The Link Between Corporte Giving and Employee Retention—Charlie Brown, Franchisee, Jersey Mike’s

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, for as long as I can remember.  I love giving thanks as well as giving back. In fact, many of you may not know that as a company, Big Sky Franchise Team donates a percentage of top-line sales every month to different charities to support local causes.  

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to interview someone that embodied a great representation of both corporate giving and franchise success. The point is that you can have both. Success in business and success in supporting your community.  

Our guest today is Charlie Brown, who grew up poor, opened his first franchise at age 23, and today owns 7 Jersey Mike’s Franchise locations and is the Area Developer for all of Oklahoma.  His interview is jammed full of great bits of wisdom and practical advice. So much so I couldn’t fit them all into my 3 key takeaways and win-win!

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Charlie Brown comes from a relatively poor family. Charlie loaned his parents his college tuition money about a month before he was to start school. He delivered pizza in high school, and he stayed on and worked his way up. Eventually, Charlie opened his first Domino’s Pizza at the age of 23 with only $2000. He has also served on multiple boards for charities. Charlie is a certified Parenting Instructor and has done a lot of work with families with children with severe behavioral issues. Currently Charlie is a Franchisee and Area Director for Jersey Mike’s Subs. He owns and operates 7 stores and oversees all of Oklahoma.  Jersey Mike’s mission statement is “ Giving … Making a Difference in Someone’s Life .” Charlie’s company mission is: “Making every one of our guest’s day better each time they come to visit. Make our community a better place.”


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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (00:00):

You’ve worked hard to build your business, and now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiply Your Success Podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team and a serial entrepreneur. And the purpose of our podcast is to give you a weekly dose of inspiration and education to help you multiply your success. And as we open today, it’s Thanksgiving week, and Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember, even back from when I was a kid onto today. And I love giving thanks as well as giving back. In fact, many of you may not know, but as a company, Big Sky Franchise Team, we actually donate a percentage of our revenue every month to give to various charities to support different groups and causes.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (00:43):

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to interview someone that I thought embodied a great representation of both corporate giving, as well as franchise success. And with the point being that you can have both success in business and success in supporting your local community. And our guest today is Charlie Brown, who is just a perfect embodiment of this. He actually grew up poor, opened his first franchise by the age of 23, and today owns seven Jersey Mike’s franchises and is the area developer for the entire state of Oklahoma. So let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (01:22):

Thank you for having me, first. I’m Charlie Brown, just like the cartoon character. I’m currently with Jersey Mike’s Subs. I love it here. We have a really unique culture in our company. It’s great. I originally started in the industry, as a lot of us did, as a high school kid and never managed to get out of it. I find that it’s a highly underrated industry for a career path for people, and it’s been a great one for me. I’ve been very blessed. So I started as a delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza and worked my way up to where I am now.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (02:03):

That’s fantastic. And now you are an owner with Jersey Mike’s as a franchisee, and have you… What was it about franchising that maybe gra… that you gravitated toward and saying having food service experience, you could…. you can always start your own or go into franchising? What is it that led you to consider a franchise?

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (02:27):

Well, so there’s… that’s a really good question. There’s multiple parts to it for me and for everybody that considers it. So in my particular instance, I was always… I was a kid that at the age of about 14, I already knew I had… there was a list of three things on my… what I wanted to do in life, one of which was own a business. I grew up poor. I tell people we always had food, but we didn’t always have a phone, power got turned off once or twice. We… You couldn’t have told me when I was a kid we were poor, but looking back, we were poor. And so at… When I got ready… I was delivering pizzas in high school, got ready to start college. I ended up having to loan my tuition money to my parents and so kind of pushed college back a little bit and stayed in the business.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (03:20):

Well, I was delivering for Domino’s. Domino’s had a program that if you managed a store for them for at least a year, they would finance you. You needed a small portion of your own money, which I managed to actually come in just under that number, but still going. I started my first do at the age of 23, with $2,000 of my own money. And because of my background, where I started from, the circumstances that happened at that point in time, and owning my own business was one of those things I always wanted to do, it was a path I recognized. My old boss used to say, with opportunity, you have to recognize opportunity, you have to be in a position to do something about it, and then you have to actually do something about it.And in the situation I was in, that was my path.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (04:14):

And now having said that, I think I would love to be a franchisor at some point. It’s not the path I took. I’m actually the area director of Jersey Mike’s, so I kind of play a little bit of both roles here. But as a franchisee, it’s really important to recognize that a franchisee is somebody who is given the rules of the game and then is going to be a winner in that game, within those rules. If you want to write the rules of the game, you need to go on and open your own. But if you want to be in… and be the franchisor or just own all of them yourself. But if you want to be the franchisee, you need to be that person that says, you know what, whatever the game is that’s being played, there’s winners in that game. And if you give me the rules, I can excel within those rules in that game, and I’m going to be one of those winners.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (05:04):

And we look at the way we run business… I look at the way I run my life that way. When it comes to government, politics, the rules within Jersey Mike’s, I do what I can to influence the rules as they’re being made. But once they’re made, there’s going to be winner and losers, and I want to be one of those winners. And so at that point, we say, okay, here’s the rules. How do we make those work for us? How do we excel and win within those rules? And that is what makes a really good franchisee. So if you’re trying to decide if you’re that person, that’s the number one, in your mind, the question that you have to answer.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (05:42):

Oh, I love that perspective on it. And a lot of folks that will tune in and listen to this, once it goes live to the interview here, one of the things we, we have a lot of folks that are maybe that small to mid-size business owner that’s thinking about franchising their business, or they’re currently a franchise leader and they’re growing or franchise development in some way, shape, or form. And just hearing that mindset difference between thinking of an independent owned business, if you’re going to start it, or the franchise owned. I think that’s a great manage point to be sharing and thinking about if you’re selling franchises, training franchisees. Just a reminder. I think that’s a great perspective.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (06:26):

Absolutely. And when I interview perspective franchisees, because I do that for Jersey Mike’s, that’s one of the things I bring up. I let them know, hey, if you’re that guy that wants to make the rules, we don’t need you. We’ve got rules, we’ve got a system, and we want people that are going to excel within this system and be excited about that. And there’s plenty of room for both of you. It’s just in your own different areas.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (06:48):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, talk a little bit about this idea of an area developer. It’s something that… I think you are in a very unique position in franchising where you, you said it a little while ago, you’re kind of the franchisor and a franchisee all at the same time.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (07:06):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (07:06):

So I’d love for you to talk a little bit about your experience and what that looks like.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (07:11):

So my partner and I talk about this a lot because it puts us in a weird sort of space. So of course, we are franchise, and we currently own seven stores. And we have that perspective, and that’s where we came from. We started… I started as a franchisee. I brought him in, and so we’re very much franchisees. But now that we’re area directors for the corporation, so we are the servicing agent for the state of Oklahoma, for Jersey Mike’s. We represent Jersey Mike’s. And so we have that side as well. There is definitely, at times, the little people on the shoulders saying, but this side comes out better. So there’s always that balance. I will tell you, it helps because Peter, our founder at Jersey Mike’s is very, very focused on franchisee success and a model that works for the franchisee.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (08:09):

And so he very much understands that perspective. And so it’s easier for me to, when I’m talking to the people in New Jersey or when I’m talking to Peter, it’s easy for me to feel comfortable representing that side as well. So how does it… Because he fully grasped that A, if they’re not successful, what’s in for them? They wouldn’t be there. And if they’re not successful, then in turn, he won’t be. And so… But it does put you in a unique spot because you derive your income in different forms. Sales helps a lot, but sales in and of themselves don’t translate to franchisee profit. When you split an area and you go to two stores, if you have two good stores versus one great store, the franchisee may have made more money in the one great store, but the franchisor is probably going to make more money because there’s going to be more total sales from the two.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (09:12):

And so… But there’s a balance from that because you’ve got to protect your total customer base by being convenient as much as possible and getting that… capturing that customer each and every time they would like to go to, in our case, a Jersey Mike’s. But you don’t want to cannibalize your franchisee success because that drives that growth, that hunger and desire to have more and more stores because they’re so successful. And so you want to create this system where most often the franchisee is the one driving the decision that no, this store’s area’s ready to be split. And then it’s easy as the franchisor, and every now and then you might pump the brakes and say, you know what? We don’t think it’s ready. But you… That’s a difficult spot, and so you have to weigh that.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (10:09):

Additionally… So my relationship with the franchisees around me. I’m a franchisee, and in this case, the largest franchisee, and so we do things as a group. But I’m also the person who A, represents them to the franchisor, but also represents the franchisor to them. And so you have to balance relationships. It’s a… Sometimes you, as we all know, the franchisor has to tell franchisees things they don’t want to hear. And sometimes I have to tell the franchisor things that I feel are valid points from the franchisee. So there’s definitely a delicate balance. I very much enjoy it. I… Jersey Mike’s is great. They… I got in with the company when there were 400 stores. It’s very, very much an internally-driven company.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (11:04):

And so the people that are in charge in New Jersey, they’re very good at their jobs. They’re also very good people. And I have a great relationship with them. They seek out in input. I will admit that they don’t always listen to my great advice, much to my consternation. I tell them all the time when they’re about to make a big decision, just call me, I’ll tell them what to do. They don’t always, but they do listen a lot. They do take a lot of input, and they’re very open to discussion and give and take. And that helps somebody in my position because not all companies are that way.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (11:45):

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And it sound… What I’m hearing as I’m listening to you talk about this is, it sounds like there is a two-way communication path, of communication going from the franchisor to franchisees, and also back from franchisees to franchisors, to the franchisor, where there’s this open line of communication.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (12:08):

Absolutely. And I will say, in my previous franchise experience, we had a company… I started with Domino’s when… I started with Domino’s when there were less than 200 Domino’s stores.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (12:21):


Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (12:21):

Yeah. So it was a very small company. And there was a lot of that in those days. As it transitioned to a very large company and into a public company, there were some changes in that. And there were some growing pains, and there were times when it was not as good. So I’ve experienced it both ways. And so I definitely am sensitive to that when I’m trying to deal with my franchisees and when I’m trying to let the people in New Jersey understand where I feel like the company ought to be. Once again, I’m in a unique spot. I love Jersey Mike’s. I love the people we work with. And I think it’s a really solid company with some really good people who are really good with their job, good at their job. And those are, as I tell people all the time, two very different things.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (13:10):

When you start… And I understand, I do tend to ramble on my thing, so cut me off when you need to. But when you are choosing to go into a franchise, so not only should the franchise be interviewing you and deciding whether you’re a good fit, because if they’ll take anybody, you don’t want to be in that franchise, but you’re also interviewing them to see if you feel like they’re people you want to work with. As you well know, franchise contract’s a long-term thing, and you are going to be in business with that company. And so you need to have a good feel for an understanding for what that culture is and what you think that company is now and how it might evolve over the 10 or 20 or 30 years you might be in business with them.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (13:52):

And I’m not saying that just because you recognize that it’s not necessarily a people-first company, you don’t do it. You just have to go in with your eyes open and be fully aware. And also, franchisors, they make money in different ways. So how does that franchisor make its money? And what is it in turn that it is offering you for that money? Those are really important questions because franchisors offer different services, very different services. Some just want to sell you the logo. Some want to give you a lot of operational support. Some want to give… make sure you stay very legally safe and sound, but they don’t really want to be the trainer for you. They’ve given you the book, so… They’re all very different. You need to understand what it is you’re buying and who you’re in business with.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (14:39):

Yeah. Well, great points. And I think that it’s great advice for incoming or future franchisees, as well as for franchisors. Just a great reminder, what is the value that you are adding to your franchisee as they’re coming in? And when royalties start coming through and a franchisee starts to mature and they start asking, what have you done for me lately, that you have a good response for them.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (15:07):


Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (15:08):

Yeah. Well, Charlie, one of the things that I was really excited to have you on the show for was to talk about, not only your awesome franchise background, and you’ve basically stayed your whole career in franchising and then the food industry, but one of the things that really stood out to me was your willingness to get involved with the community and to give back. And I would love for you to share and talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done and that you are doing and how you’re doing that within your own community.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (15:40):

Absolutely. I mean, I appreciate the opportunity I always enjoy. As you might be able to see in the background here, we have a check here from this year where we raised in our market here in Oklahoma city with 10 stores, we raised almost $109,000 for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. And we do that in a number of ways, but the biggest thing is on the last day of the month Jersey Mike’s… the last day of month of March, every year, we do what we call it Day of Giving, and we donate 100% of sales. And that’s not 100% of profits. It’s not 10% of sales. It’s 100% of every dollar that comes in the door that day. And there’s a couple of ways to make that better.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (16:27):

And so what I enjoy talking about is, when I’m talking about the subject, is the culture. And so I frequently bring up, with Jersey Mike’s our… People ask me very often in the industry, ask me how is it you guys are so successful at raising those monies and raising awareness and raising awareness about your position of being very community-oriented? And I tell them it’s because our system of giving back is not a marketing device. It’s a culture. When Peter bought the company… I don’t know how much you know, but I’m sure a lot of them are viewers don’t know. Peter bought the company as a 17-year-old high school kid. He worked for the company. He started the age of 14. And when he was a senior in high school, very successful high school student, good student, had a great football career, was going to be playing football, I believe, at the University of North Carolina, had a scholarship.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (17:29):

And the people that were running Mike’s Subs in New Jersey decided to sell that store. And he was talking to his mom about it. And she said, well, why don’t you buy it? And it hadn’t occurred to him, but then he thought about it. Well, his football coach was the local banker. And so he talked to his football coach, and they managed to make it happen. So this 17-year-old high school kid bought Mike’s Subs. And as a 17-year-old high school kid in the seventies, and forgive me, but you look a little too young to remember business in the seventies, but in the seventies, there was not cause marketing. There were a few businesses that donated some money, but there wasn’t cause marketing. But the people in Peter’s community that he looked up to, they were community-oriented people. They were active and involved in their communities and helping out where they could.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (18:22):

And so this 17-year-old kid said, you know what? This is what I want to be. And so when he wrote his mission statement, his mission statement was to… it was giving, making a difference in people’s lives. And so Peter likes to say, we give to give. This is what the 17 year old brought to this company. And as he grew it, he’s kept that culture of giving. So we give to give, and it’s a big deal. And certain area directors make it a bigger deal than others. Certain franchisees making a bigger deal than others. I personally really believe in it. I like to give. We give a lot of money every year. And I do personally. I’ve been on the board of different charities. And I think it’s really important to, when you’re blessed, as I have been… I’ve been extremely lucky to have the success I’ve had. But to… Not everybody that’s not as blessed as you is in that position through no fault of their own.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (19:20):

And especially, I like to work with kids, especially kids. They’re not. And so where I can help out and makes somebody’s day a little bit better, man, it just makes me you feel good. It… I tell people all the time, it’s a selfish act for me. And so… And I know it is with Peter. And when you create that culture within your company and then you start surround yourself with other people who feel that way, that’s where the success really comes. And we do it… The term is cause marketing, but like Peter likes to say, we give to give. When I go to a TV station, when I go to a radio station and say, hey, I’d like to get on to, to, to drive sales, I’m going to give money, every bit of the money that comes in on that Wednesday, I’m going to give it away.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (20:11):

But I go out of my way to try to make sure I get some air time because I want more people to come in that day so that I give away more money. I’m paying for all the food, I’m paying for all those workers to show up, and I actually pay for marketing to get people to show up that day, in addition to try to get as much PSR as I can. I want to get those spots because I want a lot of people to show up because I want to do great things for my charity. The other thing that I do when I get that time, I don’t talk about Jersey Mike’s. I have to mention Jersey Mike’s because that’s where people have to show up because if they don’t show up for Jersey Mike’s, then the food bank doesn’t get a lot of money and we can’t feed a lot of kids.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (20:50):

And so I have to. But I talk about the charity and the great things they do. I pick a really good charity partner that brings a lot to the table. I pick a charity partner that does really good things with their money and so that they’re very efficient with it. And I pick somebody who’s going to help me drive that day and help me bring more success to them. And when I’m on these media outlets and talking about them, I’m able to talk about them and talk about the great things they do and bring more people in to help them. Now, a benefit of it for me is that if we do our job right, is we’re going to get a lot of exposure, and we’re going to drive more success in our stores. But guess what? That helps me just do that much more in the community.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (21:34):

So each year we’re able to grow how much we give. We do very well within this… the system. And Jersey Mike’s, I generally, for the past, I don’t even know how many years, we have a top-10 store in the system. There’s 2000 stores. Now we have a top-10 store in the system on that day of giving, that month of giving on how much we give. One of our stores is usually in the top-10 out of 2000. That’s pretty good track record. And so we really make sure that that is not only part of Peter’s culture, but it’s part of our culture. And so we get surrounded by a lot of people that really believe in it. And I think that helps at the store level. I can be super excited about it, but if I don’t get that message through to my people and if I can’t get that charity partner to help me get that message through to my people, then my manager’s not going to get excited about it.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (22:32):

I’ve got seven stores. I can’t be at all seven that day for every customer. My managers are. My people are. And so the manager has to get that crew person excited about talking to the customers. My manager has to… Because we talk to our customers for weeks leading up to that day. “Hey, don’t forget our day of giving.” We also collect money through the month prior to that. And so we’re collecting quite a bit that way as well, but the big push up is that one day. And by creating that culture, we get everybody to buy into that day. We get surrounded by people who are excited to do that and like to do it, and that drives the success. And so for a company, if somebody wants to say, hey, this cause marketing is great, but if you want to do cause marketing to build sales, don’t do cause marketing.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (23:21):

Yes, please give, and I encourage you to find something that’s near dear to your heart, but frankly, the consumer sees through a lot of cause marketing for the sake of cause marketing. But if you are the type of person who really believes in that, if you can create that culture within your company, of giving and being very community-oriented, first off, you’re going to do a lot of good for your community, those charities that you work with. And we work with more than just the food bank each year. We just did the month of August, we did 100% of our cookie sales to, to a foster care program here locally, Sunbeam foster care service, family services. And we did it for their foster care program. So we raised $15,000 just by encouraging people to buy cookies for that month. Our cookie sales skyrocket when we do this. They go up 200/300% because our people believe in it.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (24:19):

And when you are able to create that culture, you’re driving that success for your charity, but you’re also bringing those people into your company. And I frequently say, who do you want to work with? And so when you’re able to surround yourself with a bunch of other people who care about their community and care about the success of the charities that you choose to work with, that goes a long ways towards how they work with each other. And that message and the way you approach how you work with those media outlets and how you work with those charity partners, that message then becomes consumers truly understand that is a big part of your culture.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (25:05):

Yeah. That’s amazing. And one of the things that I’m picking up as I’m listening to you is that even though you have this one day of giving on March 31st, that you do system-wide, you have taken this whole idea and incorporated it into a broader picture, having the cookie sales for one month. And it’s just a reminder that don’t be afraid to be creative. You can do different things to make a positive contribution or support those folks in need or organizations that your heart aches for, where you have that heartache to help people in need and use some great local organizations. I love what you’re doing.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (25:52):

Right. Absolutely. And I also would recommend… because once you have that out there… So we get approached by a lot of people. My stores have a budget of number of subs that my managers can give away to a cause local to their store without even asking me. It’s just, okay, if somebody needs a donation for whatever, you have this many subs a month you can just give away and help that cause. And so the small things I don’t even really look at too much, but with the big ones… So you get approached by a lot of people. And I tell people all the time, I could give a penny to a lot of charities and not do anything, or I can focus and really make some differences. This $107,000 that we raise will feed 1,000 kids for a year on a food bank program.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (26:43):

And so we’ve raised, I believe it’s about $650,000 for the regional food bank here in Oklahoma City over the years we’ve been working with them. So we fed a lot of kids. So we can do a lot of good. One of the challenges I had personally… because it’s a selfish act for me and I’ve worked with multiple charities, and as I worked with them… In the beginning, you’re able to work with those individuals and you get that… When you help somebody out with a true need, something that is just, at that moment, it’s life changing to them, the appreciation that you get from that, you just can’t… you can’t replicate that any other way. And so that was a great feeling for me.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (27:29):

But as I grew, I got to the point where I’m not helping the individual. I can’t… I can do so much… I can help so many more by letting go of that grassroots, I’m working with this one person. So it was a struggle me at first because I was losing that, what was my selfish thing, which was that feel good that I got by, by the response from that individual or that small group. And the bigger I got, the further I got removed from that. So it was a struggle for me because it didn’t feel quite as rewarding. So I had to realize, but I’m helping so many more people, and that’s really what I’m about it.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (28:08):

It’s… If it’s about me and feeling good, then I’m not doing it for the right reason. And so it’s about the helping those people, and I can help so many more people by growing. And with Jersey Mike’s, it just made it so easy because Peter wholeheartedly believes the same way. And so it’s been a transition for me, but it’s one that’s been incredibly rewarding as well, once I fully embraced that side of it. Now I’m able to help so many more people and do so… and reach so many kids. We employ a lot of youth, and I’m able to… As you can tell, I enjoy passing all my opinions and what I hope is good knowledge, and I’m able to reach so many of those kids and talk to them about this sort of thing.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (28:56):

And you can be highly successful in what you do, and that can be rewarding, but being able to help those other that are less fortunate than you, to me, is such a great feeling. I enjoy passing on that concept and passing on that feeling and watching some of my people just really embrace it and grow with it and how excited they get when we do… Some of my people get really excited just sell that cookie to help that foster kid, and that’s how we sell a lot of cookies for those kids. And when I can reach those young people and know that that’s going to grow within them for the future, that’s another level of reward for me. It’s just been… It’s been a really good experience, the giving back for the sake of giving and being able to help others and especially coming into Jersey Mike’s and being able to really grow that side of me has been just incredibly rewarding.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (30:01):

Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like it’s been a… kind of like a rally point, maybe for your team to rally around, for your staff. Especially in the food business, you have this constant moving parts of part-time employees and people who are… You’ll have some long-term. You’ll have a lot of people coming in that maybe are students, and they’re here for just a short window of time. And how do you keep them motivated or engaged or interested in what you’re doing? And this seems like a great rally call or rally point to bring the whole group around and get excited about it.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (30:40):

Absolutely. So one of the things we recognize as a boss is that some of your employees are temporary. They are. They are here, they’re working their way through school, and they’re working on a degree. They’re working to pay off some catastrophic, in their life, costs that came along. And those people are going to be temporary. They are not your career and nor do they need to be because it’s not for them. They’ve got a purpose for the job, and you can teach them and they can be very good. And then there’s other people who are either they know it’s their career, or they haven’t figured out it’s their career yet. And those people are a whole different person we’re reaching. Now, when we’re talking about the giving, I hope that I’m impacting all of them. I hope that all of them, whatever it is, they go on to, they carry that forward.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (31:24):

But for those that are going to be career with my industry, and especially, hopefully with me, when they’re those ones you want to keep, being able to influence them… And as I said earlier, who do you want to work with? So the more you create that culture, the people that tend to enjoy of that culture, the ones who tend to really enjoy and want to thrive within your system. And so you’re able to keep those people. And then hopefully they in turn, as their mentoring their employees and hiring people and the ones that they’re actually trying to… and just subconsciously acting and keeping those same types. And so you’re able to hang on to some really good people. We’ve got…

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (32:09):

And I know that most people, listeners, probably understand managers are… In this business, your manager is everything. You can have the best system in the world, if your manager is not good at implementing that system and not good at working with those people in that store, not good at working with those customers, you’re lost. And so we’ve got some really, really good managers right now. And I think a big part of it… And we have a long-term tenure for a lot of my employees. I’ve got employees… My business partner started working for me as an 18-year-old pizza delivery driver two weeks after I opened my first business. And he’s worked up. He’s my business partner. He’s a franchisee himself now and very, very successful. I’ve got another person that worked for me for about 20 years. He owns some stores in Tulsa. I’ve got another manager working for me now that worked for me for over 20 years and is doing very well. And we have some very long-term tenured employees.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (33:05):

And I think this is part of it. We created a culture… And it’s not just about giving to others. We try to be very family-oriented and very aware. I’m in the food business. Our schedule for our managers, we want them to work 45 hours a week. We don’t want them working 55. We don’t want them working five and a half, six days a week. We want them to work five, nine-hour days. When they have to work… When there’s a problem in the store, if they’re the first person that’s got to solve that problem, but if they’re having to solve that problem and work that sixth or seventh day a week for more than a week or two, then we need to help them figure out why it is they can’t solve the problem because that’s not the solution. They’ll get burned out.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (33:46):

They need a family life. They need a balance. We pay them pretty well, but we take care of that side even more. And I think it’s a big way that we create that tenure and we get that employee that’s wanting to buy into our culture, be part of our culture, and that helps… Today, whew, it’s so hard. I’ve been in the industry since 1980 [inaudible 00:34:10], and it’s harder than ever to find employees now. And to have the level of management staff that we have in the industry today, right now, we feel very blessed. And I think that’s a big reason for it, is that people-first, it’s culture. It’s not all about raw dollars. You have to give them that balance. You can’t burn them out. You can’t burn them up. You have to make them understand, hey, I really do care about you. And this business that Kevin and I have created, we really care about people, not just the sales.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (34:50):

Yeah. Well, it’s awesome. I love what you’re doing. And this is a great point in the show for us, Charlie, to transition to put you under the hot seat and ask you the same questions we ask every guest on the… before every guest goes. And the first question we ask is about a miss or two that maybe has happened along your career and something you learned from it.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (35:15):

So I will tell you there’s a couple of them, but I’ve missed on a location or two. And it usually happens when I settle, when I say, you know what, we’re just not finding what we want, but we really want to get open in that area. And I settle on the location instead of waiting for the good one. And that can be expensive in our industry. I’ve also missed… But I feel like I missed for the right reason [inaudible 00:35:43]. A couple times I’ve had employee issues, where I worked with an employee trying to get them through a personal problem. And I will say in these cases it was drug or alcohol related, and I’m trying to… They develop an issue, and I try to work with them, and I stuck with them longer than I should have. It was financially very expensive, a few times.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (36:07):

It’s for the right reasons in that case. And it hurt because it was expensive, but also hurt because in a couple of those cases, these were very good people before they developed their problem. And it’s a tough one. And I personally, I wish I knew the answer to that question, but those are the most expensive misses I’ve had. And I will… Back that up. I should have bought some Domino’s stock back when I got out 10 years ago, because if you’re to look at it, it was about $3 or $4 a share then, and I think $400 and something dollars a share now. So I guess I missed that.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (36:46):

Well, thank you for sharing that. And let’s talk about a make or two. You’ve already shared some awesome stories with us on… as part of the conversation here, but another make or two you’d like to share.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (36:58):

I will tell you, there’s a lot of things I’ve been very, very blessed in my life, and I am in a very comfortable position. And I do not ever take that for granted and not appreciate how blessed I’ve been. As I said I grew up poor, and I’m in a great spot now. But the makes, the hits, they’re my people. I mean, I’ve got some really good people. My business partner, he just walked in the door. He is actually sitting across from me. Man, without him, being where I’m at… First off, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be here without him. And finding somebody as loyal and as hardworking and as committed… And he’s not just a great business partner. He’s also my best friend now. We’re… People make fun of us all the time, but my people. I’ve got some, as I mentioned before, some fantastic managers right now. And they’re your hits. That’s it. I mean, they’re your hits.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (38:00):

And when you find that person… And even if they move on. I had a great manager in a store in Ponca City, and I point him out, because he was the most successful [inaudible 00:38:10]. But at some point, your managers need to move up from being a manager. Most people reach that point where they… I need the next challenge. And they might be great. Well, in Kevin’s place, my business partner, that was where I moved him up. I was at a point where… that I just paid off a lot of notes and I could afford it. So I made a lifestyle decision for me.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (38:34):

I said, I want him still working for me, but he needs to stop being a manager and do something else. So I created a supervisor position that I didn’t really need at the time. I was doing that. I stepped back a little bit, made a little bit less money at the time, but I brought him in. And he’s… It’s paid me back over and over again. I had this guy in Ponca City, he was a manager. He needed to move up. I didn’t have spot. There was nothing I could do to create it. So I went out and found a great franchisee that needed that person that I felt was a good fit for him.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (39:02):

I put the two of them together. He went on, and now I think he’s in charge of 30 stores or something. He’s highly successful. He’s doing a great job. He’s loving what he’s doing. We’ve kept in touch. I lost that great manager at that time, but I was going to lose him one way or another anyway. He was at that point in his career where he needed to move on. So I helped him. I helped him find that place where he could succeed and do even more. And I brought somebody else in who’s now that franchisee that I talked about in Tulsa. And so it’s your people. Your hits are all about your people.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (39:38):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s… Thank you for sharing that. And how about a multiplier that you’ve used as you’ve grown several businesses in your company and giving. What’s been a multiplier for you?

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (39:51):

Well, so to multiply my success, it’s my mostly just been hard work and focus. I don’t believe in baseball as it’s played today. I’m not the home run chaser. I’m the bat guy over the second and move him around, small ball. I want to have… I’ve said it all the time, in our industry, in the food business, if you’re 5% positive year over year, that’s usually a home run. If you can give me a string of 5%s [inaudible 00:40:24], I’ll take that any day. We’re very blessed, and we’re doing super this year, but I’ll take that all day long over that once in a while, 12 or 15%. I just, I want to… And so my supplier just been that. It has been stay with it and just grind it out, do what you do. We call it, in our stores, nice and fast. If we execute it being nice and fast every day, day in, day out, we’re going to lose less customers than we gain. And that’s it. I mean, you just play the long run.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (40:56):

Yeah. Yeah. I like that. Very concise. I appreciate that. And the final question we like to ask every guest, Charlie, is what does success mean to you?

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (41:09):

It’s kind of like retiring. I don’t know that I’ll ever retire, but retirement for me is probably having less need to be at the office and more want to be at the office is why I’m there doing something. And so, yeah, success, what makes you happy? I tell people a lot of times… I give this advice to my kids and my nieces and nephews and people that work with me that are young. It’s not necessarily about finding the job you love. I don’t love every aspect of my job. I love the company I work with. I love the people I work with. I love a lot of things it does for me. But it’s not necessarily finding that job that you love the job. It’s finding the job that allows you to do what you love.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (41:54):

And for some people that is the job. For some people… If you’re going to work at a, at a nonprofit, it’s probably you need that fulfillment from your job. But for a lot of other people, it’s not about the job. It’s about the things the job affords me the ability to do. And so success is being able to define that and finding out what it is that I can do that I’m able to be happy in my life. And it’s not about… I say, it’s not.

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (42:22):

For some people, it’s totally about the balance at the end of the bank ledger every day. Years from now, did I hit this milestone? And that can be an important factor, but it shouldn’t be everything. Are you able to go do those things you love? Are you able to spend time with people, if that’s what it’s you love to do? And be able to have those experiences, if that’s what you love to do? Are you able to help others? Are you able to build that bank account? That’s success for you, is what is it… and finding that, that allows you to do and achieve what you love.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (42:55):

Yeah, that was so well said. Well, Charlie, this has been awesome. I’m so thankful for your time to be on the episode here. As we kind of bring this to a conclusion, is there anything you are hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to say yet?

Charlie Brown, Jersey Mike’s Subs (43:11):

All right. Well, first, because I am with Jersey Mike’s, absolutely, have a great sandwich. We have great food and some really good people. And we do that month of giving, so the last Wednesday of March, next year, wherever you are, whoever you are, go buy Jersey Mike’s, spend some money. It’s going to go to a great cause, 100% of that. And so I’m big on the giving back. I hope that some people were… it helped them understand. Create that culture of giving, find it in your heart. What is it that, as you said, that tugs at your heartstrings, and then focus on, in little ways, on that. And you can grow that as it grows within you. And the more that we have people that take that little bit of their success and pass it down, the better we’re all be.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (44:01):

Charlie, thank you so much again for a fantastic interview. It was just jammed with wonderful information. And let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Charlie was talking about opportunity. And he have to be in a position for opportunity, then recognize the opportunity, and then decide to do something about it. And I had never heard it described quite in that way before, and it really stood out to me. And it was really thought provoking. I thought it was a great description.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (44:35):

Takeaway number two is that as a franchisee, you need to know the rules for your franchise system and then focus on how to succeed within those rules or within those limits. And I thought that was great advice for any prospective franchisee, maybe entering into a system, or maybe someone that’s currently in a franchise system. And then for any franchisors that might be tuning in, just to try and recognize some of these characteristics of franchisees that are ready to play within your system and processes and work those systems and processes.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (45:10):

Take away number three is when Charlie shared his multiplier. And he said for him personally, it was hard work and focus. Hard work and focus, those two things coupled together. And I liked how he talked about what he tells his staff and his team at his own businesses, which is to be focused on being nice and fast. Nice and fast. Really simple to understand for your team, be nice and go fast or be fast, be quick. Don’t delay. So I thought those were great takeaways.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (45:44):

And now it’s time for today’s win, win. So today’s win, win is, you could have probably guessed from the title of the episode and just the content we talked about, it was all about really cause marketing and giving back. And Charlie said for him, giving back was kind of a selfish act because he really enjoys it. And I would say to anyone that isn’t giving back, I think when you do it, you will find how fulfilling it actually is in any way, shape, or form, whether that’s giving back through charities and donating to local charities in your community, or maybe volunteering or you and your staff doing that together.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise (46:26):

And I thought it was fantastic how Charlie said that he don… He gave a few examples. He donated, for example, in August 100% of cookie sales for that month to a local charity. And he recently donated over $100,000 to a local food bank. That’s going to feed and help a lot of families and a lot of people in his community. And you know what was interesting, the biggest statistic that Charlie, you could tell, that he was most proud of is that out of the more than 2000 franchise locations in Jersey Mike’s, one of his stores every year is in the top 10 locations in the whole country for raising the most money on their 100% donation day for 100% of sales. I thought that was awesome. And congratulations on that, Charlie. As we end the episode here today, just want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and your loved ones.

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