Climbing the Ladder: How My Past Experiences Led Me to Become a Multi-Franchise President
Growing up, I was one of five kids in a military family. My father was an infantry officer and served as an airborne ranger for the U.S. Army. As an “army brat,” I moved often – four high schools in three different states. After high school, I was accepted to West Point where I studied aerospace engineering. Following in my father’s footsteps, I then became an infantry officer and airborne ranger serving with the 101st Airborne Division, followed by the 82nd Airborne Division, for over seven years that included two combat tours.
After my time in the military, I worked in corporate America as an executive for the Coca-Cola Company and Honeywell Inc. I owe much of my professional growth to my time in the army, which taught me to be decisive and strategic, to see what lies ahead of me and figure out how to get there. Through hard work, dedication and commitment, I climbed the ladder of several of those prominent companies, which led me to become a member of the Ballard Brands Board of Advisors in 2009 and the chief development officer from 2011 to 2016. During that time, we doubled the size of the business.
Ballard Brands restaurant portfolio includes WOW Café: American Grill & Wingery, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, The Original City Diner, Boardhouse Serious Sandwiches and Deuce McAllister’s Ole Saint Kitchen & Tap – collectively exceeding 175 locations today. Following my tenure as CDO, I assumed the role of president in 2016, becoming the first non-family Ballard member to run the business.
My goal is to grow each company within Ballard Brands and expand its footprint across the United States and targeted international markets. Our development strategy focuses on partnering with entrepreneurs in new territories worldwide while presenting each market with a great brand, exceptional service and community support.
The military teaches the importance of teamwork; and growing each of these brands required an army. Every one of our members has helped us to think and grow strategically to achieve success. At each of our locations, we bring strong employees on to our team who are passionate and motivated. They are the face of brand – every customer who walks through the door has an interaction with them. It’s essential we focus on helping our employees grow and develop personally and professionally while on our team. We want them to know the important role each brand plays and show them how much of an impact they can have in the community.
For example, at PJ’s Coffee, we reward our top performers with a trip to one of our direct trade farms to learn and experience the source of our superior coffee beans. PJ’s Coffee partners with farms in all parts of the world to identify and source the highest quality coffee and adopted El Terrerito Farm in the Copan region of Honduras. We purchase 100 percent of the farm’s crops and provide a stable life for Honduran farmers and the 26 families who work there to harvest Arabica coffee plants.
Additionally, PJ’s Coffee develops programs to ensure a higher-quality of life for farmers, while minimizing its environmental footprint. When our employees get to experience this impact, their role with the company becomes more personal and they enjoy the work they are doing. With a passionate team, we are able stay true to and accomplish our vision of delivering the New Orleans passion for eating, drinking and living to the world.
Our brands, like PJ’s Coffee, continue to grow because of lessons we learned and experiences we inherit from our past. PJ’s Coffee has expanded to over 95 locations operating across the world with projected openings in Kuwait, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The experiences I had both as an army brat and in the military allowed me to be successful throughout an extensive business career in the restaurant and hospitality sector. All these experiences and positions of leadership impacted the leader I am today.