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7 Questions with Carlos Vidal
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7 Questions with Carlos Vidal
Name: Carlos Vidal
Current title: Vice president of Enterprise
Current organisation: Jeff App
Carlos Vidal is currently serving as VP of Enterprise at JEFF, which he joined in April 2020 to lead the large partners international franchising division. With a 25+ year career behind, Carlos is a senior executive with extensive experience in global franchise management, having served at a number of multinational companies in industries ranging from food service to fitness and personal services, across all continents. He has held multiple leadership, development and operations roles growing and establishing brands like Orangetheory Fitness, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald's and Pressto. He has directly been responsible for more than 2.500 retail units openings and over 150 franchise partners added to these companies networks.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
In order to reach high levels in an business executive career, there are definitely many challenges you need to overcome. For me, climbing the corporate ladder has always required lots of work, time and energy dedication, which needed to be sustained for years. Overtime I managed to have a successful career but this has come with a price in terms of personal and family sacrifices, and it has not always been easy to manage the often mentioned "work-life balance".
For me and for the organisations I was in, it worked the Jack Welch way. When he was asked about work-life balance his famous answer was: "There is no such thing as work life balance. There are decisions and those decisions have consequences."
I don´t know I would make again now all the same decisions that I made in the past. Priorities and perspective change with time. I guess they should and that is a sign that you have grown along the way!
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I am not outstandingly smart or had anything given to me, so for me it all came as a result of hard work and dedication, honing my skills slowly but relentlessly and developing a sense of love towards my craft.
When looking at my career in retrospect I attribute some of my successes to making the tough decisions to leave some of the organisations I worked for, like McDonalds, Yum Brands or Pressto. It is difficult to leave a company where you have learned, grown and been successful over several years. However, it is also important to understand when it is the right time to look for new experiences and change paths. In my case all the voluntary (and involuntary) changes of companies provided huge personal and professional learning opportunities. A new environment comes with new challenges, new territories, exposure to new people and ways of understanding business and the world. Those were difficult but the right decisions. Having a no fear mindset allowed me to grow, and teach me that you have to take some risks to earn the big rewards. I was always more afraid of comfort and being stuck than to go into the unknown and facing new challenges. This is not for everyone, but the comfy easy path is not for me. I feed from novelty.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I have come to develop over the years a specific way of understanding and using my time. I used to be very reactive and use brute force and unlimited energy, and I was effective but not efficient. I learnt that planning and being intentional with time gets you more done and is much more productive. It also helps manage stress big time.
Therefore, I see my time as a very limited resource and try to be smart with it. For me it comes down to planning and organising, building a personal discipline around it. My day starts early, I have not always been one but I turned into an early riser because it gives you an advantage over the rest. Meditation and breath work is always part of my morning ritual. 20-30 minute daily. I experiment with different techniques and systems, but the benefits are such that it is simply silly to skip it. Exercise is also part of my day. It can be a 30 minute run or a short but intense gym session. It gives me energy and helps with sleep. Moving as much as you can is a non-negotiable for people who work sitting most of the day. When it comes to work, I structure my day in time blocks. It is the most efficient way of maximising output. I always try to put the most difficult or energy consuming things I need to get done in the first in the agenda. I plan for focused periods of time, 30 to 60 minutes, then rest or change activity (move, stand, walk...), then rinse and repeat. Light healthy lunch, often on the go, and more coffee than I should are part of my day. I make an effort not to allow for external interruptions, and particularly to not interrupt myself with emails, messages, calls... and fall into the trap of easy dopamine and attention back holes. Being busy and being productive are two different things. I focus on working smart and on what is going to move the needle.
I also plan for some thinking time. Sometimes not daily, but I certainly make sure there is enough weekly thinking time. It is important to stop and reflect, add some reading time, learn and actualise about your sector, business in general, other fields. The best ideas always come when you think cross-field and open, not narrow.
Family time is always the winding down and recharging time for me in the day. If I don't have much time, I deliberately focus on quality and making whatever time I have with kids and wife count. Nothing else matters for me if I don't get this right!
In summary, my motto here is being intentional and determined with your time, going always on the offensive, being proactive and not just reacting.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I have learned the importance of being open minded, especially in this day and age of fast and furious change, and constantly challenging preconceived ideas. Winners are the ones who have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, who understand that anything can be learned if you put the necessary work. In line with this, when you are working for large companies and really big goals and causes, you need to understand the importance of doing things as a team. Nothing worthwhile and really important is done in an isolated, individual way, no matter how good you are. Working with people, the ability to listen and play as a team, give and take, discuss and challenge in a respectful and productive way, the soft skills are so necessary and at the same time so infrequent in many organisations. In the end it is so simple: the ones which strive at this win, the rest lose.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I will mention a simple but profound one: I Moved Your Cheese by Deepak Malhotra. This is one of those short ones written as a tale which you can get through with in a couple hours. It is the sequel to Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson. It is good to read this one first. They are not at all business books, but the learnings can be applied to any aspect of life, business and leadership included.
While the first book talks about the capacity to adapt as a necessary survival skill and how to deal with it, the second book takes it a step further and talks about breaking paradigms, escaping from the maze, breaking the rules and making your own, creating your own world and freedom.
One of the main learnings which you can translate into business is the attitude that anything is possible, you just don't know how to do it yet, your mindset is your own and only limitation, problems can be solved by thinking outside the box, you can write your own rules.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
For me leadership means inspiring, influencing, helping people get the best out of them. You achieve this by having great communication, being a good listener, becoming a role model of the behaviours you want to see in the organisation, promoting teamwork, and an environment where people can thrive: empowerment people to make participate, make mistakes, learn and contribute.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I am very lucky to have many versions of the same story. I see my career as a succession of roles where I had common theme: changing lives, empowering entrepreneurs and helping them achieve success. In such mission, the most rewarding sense of achievement comes overtime, when you see a person or group of people which started small but went through their business own business journey, growing, overcoming obstacles, getting small wins and finally finding success. Feeling you played a small part of that success, and seeing the impact you can have on other people's lives is what it's all about. Nothing beats the feeling.