owners have to stay on top of their game and run with the constant changing trends. Being able to quickly adjust is the key to successfully staying up-to-date. 
  3. It takes time to work – Each brand works to create their own ‘formula’ for success over time based on attributes such as core demographics, geographic locations, etc. However, it’s important to establish different equations for different situations as there is no one size fits all when it comes to marketing efforts. 

Adam: What are three things people who work in marketing should understand?

Eric: 

  1. Your success is dependent on your clients – You can give your client an effective marketing plan, but if you aren’t aligned on how success will be measured than it’s a misstep.  You need to determine what ‘success’ means to them and work one-on-one to establish a personalized strategy on what will move the needle. 
  2. Always keep an extensive track record – Always keep a detailed file on the results from any campaign whether it’s positive or negative. This is how you can measure the efficiency of your ideas. 
  3. You’re not always right – You may be an expert marketer, but that doesn’t mean you can foresee how one market will take to a campaign against another. Leave room for growth and test new ways to appeal to the audience. It’s imperative to be open and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the industry and consumer-base.

Adam: What is the most important attribute of an effective CMO?

Eric: A CMO has to be dedicated and should always know the way his or her clients think in order to guarantee their increased sales. The best way to lead an effective marketing campaign is to know when to drop an idea and move onto one that will work. A solid marketing idea has to create the right response to be effective and the CMO has to be relentless and focused on achieving this. 

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?

Eric:  An effective leader has the tools and confidence they need to create an open and collaborative work environment. However, at the end of the day, they need to know when to call the shots and make the tough decisions. It’s imperative to be bold and decisive with any given aspect of the business; while ensuring that each and every individual involved knows the rationale behind your conclusions loud and clear. 

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Eric: 

  1. Be absolutely clear about your goals – You need to ensure that your motives are measurable variables and not just subjective. Don’t base them on stated opinions because this ultimately may not lead to an effective outcome. 
  2. Be open about the ‘different ways’ goals can be achieved – Hire enlightening candidates that will share out-of-the-box ideas with you. An entrepreneur and leader will push boundaries to attain a certain goal. You don’t want to be in a room with people who all think the same. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to change course if needed – If your objectives are clear, then do what you need to make them happen. Always be aware of what the timetable looks like to successfully achieve the goals and learn quickly when you’re falling behind. 

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

Eric: Be your own boss and always listen to your inner conscious

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

Eric: You must remember where your bread is buttered – so to speak. Your loyal customers are human beings, not numbers. You need to take in consideration of how you will do the right thing by them and not just by the statistics. This being said, think of your business as a person. What would someone admire most in a person? 

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Eric: Always try to validate your results for better or worse. Some don’t realize that you can learn just as much, if not more, from your mistakes than a single moment of success. Part of being an industry professional requires different approaches, even if they don’t work for the brand and it results in a dead end. At least you tried – that’s part of the learning experience.

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