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In 1987, just three years after taking a cook position with a Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits on the south side of Chicago, John Brodersen got his father to cosign for the $800,000 loan he needed to open his own location. Brodersen knew he wanted to be a business owner, but he wasn't prepared for the response when he opened. "On the second day, the drive-thru was 50 cars deep," he recalls. "The McDonald's got upset because the traffic was blocking their entrance."
Business was booming. The location generated enough cash in the first three days to secure all the Milwaukee territory Broderson wanted. And though he never planned to open multiple locations, the buzz his store created forced him to act quickly. "With all the investors milling around, I knew if I didn't do something, someone else would," he says.
Brodersen opened five stores in his first three years in business, but not everything went as smoothly as he hoped. "I expanded too fast, and my management wasn't able to keep up with me. I had to scale back. I closed one store and sold one. I went back down to three, because the quality suffered and everything was going haywire." After downsizing to three stores, Broderson didn't attempt to expand again for three years until a good management team was in place and operations were trunk-tight.
His discipline and commitment to investing the time upfront to build a quality business not only earned him recognition in the forms of the franchisee of the year and best operations awards, but also leveraged Brodersen to the point where he could remove himself from the hands-on managerial role and strictly focus on expansion. His former single-unit mentality is long gone. "My goal is to have 100 stores," he says. "I plan for it and visualize it in my mind every single day."
Matthew R. Carreon is a freelance writer from the greater Los Angeles area.