A Fireside Chat with Mr. Mohamad Fakih

We had the honour of hosting an event for members of the Toronto Chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization this spring.

The gathering centred on a Q&A with one of city’s most intriguing and ambitious entrepreneurs: Mohamad Fakih, Founder and President of Paramount Fine Foods.

Mr. Fakih has had quite the journey, from starting his career path as a gemologist, to now running one of the world’s fastest growing halal food restaurant brands and grocery store chains. During the event, Mr. Fakih answered questions about his meteoric rise through business, shared his insights with a fascinated audience, and gave thoughtful answers to questions surrounding his community involvement, perspectives on franchising, and lessons learned along the way.

This session was moderated by our Partner, Jordan Gould. Here are summaries of three of his tips on growing a business globally, where community values reign paramount.

Jordan Gould (JG): When it comes to franchising and finding local partners, how do you ensure they run the business the way you want?

Mohamad Fakih (MF): Lending your “baby” to someone is hard, and franchising is harsh when your heart is in your business; but franchising has changed my life. So to sum it up in one word: TRAINING. Train them on the company culture, train on procedures, train on communicating (and communicate on training!). You can never train enough. It also doesn’t stop there – you need to keep training. Get involved and have them get involved in every aspect of the business. Go behind the dish pit, work with each employee, show the new franchisor that each job at the establishment is honourable. Invest in training; lead by example; and communicate.

JG: How do you translate your values to your franchisors or team members?

MF: When you’re starting out, you can never be prepared enough, but: do your homework and hire the right people. Hire people that remind you of yourself when you started out; this quality shows that they’re hungry, and they understand that this venture is as precious to their life and family as much as it is to yours. Once you bring them on board, let them really be a part of the development, instead of just asking them to do things. When everyone feels part of the creation, they are part of the growth, they become a partner. It’s not easy, but that’s why not everyone does it. As a business owner, continue to get them involved personally, and they will be there to hold up their side of the table.

JG: Should the vision still be just your own values as the brand grows?

MF: No. The whole team must create it together. Take what your partners know, have them buy in. As long as it’s not changed completely, the culture can be tweaked as it grows and evolves. Just be sure to make your team part of the creation. It’s important to set the tone as CEO, maintain and train that vision and culture, but then maintain accountability of your team; what has worked for me is the “100/0 way of thought”: ownership is 100%, excuses are 0%. Everyone owns the responsibility for the best interests of the company. Lead by example.

What were Mr. Fakih’s parting words about finding success in business?

Satisfy your heart. When your heart is satisfied, that’s when you sleep well at night, and when you can do that it doesn’t matter where you lay your head.