"There's no way to feel the heartbeat of your business without being hands-on."
Pat Grazier has lived in Overland Park, Kansas his whole life and today he’s giving back to his community as a business owner; a path he came across at just the right time.
Grazier spent his career in the meat industry with Farmland Foods serving primarily in sales and marketing roles and was first introduced to the Lenny’s Subs brand through selling them product as Farmland Foods is a supplier for Lenny’s.
Grazier says before he was even interested in an opportunity with Lenny’s, he knew the brand was using quality products, and that later played a role in his decision to purchase two existing Lenny’s locations in the Overland Park market. Grazier’s two locations originally opened in 2007 and 2008 and over the years, Grazier became a Lenny’s patron.
“I was already somewhat familiar with the product, but then I started eating at Lenny’s and I was consistently impressed not only with by my experience with the food, but the customer service I received,” said Grazier. “The food was always good and the experience pleasant.”
It just so happened, that around the same time Grazier had decided he was ready for the next step in his career and began researching business opportunities in his area, he saw a posting by an existing owner who was looking to sell the two Lenny’s locations in the market.
“I looked at these restaurants as a diamond in the ruff, and immediately knew this was the next step for me,” said Grazier. “Both restaurants had been open for a little more than seven years, but as a patron, I knew they were fairly unknown.”
In May of 2014, Grazier officially took over ownership of his two Overland Park locations and now having just recently celebrated his first year anniversary, he shared with confidence that his number one piece of advice for new franchisees would be to be prepared to be hands-on and put in the hours.
“In order to really feel the heartbeat of your business, you’ve got to be there,” says Grazier. “You have to know your staff, know your customers, be witness to the positive things that happen on a daily basis as well as any negatives so that you can figure out how to make them better and then lead your team to make it happen.”
Lenny’s has great training programs in place as Grazier went on to say, but no amount of training in the world can prevent the first year from being a whirlwind according to Grazier.
“I would compare it to major league sports,” he said. “They say for true professionals, the game slows down in time, and I feel the same way after our first year in business; the first year was sort of a blur with many different moving parts and so many quick decisions that needed to be made, but as I’ve gained knowledge and grasped a better understanding of all the different elements of this business, things have started to calm and I feel like I can actually see the things that are going on now.”
Grazier said he would also offer that sentiment to new franchisees; while things may be a bit overwhelming during that first year, they will calm down.
Having come from a corporate background, Grazier says the biggest change he has experienced is that everything about his work is now much more personal.
“I don’t have to worry about the red tape of corporate America, but now I am the beginning, the middle and the end—everything feels personal from purchasing to HR decisions to accounting, sales and marketing - I am a lot more invested and thus I take a lot of pride in every decision I make,” he continued.
Small business ownership has been a constant learning venture for Grazier and he expects it will continue to be. He says one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is that while many people go into business with the mindset of being the boss or being the guy or gal at the top, you really should go into business with the opposite mentality.
“I’ve found you really need to go in with a servant mindset,” Grazier reflected. “You’ve got to be ready to serve your employees, serve your customers and serve your community - success in business is really more about giving than taking.”
Community has been a major focus for Grazier in the challenge of boosting marketing for his two locations and building awareness of their existence in his market.
“I am very fortunate that each location has a great general manager who's been there for several years and both stayed with me when I took over ownership,” he said. “I have been able to lean on them quite a bit for the daily operations, so that I can focus on networking and hitting the ground in this market to try and build up our catering business and also get involved with local organizations and sponsorship opportunities.”
One of Grazier’s locations is just minutes down the road from the Overland Park Soccer Complex for example, and he’s been sponsoring tournaments for the complex’s 2,100 teams which has been one of several community initiatives Grazier says has boosted sales, leading to the double digit percentage increases he has seen this year alone.
“While we’ve got a long way to go to continue building and growing this business, we’re definitely on the right track, and it feels good.”