Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here?
Tariq: It’s been a long but fun road. I moved to the United States from Pakistan when I was 12 years old. My family didn’t have much and we didn’t speak any English. To support the family, my father worked as a machinist by day and at Burger King at night. To help out I began working at an early age. I mowed lawns, had a paper route, and worked in a flower shop to help make ends meet. When I was 17, I bought a flower shop for $6,000 with a loan from my father’s boss. Since I had some experience working in a flower shop, my family and I figured it could be a good opportunity. That small flower shop grew to several other shops. Then in 1999 I had the idea that turned into Edible Arrangements. Inspired by the beauty of the flower arrangements I was creating and delivering, I began designing fruit arrangements. Plenty of people told me it would never take off, but my mom actually gave me the assurance I needed when she told me that this would be huge. And she was right. In 2001 we opened our first franchise location in Massachusetts and today, we have over 1,300 locations all over the world.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Tariq: Since starting my entrepreneur journey at a young age, I’ve run into plenty of challenges. One that has been most instrumental to my personal growth came when Edible had just started to really take off. The company was growing quickly and my lawyer said to me that it was time to list myself as the founder and CEO. Up until that point I thought of myself as a small business owner. I never paid attention to titles and I was hesitant because at the time I wasn’t confident in taking on the full CEO role. I was so young when I started the company, what could I know about being a CEO?
I began interviewing many candidates for the position and throughout the interview process every single one told me how impressed they were with the company and how important it was that I would remain involved, because I knew more about the brand than anyone else and I’d be a great resource for them. After multiple interviews and hearing the same thing over and over, I started to see what everyone else did. I realized that a CEO is so much more than the title, they’re simply a passionate advocate for the brand they’re supporting. I was certainly that so I believed that I really was the best candidate for the position. I went back to my lawyer and had him list me as CEO. From that time forward I’ve had the confidence to empower the fantastic team around me and together we’ve been able to achieve success I never could have imagined.
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?
Tariq: Effective leaders need to know the business inside and out and top to bottom, so that they can understand the needs of their employees. Stepping into a leadership role doesn’t mean turning in the keys to the day-to-day operations. Staying in tune with what’s going on in the stores and what I can do to best set our whole team up for success is vital. I may be the CEO but I also know the basics of the business, right down to where the brooms are in the closet!
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to an audience of entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Tariq: Create your own business ecosystem — The more elements of your business that you are able to control, the more you are able to consistently deliver on your brand promise; Apple is one example of a company that has mastered this.
Always be evolving — Frequently ask yourself, “If I were starting this business today, what would I do differently?” Then see if you can implement those ideas now.
The 60%, 20% and 20% Rule — Spend 60% of your time managing and planning for the future, 20% reflecting on the past, and 20% maintaining the present.
Adam: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Tariq: Don’t chase money, it runs really fast! That was the advice my mother gave me, and it is as true today as it was then. As a young entrepreneur I often got lost in the numbers of the business. Numbers and cash flow are important, but nothing is more important than the customer. I’ve found that if you do the right thing for your customers and continually aim to please them, money will start chasing you. This customer-first approach and aiming to make our customers keep saying “WOW” has played a big part in our success.
Adam: How do you pay it forward?
Tariq: I am only where I am today because so many people took a chance on me. So, to play a small role in giving back I established the Tariq and Asma Farid Foundation in 2013 as a way to support causes both in our home state of Connecticut and around the world. The Foundation’s contributions have benefited dozens of programs, including hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, food pantries, and organizations addressing childhood cancer, assisting refugees, and promoting leadership opportunities for youth. I also started the Edible Cares® Fund, which provides financial assistance to Edible Arrangements employees and their families in times of extreme need, whether it is a personal or family illness or injury, death, or a natural disaster. In 2016, Edible Cares contributed over $30,000, while the Foundation contributes over $1 million annually. I also am always looking for ways to offer guidance and advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Tariq: When you have been running your own business since high school, time off is incredibly important. I love spending time with my family, who have been my support system through every stage of this business. My children mean everything to me, and every moment spent with them shapes me into a better person.