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7 Questions with John Abbas
7 Questions with John Abbas
Name: John Abbas
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: The Gingerbread House Childcare, Mentr, and Essentials Wellness Medspa
I am 38 years old and a father of 3 amazing girls. Started my first company at the age of 23 and I have been an entrepreneur ever since. Currently my wife and I divide our time between running our active businesses and investing in Stocks and Real Estate. More than anything, I love to teach and give back to others because of the opportunities that I have been afforded.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
As a small business owner with a brick and mortar, personally my biggest challenge is scaling without taking on incredible amounts of expense and overhead. There is something to be said about Ecommerce and the advantages of leverage that you just don't get with brick and mortar. It takes far more creatvity, effort, and resources to scale while maintaining strong profit margins.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I got out of the Navy in 2005 at the age of 23 and have been an entrepreneur ever since. In the military, you earn based on your rank and not your effort or productivity. Seeing this was all the motivation that i needed to take control of my future. I started a construction company at the age of 23 with my 19 year old brother, and that has evolved into several other businesses over the last 15 years.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
For me personally, I look at when I am no longer being productive. At about 9pm I found that I started just wasting time watching tv, or scrolling social media and so I focused on changing my schedule to where I go to bed at that time and wake up at 5am. At 5, I can work out, get clear on my day, and begin by 7 when most are still waking up.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The secret of business is understanding how to organize and channel other people's efforts. I own a daycare that does almost $1.5 million per year and I spend less than 3 hours per week there. I also own a Medspa and spend less than 5 hours per week there. The lesson here is that when you can take a business, understand what needs to be done, find the right people who are a good fit for that job and build an environment where they are satisfied and fulfilled, you can create a win win by channeling their talents to get the job done while you focus on the bigger picture. this is a long way of saying that accomplishing anything is a team effort. The sooner you can understand this and learn how to create a situation where everyone on the team is focusing on their strengths, you can remove yourself from having to micromanage everyone and better use that energy scaling or doing something more productive.
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?
Shoe Dog. This is the story of Phil Knight who founded Nike. Often times, people see the success of a company and have no idea the years of struggle and how they almost didn't make it dozens of times. This is the story of Nike. It taught me a lot about persistence, getting creative, but more on the practical side to always know your numbers.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Phase 1: Tons of communication and recognition. Communicate clearly and often so that the mission and vision is always front and center and praise great work often to create a culture of acknowledgement.
Phase 2: Inclusive and Exclusive activities. Inclusive meaning activities where everyone is involved and Exclusive where things have to be earned to create a culture of healthy competition.
Phase 3: Accountability and trust: You need accountability to make sure people do not get complacent but also you need to trust so that people feel like they can take ownership of your business.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
When I first bought my preschool, we had a staff meeting for our 33 employees and they were very skeptical. I spent hours thinking of what I would say. I had no childcare experience and was worried that they would not take me serious. The daycare was not managed well by the previous owner and barely making a profit. My goal was to figure out how to tell the staff that we are going to become world class.
A story came to mind from an experience i had earlier that day. It was cold and I was grabbing breakfast at Chik Fil A and the line was long. The employees were standing outside taking orders to move the line faster. It was probably 20 degrees outside. In that moment I understood why Chik Fil A was magic and why the experience at McDonalds was totally different which is why Chik Fil A does 2-3 times the revenue while being closed on Sunday.
At the staff meeting I asked everyone if they had been to McDonalds, and then I asked them if they had been to Chik Fil A and I asked them to tell me the difference from the experience. In that moment I let them know that moving forward, we will be providing a Chik Fil A experience everyday and if anyone was not crystal clear on what that meant, to come talk to me.
It was a very successful staff meeting.