Ep. #990 - Creating A Workplace Where People Want to Work
Welcome back! We’re on the second episode of this week’s special Inc. 5000 series.
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, we’re letting you in on a secret. Matt DeCoursey and Cameron McNie, co-founder and co-CEO of Hawaiian Bros Island Grill, know how to create a workplace where people want to work. And they are sharing their best tips on engaging your team and building a positive company culture.
Covered In This Episode
Don’t underestimate the power of recruitment done right. Add in a little dash of employee engagement programs. And you now have some of the perfect ingredients to create a workplace where people want to work.
This is the main point of Matt and Cameron’s conversation. They point out tips on increasing team member retention even amid challenging times. The founders also talk about how leaders can handle rapid business growth.
Do these topics grab your attention? Listen to this Startup Hustle episode now.
- The Cameron McNie story (02:08)
- How Cameron chooses and organizes their menu (06:02)
- The checklist on creating a positive work environment (08:25)
- On making the workplace fun to work at (11:10)
- How Cameron navigates challenges during the pandemic (13:30)
- About people management (16:31)
- Ways to engage your people (20:14)
- Embracing culture and other strategies to attract new customers (25:48)
- What is the hardest part about being a founder? (28:18)
- Consultants and fractional employees: determining gives good input (33:13)
- Fractional or consulting services in the restaurant industry (37:13)
If you’re going to scale and you’re going to do something that takes a high level of precision, you can’t settle for not having experts in certain areas. We’ve taken the stance that we want to have experts. Oftentimes, that comes in the form of a consultant who has helped another business implement what we’re trying to implement.– Cameron McNie
I want to provide an atmosphere and a culture where people are happy. They’re engaged, and we’re trying to do our best. We’re not without our own failures and faults, like any business. But that’s what we strive to be.– Cameron McNie
I want to re-highlight—have a place that doesn’t suck to work. I think that it can be rule one. Because if it sucks to work at your place, you’re not going to keep people. And you’re not gonna get them to come in because that shit doesn’t stay a secret.– Matt DeCoursey
Get the help of experts in software development. Work with Full Scale today! The Inc. 5000 lister has a team of highly qualified engineers, developers, and testers. Also, with a proprietary platform, recruitment is easier after answering a few questions.
Now, are you in need of additional support for your growing business? Check out our podcast partners and their service offerings.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 00:00
And we’re back! Back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. Aloha, mahalo, spam sandwiches, poke bowls—where do we start? When you talk about Hawaiian food and also creating a workplace where people want to work, I think we’re gonna talk about all that stuff today on Startup Hustle. And before I introduce today’s guests, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. And Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Now, you may or may not be aware, listeners, we are on our second episode of our Inc. 5000 series for folks that are here in my hometown of Kansas City. We had a whole lot of great companies on the list in 2022, including my own. Now that said, with me today, I’ve got Cameron McNie, and he is the co-founder and Co-CEO of Hawaiian Bros Island Grill. Cameron, welcome to Startup Hustle.
Cameron McNie 01:10
Thanks, Matt. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Matt DeCoursey 01:13
I’d like to start a conversation by learning more about your backstory. And including how some bros in Kansas City ended up opening a Hawaiian restaurant here in the Midwest.
Cameron McNie 01:28
Yeah, that’s a great story. It didn’t start in Kansas City. The restaurant did, but we didn’t. My brother and I grew up in Oregon. Eugene, Oregon, 90s town, TrackTown USA, home of the Oregon Ducks. And that’s where we grew up. We got into the restaurant industry when we were pretty young. I was 20, and my brother was 16. My family bought a small, single-location Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant in Oregon. It was kind of some random circumstances that led to that happening. But when we did that, we jumped in, and we started working for the family business. And we did that for over the next decade. So we got really familiar with the Hawaiian plate lunch and that genre of food. And then, over time, my brother and I had big dreams for what we wanted to do with this brand and never really got the full opportunity to do that in the family business. Around 2017, another set of brothers, also from Oregon but had moved to Kansas City, had started a real estate investment company in Kansas City. And they had approached us and said, hey, there’s no Hawaiian plate lunch. You know, we know that you guys want to do big things with this; you have a big vision. There’s nothing really like that on a national scale. There’s a lot of things that you’ve wanted to do over the last, you know, 10-plus years that you haven’t gotten to do. What do you guys think about coming out to Kansas City and starting a Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant in Kansas City? We’ve never been to the Midwest, never been to Kansas City, but we went and checked it out. And after a few months of deliberation, we ended up, you know, making a deal with them and starting a four-way partnership. Two sets of brothers, and we opened our first location in 2018. So that’s kind of how we ended up in Kansas City. And it’s kind of become, you know, our new home.
Matt DeCoursey 03:34
And that’s interesting. I enjoyed the food from your Overland Park restaurant. I had recently returned from an 11-day trip to Waikiki this summer, where I learned what the plate lunch even is like. I don’t even I’m not even sure in the Midwest if the term quote plate lines are that well known, and you know, there’s something about your story that I love because why not? You get an opportunity to be pretty darn unique in this market pretty quickly. And you know, it’s like I said, I didn’t learn a lot about Hawaiian food. I mentioned the spam sandwich. I know it’s called Spam musubi? Is that?
Cameron McNie 04:22
Yes, spam, assuming it’s a side item that we do serve. It’s really popular in Hawaii, and we have our own kind of rendition of it. But yeah, it’s popular. It’s popular on the mainland. It’s kind of that item, in particular, you’re either all in, or you’re all out of it. We don’t get a lot of people that kind of like it. It’s either they love it, or they hate it. And some people are freaked out because it’s spam. We always tell people to try it once, and a lot of people end up being surprised and really loving it.
Matt DeCoursey 04:51
Yeah, well, I was surprised when I visited Hawaii. I’m like, what the hell is this? Now I’m adventurous, so I tried it, and it’s okay. It’s pretty good. You know, I never thought about that. Now, I mentioned, you know, a Pokeball, which is not on your menu. But that’s another thing in Hawaii that’s kind of like a really well-known thing. I’d never really heard of that term, either. So as you’re building this restaurant and scaling it, and you guys are up 900% over three years, so you’re doing something right, obviously, but what made you decide what would go on the menu? And what wouldn’t? When it came to liking Hawaiian food?
Cameron McNie 05:24
Yeah, that’s another great question. And, you know, we are mainly a plate lunch restaurant, I mean, like, as you said, we have, we have the, we have the side dishes like the Spam musubi. But we decided early on that, hey, we want to be a plate lunch restaurant. We can’t be all things to all people. But what we want to do is plate lunch really, really well. And for those that don’t know, plate lunch is a term for a specific dish, two scoops of rice, a scoop of mac salad, and then a choice of protein. It’s a very simple dish. It’s, you know, a plentiful dish. And, you know, we want to do that really, really well. And we’ve seen other major brands succeed with very simple menus, I know, in and out, for example, which, you know, we’re on the West Coast. And so everyone on the West Coast knows about In and Out Burger, especially in California, and they have a very, very simple menu. And there are a lot of other great, really successful brands that have a simple menu. And we’ve just figured that, hey, it’s gonna be the easiest to operate, keeping it very, very simple, but doing it really, really well.
Matt DeCoursey 06:26
All for that, we’ve actually spent a lot of time talking about that on the show. And then, if you can’t be a plus at one or two things, you might not have any business doing items three through infinity. And, you know, we’ve seen a lot of this, like, there’s a there’s like, there’s a restaurant here and Kansas City that just serves chicken tenders, or something like that. And you know, like, and just different things and you know, be really good at one thing, and people really dig that, and definitely can respect that now, you know, as we mentioned, your company made it onto the Inc. 5000. This year, congratulations again for that. And with that, that’s a sign of a rapidly growing business. And for those of you that are just joining this episode, maybe you didn’t hear our other ones this year about Inc. 5000. That’s a list that inc.com Or Inc Magazine puts out of the 5000 fastest-growing privately held companies over the last three-year period. And it is an indicator that you’re growing quickly. And without that, it can be difficult to manage for a lot of people. And you know, we’re talking about creating a workplace where people want to work that’s challenging as well, with a new rapidly growing business, you have culture issues to create and process all of that. Like, I mean, how is that?
Cameron McNie 07:47
I mean, what are you doing to create the workplace for people who want to be another, you know, thing for us that was important from the very beginning. You know, when you start in the restaurant industry at a young age, and you’ve gone through, you know, there’s some people that get into Restaurant Management later, and they maybe haven’t worked in a restaurant, and my brother and I had worked at all levels of a restaurant we’ve you know, rubbed elbows, with crew members, managers, things like that. And you start to learn that the restaurant industry is a very demanding job, it can be very stressful, especially at the busier establishments, it’s very stressful on a crew, sometimes you just have that feeling, you know, working in a fast paced restaurant have never been able to catch up. And that’s, that’s just demanding on someone day in and day out. And so you learn that you learn that the restaurant industry is demanding. And that’s why there’s a lot of burnout in the rest of the industry. That’s why there’s a lot of turnover in the restaurant industry. And so even before the pandemic, when my brother and I kind of started to lay out the vision and the dream for what Hawaiian Bros would be, we said, hey, we need a fun place that people want to work. We need to treat them well. We need to treat them respectfully. And we need to value their time. And that’s one of the biggest things that we did with our management right away. It’s not uncommon in the restaurant industry, you know, to have a manager pay him a salary based on 40 hours a week, but you demand 65 to 70 hours a week. And that’s not something that we do, that’s not something that we aim to aim to do at all, we want to respect their time, we take the position that, hey, we do not own these employees, these are part of our team, they’re part of our family. And we need to make sure that we’re balancing or helping them balance their life outside of work. And so that’s one of the first things we did is say, hey, we need to create a system and a culture where we value your time. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s not a week where someone has to put in extra time. I think we’ve all experienced that. But you know, on the average, we’re trying to create that environment and then other simple things we’ve done, you know, let’s have what I call Win Win, win-win policies. You know, there are a lot of brands that might have a strict meal policy. That’s not a battle. I want to fight with our crew members. So we just said, hey, you’re gonna get free meals, you know, and if you want to give your meal to a family member, that’s great too. We don’t care, you know, we want to have fun uniforms. And you know, we’re not going to get super uptight about what you wear, you know, wear a Hawaiian Bros shirt and a hat. And pretty much we don’t care what else you wear, you know, as long as it’s appropriate. And so, you know, we’ve set up a lot of what we call Win Win policies that make the environment easier for the employees to live in and have fun in, you know, another thing that we do, that we always talk about is each one of our, each one of our stores has its own tic tock page, run by the employees, we actually encourage the employees to make tic TOCs. During the slower times, they make all sorts of fun tic TOCs in the restaurants. And what ends up happening is a lot of their friends and customers end up following. And it’s actually become a recruiting tool because friends see their friends working on wine bros and say, Hey, this company has fun uniforms, they have lacked policies, for the most part, and they’re making tic TOCs, when it’s fun, it’s good food, that kind of stuff, they want to come work for us. And so during this time, we haven’t had a huge problem in hiring people. And we attributed a lot of that to the culture and, and it doesn’t start, it might start with my brother and me, but it’s so many people carrying that torch now.
Matt DeCoursey 11:08
I think so much about running a business and, you know, talking about recruitment. And you know, here I am, I’m in year four, and we had to find 300 people that were all qualified to do the really tough stuff. And, you know, part of it is, and I’ve been really adamant about that, myself. This needs to be a fun place to work like you can’t suck to work here. If it sucks to work here, no one’s gonna want to work here. And, and part of our recruitment and our growth. So it’s just so you know, I have to typically have 30 applicants to find one that we want to give a job offer to, and, you know, it’s highly tactical, and there’s a lot of things that we, we look for, but with that our employees are our best recruiters as well. And, you know, they know people, other people that are good at what they do and have an idea that, and I just think you don’t get any of that, if it sucks to work at your company. So you talk about like, the value of time is a big advocate there, I’m totally, totally buying into that. And then, you know, for us, it’s also like, we’re gonna pay you well, you know, because that’s, that’s one thing. That’s pretty much the real reason that most people go work somewhere else is they have a better opportunity, or the place they work sucks. So, you know, I think a lot of that’s easy to say and easy to do when it comes to things like, the fun part and the like, well, let’s talk about recruiting for a second. So like, it’s so you mentioned tick tock and I want to point out that you, you did you built this and got all this growth during a pandemic, at a time when your competition was failing.
Cameron McNie 12:46
I mean, how did you navigate that? Yeah, it wasn’t easy, at times during the pandemic, and we’re still experiencing some of the after-effects of it, you know, with inflation and things like that. But what we were very well positioned to do during the pandemic was to pivot to drive thru curbside pickup delivery. We were doing a lot of that before, but a lot of those brands that had that emphasis and focus during the pandemic actually saw their sales increase because dialing in and you know, that kind of stuff was either not allowed or people were, you know, hesitant to go do that. So we just bought in even more to those channels. In so drive-thru. For example, almost all our locations have a drive thru, and we that’s 55 to 60% of our business is in the drive-thru, one of the things that we do is we try to, we boast a very, very fast drive through times, we actually have, you know, we actually have monitors in the ground that measure how often cars are moving. And that’s actually one of our managers bonus metrics is the drive thru times if they’re running. And so you know, we are trying to keep cars moving every 30 seconds in the drive thru. So we call it a window time, 32nd window time. A lot of stores in some really busy hours hit 22 to 25 second window times. And so you know, you do that in a pandemic, or just in general, people want to come back, because if you’re consistently fast, they can rely on you. They know they know what they’re going to get. If the food is consistent, and the service is consistent and the speed is consistent. Then people want to come back, we changed our curbside model to where you don’t have to come in the store, you can just park and we have people out there watching the polling were like, Hey, who is this order for someone else is running it out, we get you in and out of the parking lot quick. And we do the same thing with the delivery drivers, the delivery drivers don’t have to come in, you know, UberEATS DoorDash GrubHub, they don’t have to come into the store. It’s kind of our motto. If you’re not going to dine in with us, then there’s really no reason for you to be in the store. Let us do all the work you say in your car, and we’ll take care of it for you. And so we’ve just become very, very fast and you know, so all that off-premise. All those off premise channels kind of amount to 80% of our business. And 20% is dine in, which might seem kind of low, but at our average unit volume is 20%, still a very healthy diet in business as well. And we get rid of the clutter of people coming in and placing orders to go inside, but having robust curbside and delivery and so, you know, that was very optimized for the customer during the pandemic. And you know, on top of that, like I said, employees have a desire to work, work for us and love our culture and love, just love the business in general. And that was a recipe for success in the pandemic.
Matt DeCoursey 15:33
So, everything you mentioned, you know, this fast paced culture? With that, do you look for a certain type of person when you’re doing interviews? Because I think a lot of people, they’re just not fast paced people?
Cameron McNie 15:50
Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a good question. And you know, at the crew level, it’s hard at the crew level to get that technical on what you’re looking for. Certainly, when you start getting into management, you start, you know, we do some personal personality type surveys that we really, really believe in. And that, that is a huge component of who we hire at management levels. Because there’s nothing worse than a great person in the wrong job. Right, that, you know, you can have a great person, but they’re in the wrong job. And it just doesn’t work out no matter how great a person they are. And so we want to find great people that are the right fit for the job that they’re going to be doing. And we have a bunch of different jobs that require different personality types and all that. So we do believe in that. At the crew level, at the crew level, the recruiting kind of takes care of itself, we get a lot of referrals, a lot of employees are bringing their friends in which we embrace. We embrace that some other brands might not embrace friends and family as much. We totally embrace people’s friends and family coming to work for us. And, you know, we, it’s worked for us so far. And it’s not that there’s never an issue, but the comp pros way outweigh the cons on that. And so, you know, also when they’re not everyone has to be fast-paced, because we’ve optimized our kitchen significantly over the last few years to where you don’t have to necessarily be working, you know, at a manic pace to work efficiently. And that has to do with some of the optimizations and things we did. We like to say we compare our kitchen kinda like that to a commenter on a car, you know, yeah, you could wrap this car up to the 10. And it’s gonna sound really loud, and you’re putting a lot of stress on it. Well, we’ve built our kitchens to handle that kind of volume. But then we’re usually just kind of cruising at three. And so when people get off our shifts, it might have been really, really busy, but it doesn’t feel like it to them, they’re going home, not dog tired, and they’re, you know, ready for work the next day.
Matt DeCoursey 17:54
Yeah, I’m one of those, I’d rather be busy than not, that’s how you end up feeling like you were there every day. Now, one of the things that at my business that I’ve tried to do is to have programs that, you know, we like we have a full time employee engagement person, and try to do a lot of stuff. So nature, my business, we help build teams of programmers for tech companies. So the problem we have with that is with you know, just under 50 clients that we staff teams for in perpetuity, we’ve got, you know, 44 dozen different cultures to adapt to many work cultures, methods, and it’s our job to adapt to, to, you know, to what our client does not the other way around. Because we don’t want you to have to change a whole bunch of stuff to do business with us. So when it comes to programs, I mean, what do you think, like, what do you do? Or what are some tips that you can give for creating them? When I say programs, I say employee engagement, so every quarter, we provide a budget for and coordinate events that like team bonding events, and our employees are in the Philippines. So I get the pictures and I’m like, Man, I wish I was on that. They’re like, you know, hiking through the jungle or scuba diving or doing something like that. And it’s an attempt to get them to spend some time together outside of work and then also like, have fun at work. And that’s been a big, that’s, that’s a big hit both with our clients and our employees. What kind of tips or stuff do you do?
Cameron McNie 19:32
If you know, it’s gonna be different for every workplace culture, it’s gonna be different for every brand. But some of the fundamentals probably are the same. You know, we are big on team bonding, and that can happen at all different levels. You know, obviously right now with 32 stores, I can’t go to every stores, you know, store event that they do, but they’re happening, you know, and we have a budget for that kind of stuff and we have, you know, for our we call them our four store restaurants, you’re either an in store, you’re either an in store, you know, staff member, or you’re a four store staff member, so anyone who’s for the store, you know, that’s kind of, that’s a whole different group of people. And they often have their own events and, and circles of friends within the company that they’re doing stuff with. They also are, you know, engaging with people at the store as well. And so, you know, we believe in that greatly, and we try to create spaces where that where that will happen, and where the bonding can happen, because work never feels like work when you’re having fun. And when you enjoy the people that you work around, when you know that people that you work around, you care about them. It doesn’t feel like work as much. And so, yeah, we believe in it. So I, you know, I don’t have any specific advice for brands, other than, you know, you got to figure out what works for you, but don’t Don’t devalue the importance of that, you know, team morale, team bonding, workplace culture, those are the things that I think separates, you know, great brands from, you know, from good brands.
Matt DeCoursey 21:04
Yeah, we do a couple other things I mentioned, like employee engagement. And that’s been something that during the pandemic, because, you know, we went from having people that came to this very sophisticated office and, and a high tech it Park and Cebu City in the Philippines, which most people haven’t heard of the second biggest city in the Philippines, and, and then all of a sudden, you know, where you have this, like, social interaction, and mentorship and all these things, and, you know, we gave you a free meal, and all that, and then all of a sudden, boom, we’re all at home, locked in a room, you know, and with that, there was concerns that came up, and, you know, part of our employee engagement, and also HR process was literally just making sure people were doing okay. And you know, that’s been a challenge, because we stayed remote. So we didn’t, weren’t, and we’re not, we’re not changing that. And so we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments and creations to just make sure people are doing okay, because some of the feedback we got from people is, you know, I mean, that can be a real lonely existence. So we want to make sure that first off, like, are you okay? And I think it’s okay to ask your employees that because I find that when you ask people that and they’re not they will usually tell you.
Cameron McNie 22:14
Yeah, that’s a good point, we actually were remote for the pandemic, as a strategy, at least for our you know, for our store employees. We have embraced that, we have found that people like the flexibility, obviously, if you’re in the store, you got to be in the store. But we, we have embraced that, and it’s worked really well for us, we meet up all the time, you know, we travel, we travel, when we need to meet up and you know, we’ll meet at one of our markets, and we’ll have the in-person meetings that we need to have or board meetings or strategy meetings, and we’ll do that. And of course, we’re leveraging technologies by zoom. And we’re aware that there’s a con to the remote culture as well, there’s, there’s less personal, you know, one on one engagement, there’s less face to face engagement. So we try to make it really special when we do get the face to face engagement. You know, when we do have a strategy meeting that we’re in person for, instead of zoom, you know, we try to make that special and have other, you know, other events going on that promote you know that team bonding?
Matt DeCoursey 23:22
Well, speaking of promotion, it’s feels like a good time to remind everyone that finding experts, software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io where you can build a software team quickly and affordably use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. And still in the spirit of promotion, you mentioned 32 stores. Those aren’t just here in Kansas City.
Cameron McNie 23:53
Yeah, no, we started in Kansas City. Our first view we’re in Kansas City. And we have about 10 or so in Kansas City now. We have them in Dallas as our is our next market. And then Austin. There’s a few in Austin. We just opened in Houston just opened in San Antonio in Oklahoma City. So yeah, we’re kind of all up and down the Midwest got two ghost kitchens in Chicago. So yeah, we were very much in the Midwest right now. Started in Kansas City and is still expanding there. But definitely expanding elsewhere as well.
Matt DeCoursey 24:27
A little off the topic here but what kind of I feel if everyone is not okay, when I think that prior to my recent trip to Hawaii, if you said name Hawaiian food, I would have been like a luau. Which isn’t a kind of food. Obviously. Did you have to go to do you have to kind of go through any kind of education process or adoption or like how do you how do you get people in in Dallas or Houston or Oklahoma City or Kansas City where by the way, we all it’s all like barbecue barbecue barbecue if you weren’t aware, but how did you go about educating people? Why and why did bros even serve?
Cameron McNie 25:07
Yeah, I am aware I love the Kansas City Barbecue and in Dallas has great food as well. But yeah, there’s kind of an education process, but I think people were pretty curious. And you know, they were curious to try it. And you know, one of the things we do when we are gearing up to open a new store is one of our biggest marketing ploys is we just do a few days, the weekend before we open a free foods, we tend to theme it around, like a select group of people like teachers or military first responders, that kind of thing. And we try to market to them. And it’s kind of a training opportunity for our new staff. And it’s, it’s a marketing opportunity just to give away free food, what happens is just the general public sees cars and whatnot. And I think we’re open so they come in, and they find out that it’s free. And you know, we do 1000s of people in that three day span. And, and so there’s already a built in education with that, and they tell people about it there, they appreciate the free meals, so they’re likely to come back once we open and support us, you know, by paying for a meal. And so we get off to a really good start that way. So there’s always some indication process, but I think curiosity, people want to try it. And people see the long, you know, they see the lines, they see other people trying it and they want to do it. So there has been some education but word of mouth has a lot of power as well.
Matt DeCoursey 26:30
You’ve done a great job of that here locally cuz just jet generating hype. And because I remember someone was saying something and I can’t remember social media or something was excited that Hawaiian brothers had opened the place that is near my home, which that’s your Overland Park store, which further I want to point out that was a Burger King before and I quit going there because it was I every time I had gone there, I was like, This is so slow is this shouldn’t be called fast food. And like that’s the kind of proving your point with the order to window time. And I was just like, I just quit going there. It’s just like, Man, this is bad. It took forever. I’m like, does it really take this long to do yes and, and said that the last time I went there, this had been a while. So when I saw it when I saw you rebuilt it, rebranded it and refreshed that location. I was like, Alright, here we go. So alright, so, you know, obviously, we’ve been talking about rapidly growing businesses, we’ve been talking about workplace culture and stuff like that, in general, what’s been the hardest part about being a founder and a leader at a rapidly growing business.
Cameron McNie 27:40
The hardest part I’d say is that when you grow as fast as we’ve grown, every department within the organization has to scale appropriately, or you’re gonna get hiccups. And we’ve had some hiccups, you know, we’ll be the first ones to admit that, but you know, you’ve got we’ve got multiple different departments, you know, we’ve got dealt development, we’ve got finance, we’ve got marketing, we’ve got people, you know, there’s operations. And so you have these various departments, you have these various different departments. And it’s not, it’s not just opening 32 stores, it’s building the infrastructure in each one of those departments to scale with the brand and to be able to support the brand, because each one of those departments supports a store in a unique way. And you can’t properly operate the store if they’re not supported properly. And so we’ve made some mistakes, for sure. And we’ve had to play catch up, you know, on some of those departments, just you know, we didn’t stuff them quick enough, it’s when you’re going to grow fast, you have to be staffing ahead, not behind, you know, you have to your growth spending and things like that. And so I would say that’s been the hardest part, that’s been the biggest learning curve. For me personally, this business is way larger than anything I’ve ever been a part of before or certainly in terms of managing and so you know, there’s some learning on the fly stuff. We’ve brought in a team of red advisors and industry experts as well, who are who are really helpful in so many ways much, much more qualified and smarter than myself and so, but yeah, scaling the entire restaurant is I’d say it’s the hardest was the hardest challenge and still is the hardest challenge.
Matt DeCoursey 29:21
I really want everyone to take note of that the hiring ahead of growth and that man you want to talk about that being a challenge so with the majority of our of our company existing in the Philippines, so do the average so when you quit a job where you give 30 to 60 days notice which means it’s not like you know the US you got like this two week window or something and it’s like that oh man and we get and you know, I mean we got to think like quarters and all this time in advance and then also if you what you do so on some levels I’m not going to compare all restaurants the same but a lot of people have food service experience. And so if your business does something nice or special or like just something that, that it’s hard to find people that come with any type of experience, then yeah, I think you have to think even further in advance, because you’re gonna have to train them, get them up to speed, get them to do a whole bunch of stuff. And, you know, it’s I mean, doubt, and I think you’re right about that. And if you’re wrong, and you, you’re right, one single department can drag it all down. I recently gave a fireside chat about how to scale sales at a rapidly growing business and the very fit before I even got into any of that. The question was, are you even ready to scale if you grew if your business got 10 times bigger, because the definition of scale is to basically change on demand without having to have massive, you know, like disruption in what you’re doing. And that’s why software companies have a little easier time if done, right, because you can dial the server up a little more and handle that. It’s a little different when it comes to businesses that rely on people working out and are inherently I almost unscalable, by that definition, because you got to find more people to do more things, you got to train him, you got to wait for him to start, you got to replace people that leave and, and you know, if you’re not ready for that. So I mean, for us, one of the issues we’ve had is that we grew so quickly that often we found ourselves having a waiting list of people that were waiting for our services or service providers, and I’ve had a bunch of people like, Oh, that’s a good problem to have. No, it’s not. It’s terrible. It sucks. Because as the business owner, I’m sitting here going, it’s like all this unrealized opportunity and revenue and profit and all of it. And I’ll tell you, it’s a terrible feeling. It’s not. Yeah, and so have you had any of that with? Like, I mean, I’m sure if you were 32 stores, you’re probably 64 128 256. But you gotta you gotta Well, you got to do them one at a time.
Cameron McNie 32:00
Yeah, exactly. There is one at a time, but at the same time, building the systems to handle more than one at a time. And, you know, one of the ways we’ve done that is not just hiring people within it’s hiring an expert, you know, professional services, you know, consultants, fractional employees, you know, people that can be experts in a certain field. And almost, we treat them like family, we treat them like they’re, you know, part of us, but they’re not employees. And that’s another way we bridge the gap and scale.
Matt DeCoursey 32:32
Let’s talk, let’s talk about consultants and fractional employees. Because you know, the fractional employ, that’s a term that I feel like has really become in vogue and like the last five years, but by nature, consultants, attorneys, accountants are often all fractional, my dad was an attorney, and he didn’t just have one client. So he was a fractional attorney, essentially. Now. Now with that I, when I was younger, as an entrepreneur, I was a lot more resistant to that. And I would like, Oh, my God, I’m not paying that person. 500 bucks an hour. And then I realized, I’m like, You’re not paying for that hour, you’re paying for the lifetime of opportunity and experience that occurred in front of it. I’ve really taken like a 180 in that regard to hire consultants and stuff like that all the time. What’s some advice you could give to other entrepreneurs or people that want to be when it comes to figuring out who can give you good input? And who couldn’t? Because, by the way, I’ve had some good ones and had some bad ones, too.
Cameron McNie 33:30
Yeah, that’s, that’s, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s a balance, right? You don’t, I mean, we have a number of great qualified smart employees that have a certain experience set. But then, you know, there’s another group of people out there in the consulting world, that have a skill set and experience that you might not be able to have in house. And it’s just, it’s just utilizing them and then finding the balance to work alongside our team. So far, I feel like we’ve managed it really well. And like I said, we treat those consultants in the fractional, you know, like, they’re part of us. So if we, if we do have some sort of event, we often invite them as if they’re part of us. But I think the biggest thing is, if you’re going to scale and you’re going to do something that takes a high level of precision, you can’t settle for not having experts in certain areas. And so we have just taken that thing that we want to have, we’ve taken the stance that we want to have experts. And so oftentimes that comes in the form of a consultant who has helped other businesses implement what we’re trying to implement or things like that. And so, yeah, that’s, that’s how we’ve managed it. And it’s worked out really well for us.
Matt DeCoursey 34:51
And I think, you know, our employees love the benefit that we get from the consultants in you know, in the professional services that we are utilizing, you know, when it comes to consulting and before as an entrepreneur, you know, worked semi corporate stuff, and I mean, it was not uncommon for the One of the companies I worked for to hire 10 consultants. So they had 10 opinions hoping to pick the best one, you know, or the basketball. Yeah. Passion. And, and you know, so with that some people look at that, oh, well, that defines corporate waste, doesn’t it? I mean, you’re basically crowdsourcing some good ideas there. And, and I think one of the things that you mentioned is expertise, that’s great. Now, for those of you that are at an early stage in your business, you know, fractional access also means fractional expenses. And then these expenses are, you know, if you hire a full time person, there’s a different level of commitment and responsibility and liability that comes if you have to let that person go or anything else. And so there is a safety net without the downside of the consultant and fractional side of things. I am a firm believer that that problems are usually best solved by people that wake up as a business owner wanting to solve your problems, meaning like, so keep in mind when you do hire fractional people or consultants, most well, in most cases, if they’re working with more people than just you, you don’t have all of the attention. But that’s also why you don’t have all of the expense that goes with it. For us, we’ve hired sales marketing consultants, primarily as what we’ve looked at, you know, I attorneys are by nature, you know, we’ve had fractional CFOs. I mean, what are some of the fractional ER consulting services that are used in the restaurant industry?
Cameron McNie 36:34
Yeah, marketing, you know, we have, we have a few people on our team that are, you know, employees that are in the marketing department, but we utilize an agency, and we utilize, you know, other resources out there that are marketing. So that would be an example of a consultant, or a fractional supply chain is another example. Project management, for us, is something that we use legally for sure. We don’t have any in-house counsel. And then another thing is, is in accounting, and finance, you know, we use some fractional help there. You know, we have an accounting service provider that does a lot of our bookwork, and we still have people that are doing other accounting and finance functions that are in-house. But we do outsource some of that stuff. So you know, and there are other things too. There are other things that we outsource, as well, to these fractional employees, consultants and professionals, and whatnot. But yeah, it’s all about them working in tandem with our team.
Matt DeCoursey 37:38
Once again, Cameron McNie, co-founder and co-CEO of Hawaiian Bros Island Grill, is about to end this episode of the show. I like to end my episodes with what I call the founders’ freestyle, where we can review the stuff we talked about or maybe what we forgot to talk about. Before we get to that, if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. We have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. Go to FullScale.io. It takes like two minutes to fill out the questions, and our platforms gonna match you up with people that are passionate about solving the problems that you have. And Full Scale. We specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you. Much like Hawaiian Bros, we were on the Inc. 5000 this year. Bro, we got to keep up with you. We’re only at 878. So we’re gonna have some work to do with the founder. I mentioned the founders’ freestyle like to hand the mic over to the guests and take a turn myself to kind of look back at the conversation and either highlight something that stood out in the conversation and oftentimes, you know, here we are. I think my number one comment on all these episodes later as well is that it went pretty fast. So if there’s anything you forgot to say, plug anything. It’s your freestyle. I’ve had people wrap up saying do freeform poetry, none of which is required.
Cameron McNie 38:54
Yeah, probably not going to do any of that. But yeah, no, I appreciate you having me on. You know, I think I got to say a little bit about the brand. You know, we were excited about where we’re going as a brand. And we’re excited about the culture that we have in the company. And I think that is, honestly, what makes me get up in the morning and what I’m most excited about, you know. The P&L, of course, means something, but I deal with the ideal in terms of people, and I want to provide an atmosphere and a culture where people are happy, and they’re engaged. And, you know, we’re trying to do our best. We’re not without our own failures and faults, like any business. But, you know, that’s what we strive to be. We have, you know, core values as a company that guides us quite a bit. We want to be that business and we want to be one of the restaurants, I think there are some others as well, that are trying to kind of change the tide of the historical reputation of restaurants. Being a burnout scenario and we don’t know, we don’t want to do that. Not perfect, but that’s our name.
Matt DeCoursey 40:06
Yeah, I’m gonna parlay off that for my freestyle and say that, you know, I want to re-highlight, have a place that doesn’t suck to work. I think it can be like rule one because if it sucks to work at your place. You’re not going to keep people and you’re not going to get them to come in because it’s just that shit doesn’t stay a secret. That’s a key thing. I think another thing that, and maybe, I think this is that goes with having a place that doesn’t suck to work out is to find experts, you know, that you mentioned. I’ve learned that, you know, there are people that know how to do and have done most of the stuff of what you’re looking to do. I didn’t pay him to come to tell you and there, and you can accelerate your growth, your education. You are all about that process by finding people that are experts. There are a ton of them out there. So don’t tell yourself that there aren’t and, you know, with that, I’ve just like, you know, another thing is I love the free meal thing like letting people participate in what you do. I own it because, like, when I go to a restaurant like, okay, I literally asked you to drive thru. I said, what do you like here? And they told me, yeah, and I was like, okay, that’s it. And I’m that guy because I want to know what the people at the restaurant want to eat, what they don’t and like, you’re not gonna get that. What I don’t like is when I go somewhere like, well, I haven’t really tried a lot of the stuff here. I’m like, thinking, why would I then, you know, then give me water. Give me water and my check. So yeah, exactly. Well, man, thanks. Thanks again for joining me. And thanks for helping us and the other entrepreneurs of Kansas City represent the Inc. 5000.
Cameron McNie 41:56
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it. Thank you.