Exeleon Magazine

Jesse Keyser: The Serial Franchise Owner Transforming Leadership

Jesse Keyser

This feature is part of our 100 Most Dynamic Leaders of 2023. Check out the entire issue and listing by clicking on this link.

What according to you makes one a dynamic leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your journey?

Having locations hours apart from each other, you must create two very strong things in your organization: You must have very strong systems, and you must have very good culture. I have a quote I share often with other entrepreneurs, “We must systemize the predictable, so we may humanize the unpredictable.” The systems make things run as smoothly as possible, in an automatic pilot fashion.

But remember life happens. Employees or customers come to you with situations you have never encountered. In these situations, great leadership can be observed. When we can stop, listen, and learn about the other people in the situation, we can almost always address and correct or improve things for them. To be a dynamic leader, you must be in the moment with people.

Having owned multiple businesses and spearheaded operations for a number of franchises, what has been the journey like for you over the years?

This has been an amazing journey. Every time I pick up a new brand, it’s usually in a different business segment. I can take best practices from my other brands/industries and apply them to the newest concept. For example, I had some very successful grand openings with my Little Caesars Pizza locations. Like most restaurants, they are busiest the first couple of months they are open for business; everyone wants to try the new place in town. Salons are a bit different, though. They traditionally open soft, and they grow sales and employees over time. I wanted to have huge grand openings for my Sport Clips Haircuts, so I took what I learned from other concepts. I really doubled down on the employee recruitment and training; I hired more people than I needed because past experience told me that not everyone stays on your team. The last thing I wanted was a lobby full of customers and too few employees to take care of them. Because I was over-staffed and provided extensive training to the team, I was able to really ramp up the grand opening marketing. I have seven of the ten biggest grand openings for that brand.

Talk to us about your approach when it comes to managing teams remotely. What would be your biggest advice when it comes to remote leadership?

I have four responsibilities as a leader for my company, which I instill in each of my district managers and store managers:

  1. Protect the gratitude
  2. Protect the vision
  3. Constantly challenge the status quo
  4. Constantly develop leaders around you

When these four things are done correctly, you have an amazing team. You have a deep bench filled with qualified people, each capable of taking on their own locations. People stay where they are appreciated. The secret sauce to a great team—and to being the best leader possible—is to be invested in developing others so they have more value.

Being a serial entrepreneur as well as a business mentor, how do you ensure work-life balance?

I really do feel like I have this mastered. I am constantly reaching out to others who have already achieved what I want to achieve, and I observe what they are doing now with their mindset or routines. I mimic as much of what fits my personality as possible. I have done a very good job creating a team around me that handles almost every issue that could arise. This gives me lots of free time and flexibility to show up and be in the moment with my district leaders.

Entrepreneurs are aware of the 80/20 rule, but I would say most don’t understand all parts of this rule. If you have developed your team and created proper systems, they will be able to produce 80% of the quality of work that you would. At this point, you must decide if their 80% is actually 100% to the average customer or employee.  If so great—you can commence with total delegation. If not, you are finishing up that 20% in far less time than if you had to create that 100% independently. I always ask, “Is it easier to create, or to edit?” The answer is always “edit,” So, I encourage my leaders to find other great ideas and edit them.

It is very hard to turn off the thinking—but really try to be in the moment. When with friends or family, put your phone down. Make quality time a love language you speak often with people who are important to you.

Finally, what is your vision going forward for your businesses? What are you most excited about?

There are a lot of things I am very excited about. After almost 20 years in business, a lot of my debt service to grow my business is getting paid off or has been paid off. This has really changed the cashflow my company generates, so I am able to take on new projects that are bigger in price than I could have five years ago.

I’m currently working on creating a restaurant concept. We plan on having the first location open in 6 months. This would be the first time I have actually created something from scratch and multiplied it. Most of the time I have taken other people’s great ideas and multiplied it myself. I have spent a lot of time building great relationships with “founders” of other concepts. I have learned so much from them, and I know that they will be a great resource for me in the future.

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100 Dynamic Leaders 2023 Exeleon magazine

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