Kal Gullapalli

From Wall Street to Building a Restaurant Empire: 3 Tips for Mega-Entrepreneurship

As we embark on our professional careers, we all envision and strive for success within our respective industries. But for many, we may not hit that pinnacle stride until transitioning to a different industry or even an entirely new career. Personally, this didn’t happen until I made the shift from Wall Street to business entrepreneurship through franchising.

Growing up with parents who were both doctors, the bar was set pretty high, but I had two motivational role models to look up to. My mom and dad taught me that everything in life is earned – in fact, they said no to many of my requests or endeavors I wanted to pursue early on because they knew I wasn’t ready. Hearing that made me want to create my own path and instilled a burning desire to earn my own success.

Kal Gullapalli

After earning my bachelor’s in economics, I spent seven years working on Wall Street before realizing I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. Throughout the next four years, I opened a few local food businesses before joining the world of franchising in 2016. Once the pandemic hit, I knew that I needed to diversify my current franchise portfolio of fitness and wellness concepts as these industries had completely shut down. I did my research and learned that businesses with a delivery offering were on the rise, specifically with pizza, and I landed on Marco’s Pizza, which had strong-performing same-store sales across the nation and healthy opportunities for continued growth.

I recently opened Marco’s 1,100th store in Dundee, Florida – a milestone for the brand – which marked my 36th Marco’s Pizza location. With seven more in various stages of development and a commitment to another 16 future stores, my team is on our way to reaching a 100-plus store Marco’s portfolio by 2025.

There have been a number of lessons learned along the way, but three tactics have remained true in building my franchise empire.

5 Important Tips For First-Time Franchise Buyers

Invest in your greatest asset: your team

The secret to mega growth entrepreneurship lies in hiring a great team, developing a great team, and trusting a great team. You don’t need to be a master at everything – that is where your team steps in.

Your team members are a direct representation of you and your business, so taking the time to hire smartly and strategically is invaluable. After you have made these essential hires, invest in their development to ensure they have the chance to expand their skill sets. Be committed to teaching and empowering them because you will need a trusted team to manage and handle operations as you scale.

Marco’s Pizza prioritizes a “People-First” and “Hospitality Always” mindset, and I believe if you put in the time and effort to take care of your team, they will take care of your guests in return. Once you realize your team is your greatest asset and prioritize that above all else, you’ll be on the fast track to growth.

Build the right growth infrastructure through people and capital

When you are beginning your entrepreneurial journey, it is easier to remain hands-on when you only have to worry about a handful of units. But as you continue to grow and reach double-digit units, it will no longer be feasible for you to oversee the day-to-day operations of every unit – let alone be beneficial to your overall business.

Pre-invest in long-term growth by building the proper infrastructure of people. While it is important for you to feel confident in wearing many hats, it’s not realistic for you to be the go-to for every decision, especially when you are trying to scale. Partner with people who can serve in those leadership roles alongside of you. Delegation will also be critical – know what to own and what to delegate, and then get out of the way to let your team work.

Another essential element to having the right infrastructure is being well capitalized. When you are undercapitalized, you will always be playing from behind and this can bring a negative impact to your business. This may require business partners and/or lenders – don’t be afraid to ask for this kind of help. When I was starting out, I didn’t receive an immediate yes from external resources since a proven track record didn’t exist yet. But, I practiced persistency and built a resume that lenders needed to see.

Eliminate failure as an option, commit to the vision

Nobody has a perfect journey – there will certainly be roadblocks and setbacks as your work toward mega-growth, from naysayers to rejections from banks. When we are presented with these kinds of challenges, it is natural for our initial reaction to be fear – fear that failure is possibly looming in our future. But don’t fear the obstacle itself and instead, look as it as an opportunity to test your ability, grow your resiliency and learn something new.

Opportunities lie within the obstacles we face, so we should arm ourselves with determination and perseverance. You may want to consider asking for help or making a commitment to outside learning to navigate the challenge. Remember, failure is not an option – recall your vision for mega growth and use it as fuel to overcome any obstacle.

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