Beto Guajardo was named President of Focus Brands International in April 2020. He commenced his role as President of Schlotzsky’s in September 2019. Beto brings extensive global experience in corporate and brand strategy, new business development, mergers and acquisitions and organizational structure.
Over the past three decades, his career has spanned a broad spectrum of industries, including management consulting, global retail, automotive, energy, consumer packaged goods, and media and entertainment. Beto joined Focus Brands from Starbucks Coffee, where he served as Senior Vice President, Global Strategy.
Beto built the Global Strategy team that was responsible for developing the company’s five-year strategic plan and operated as a coordinating body, developing and implementing strategies to succeed corporate goals. His teams worked extensively on executing Starbucks Delivery, acquiring technology to power Starbucks CRM, and developing new go-to-market processes to streamline store development innovation.
Prior to his tenure with Starbucks, Beto held senior leadership positions in corporate strategy as Global Vice President of Brand Strategy for Levi’s Strauss & Co and Vice President of Strategy for Avon Cosmetics.
Earlier in his career, Beto spent eight years in professional services consulting with McKinsey, Inc. and Deloitte Consulting, LLP. He received an MBA from Northwestern University and a BS from the University of Illinois.
Connect with Beto on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Leading a team from ideation to implementation
- Why Costa Rica is the best place to hub centralized locations
- Continued Disruption: Innovation in Global Training
- Supporting the Great Resignation through virtual tools
- What sets the Customer Experience Center of Excellence apart
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on pay. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories today on the Atlanta Business Radio. We have Beto Guajardo with Focus Brand International. Welcome.
Beto Guajardo: [00:00:51] Thanks, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:52] Now, before we get too far into things, please share with our listeners. Focus brands for those who aren’t aware of what you all do. Can you talk about how you’re serving folks?
Beto Guajardo: [00:01:04] Absolutely. So Focus Brands is the parent company of world class franchising brands like Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s Moe’s, Carvel ice Cream, Jamba Juice, Mcalister’s and Schlotzsky’s. And the international division oversees the stores that we have in approximately 60 countries, about 2000 units across all time zones.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:32] Now, in your work, what is your main focus? Is it on kind of expanding the brands around the world? Is it on kind of getting the most out of each brands? Is it all of the above?
Beto Guajardo: [00:01:43] You know, it’s all of the above, Leigh. But the way I like to characterize it, I share with my team and our franchisees, our job is to make our franchisees more successful. And if we help them be more profitable, they’re going to want to open more stores, they’re going to want to grow faster, and it makes our lives easier.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:02] Now, are you seeing a trend in franchising that more and more folks are open to the idea of exploring franchising as a way to increase their wealth and as a career path 100%.
Beto Guajardo: [00:02:16] As a matter of fact, I think it’s an exciting time to become a franchisor. You know, one of the for for someone who comes into this business, you’re in business for yourself, but you’re never in it by yourself. You’ve got the power of the brands and the power of the corporate team, basically helping you be successful, ensuring that you’re spending your marketing dollars where they need to be spent, ensuring that you’re building your stores the way they need to be built, and ensuring that you’re serving your customers the way they need to be served.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:43] Now, are you seeing what typical franchisee is different today than they were maybe five, ten, 15, 20 years ago, where maybe back then they were an individual? It was kind of I’m going to just be in my area. And now today there’s kind of I call them professional franchisees where they might have several brands, they have more infrastructure and they’re like more empire builders.
Beto Guajardo: [00:03:08] Well, you hit the nail on the head. As a matter of fact. You know, when you think about how individual investors got into franchising 20 years ago, they usually started off with one store. They were maybe granted a geographical territory that allowed them to build a couple of stores and oftentimes they stop there. Now we have investors coming to us who want to own the entire country. And, you know, as an example, our Auntie Anne’s franchisee in the U.K. has the opportunity to open up as many as 190 stores. They have approximately 45 so far. And we signed an agreement with them that actually made them a master franchiser. So not only can they invest with their own money to open stores, but they can sub franchise to other individuals.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:59] Now, why do you think that this change has occurred?
Beto Guajardo: [00:04:02] You know, I think. In the world, especially in restaurants, you people are seeking customers or seeking consistency in what it is that they buy. They don’t want to walk into a brand that they might be familiar with and feel that it’s a completely different experience than what they had the month before. And franchise owners like ourselves offer up the tools and the capabilities to ensure that there is a consistent delivery of that customer experience. No matter where you go around the world. And investors recognizing that, see that, customers seek that, and it’s making their businesses more profitable.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:42] Now, the pandemic, which we’re hopefully in the final days of, has changed a lot of things. And especially in the restaurant business, it’s impacted a lot of folks, whether it’s in terms of attracting employees. Now, the expectations of the customer now where they expect things, you know, almost leaning more on heavily on technology to get what they want, when they want it in the manner that they want it. How has the pandemic or maybe spurred you and your team to kind of lean into technology, maybe to solve some problems that you were solving differently pre-pandemic?
Beto Guajardo: [00:05:21] Yeah, great question, Lee. You know, pre-pandemic, we did spend quite a bit of time on airplanes flying around the world and meeting our franchisees and visiting their stores and assessing their operations and helping them improve pandemic hits. And suddenly we found ourselves isolated from our business partners. We lived on Zoom, right, for nearly nine months plus, and the ability to actually leave the US was fraught with risks. You know, as an example, it wasn’t until recently that the US government lifted the requirement to be tested within 24 hours of returning to the states. And so if you flew somewhere, even if you were vaccinated and you ended up testing positive for COVID 19, you were stuck self isolating for ten days in that foreign market. Knowing that, but knowing that we also had to get into our stores, we investigated and eventually ended up building what we’re calling the Customer Experience Center of Excellence or CC for short. The CC is actually a virtual operation center located in Costa Rica. We have the ability to work with our franchisees and their store managers to do virtual virtual coaching and audit sessions of their stores. We’re operating 24 seven. And just to put it in perspective, you know, pre-pandemic Focus Brands International, I think we did a grand total of about 150 store visits per year. Since we’ve opened up the Center of Excellence in August of 2021, we’ve already done 1900 store visits. And so it’s given us an opportunity to actually be closer to our franchisees post-pandemic.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:16] Now, are your franchisees taking advantage of this additional coaching, and is it on demand or is this kind of schedule coaching calls like how does that occur?
Beto Guajardo: [00:07:27] Yeah, it started off as scheduled coaching calls. What we wanted to do was to make it as easy as possible for the store managers all around the world to be able to be on the other end of that virtual coaching session or audit. And so what we ended up doing is actually sourcing eight languages. Our coaches speak eight languages in Costa Rica, and we start off by reaching out via email and the store managers respond and are able to schedule their own time. So essentially they’re able to schedule their own time in their own language to be able to have this coaching session and tour. Now, in the beginning, you can probably imagine it felt a little bit like, what are these folks doing? What do they want inside my stores? And they were a little skeptical. But I’m telling you, and I’ve watched many, many of these coaching sessions 30 minutes into it, the ice is melted. They welcome the opportunity. They’re excited to show their stores, they’re excited to show their operations. They’re excited to learn more about how they can do a better job of serving their customers. And it is turning into an on demand service now where store managers and franchisees are saying, can we get another coaching session then? So it’s really been fun to watch the evolution of it even in such a short period of time.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:49] Well, it’s interesting because it aligns with the kind of growth of professional coaching in the business world. You know, at one time that was only for the either the superstars or was for some fixing somebody’s problem. Sure. And now it’s like everybody wants to have a coach that’s like a perk now. So if it’s framed right, I guess your franchisees look at it as more of a perk than punishment.
Beto Guajardo: [00:09:15] Leigh, I love the fact that you you framed it up that way. And you’re absolutely right. And I’ll tell you, the folks who are our coaches across our brands in the Center of Excellence in Costa Rica, I can honestly say, you know, the number one quality that we hired for was personality and attitude. And we’ve taught them the essence of restaurant operations. They actually trained for nearly four weeks in our stores themselves as individuals. But what they bring to the table in terms of the way they approach their coaching sessions, really building up the support for the individual store managers and using complementary techniques to get them to move to action is really the secret sauce.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:07] Now, are you finding that this type of coaching, it might be. It’s too early for this. Like while it’s there to serve the existing franchisees, it becomes a selling point for potential franchisees because they know they have this level of support as kind of built into the program.
Beto Guajardo: [00:10:24] Really, we are already seeing a significant amount of interest from investors around the world who are approaching us and saying, hey, you know, I might already be a franchisee with one brand, but I’d love to get into business with focused brands. And because of the services that you can provide, that’s going to help me be more successful more quickly. And then you’re going to love this one way. They’re asking if we can provide those services to the brands that they already have. So, you know, a lot of excitement around this around this program.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:56] So this could become a new franchise.
Beto Guajardo: [00:10:59] You know, it’s interesting. We’ve already been approached by other brands outside of focus brands to see if we could support their operations with our virtual center.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:11] Now, is this virtual is are you referring to it’s a training center in some ways, right? Is that how you’re referring to it?
Beto Guajardo: [00:11:18] Yeah. So basically, I don’t know if you’re familiar with businesses, business process, outsourcers, they are organizations that provide, you know, could be anything from back of the House operations. They could be doing your accounting, they can do your HR, they can do your I.T. and they’re usually located in areas that are much more cost effective to operate than, say, New York City. In this particular case, some some previous experience that I had, I knew Costa Rica would be a sweet spot because of the education of the population, because of their investments in infrastructure. And they also have something called free trade zones, which allow you to stand up operations in a tax advantaged environment. And so we ended up partnering up with a company called OCS. And if you can imagine, it almost looks like a call center, but a little bit more fancy. And they allowed us to actually bring in our brands. And so when you walk in to our section of this operations, it feels like you’re walking into a focused brand’s office decorated with the Cinnabons and the anti ans paraphernalia, if you would. And the coaches actually sit in several rows of cubes, if you can imagine, with multiple screens in front of them. But they actually work very closely with one another, coaching each other on things that they are trying out with their store managers to be more effective. So it’s a real collaborative effort now.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:49] Is the coaching kind of request, is it based on those audits? So you mentioned earlier that, hey, these numbers look down, here’s some suggestions that might help in this area. Or is it something that the franchisee is saying, hey, I’m having a challenge, maybe getting new employees in this market using these techniques, or is it all the above?
Beto Guajardo: [00:13:12] Yeah. Yeah. So let me give you a couple of examples how we see it manifesting itself. On the one hand, let’s talk about stores that score very high in what we call an OCR that stands for Operations Excellence Review. So let’s say a store scores a perfect 100 on the OCR. We are making it a point to celebrate that store success, publishing their names, their locations, their brands when they actually receive that score. And if we have someone in market ensuring that we’re having a celebration with those store managers that scored perfectly well, guess what happens? Other franchisees see this and they want to prove that they can score 100 on these orders. And when they don’t, they want to quickly remedy the situation and come back and have it done again. So it. Really is self perpetuating itself, really driven by the pride of the individuals who own and operate these stores.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:13] And I think that’s a great piece of advice for other leaders. Invest time in supporting and celebrating your top performers to encourage the others what what good looks like and how it’s done. And it’s doable. I think that not enough organizations really invest there. They’re always kind of bringing up the rear and trying to fix kind of the low performers instead of supporting and celebrating the top performers.
Beto Guajardo: [00:14:41] Absolutely. You know, I learned a long time ago with this little coffee company that I used to work for in Seattle, that celebrating those individuals, those operations that were proving themselves to be the best of the best, not knocking down the folks who weren’t doing well, but rather elevating and lifting up those that were doing great. Made more people want to be great.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:08] And a lot of the times when you show them what great looks like, then the other people are like, Well, I can do that. Like, it’s, it’s not some kind of something they were just imagining in their head. They’re seeing this is what great looks like. And now I have something to aim at.
Beto Guajardo: [00:15:25] That’s right. That’s right. I liken it to to being a star athlete. You know, if if you’ve never seen great before, there aren’t many of those amongst us who can actually create great. You know, you think Michael Jordan and all the creativity that he brought to the game of basketball and then how many individuals he inspired to want to be just like Mike. Right. That’s essentially what we’re doing in business.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:50] Well, good for you. So what is it we can do to help you? What do you need more of? Do you need more franchisees? You need more people to work at these franchises. How can we help you?
Beto Guajardo: [00:16:00] Yeah, absolutely. You know, for Focus Brands and again, I really like to think of us as an opportunity company, providing opportunity to investors who want to go into business for themselves, an opportunity for them. You know, look, we’re selling brands that bring joy to people’s lives. It’s fun. It’s a it’s a fun way to build your wealth. And so, you know, you can help us lead by getting the word out that we’ve got opportunities around the world, not just in the US, but around the world to be a part of our brand family.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:37] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you. If somebody wants to connect with you or somebody on the team, what’s the website? What’s the best way to get ahold of you?
Beto Guajardo: [00:16:47] Yeah, that’s the way is just to go to WWE Focus Brands there. You’ll see a link to either our domestic or international pages where you can provide inquiries. And we’ll get right back to you.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:59] All right. Well, thank you again for sharing your story.
Beto Guajardo: [00:17:02] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:03] Lee. All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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