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How to Succeed as a Multi-Unit Franchisee: Salem Najjar, Tropical Smoothie Cafe

With nine locations in his portfolio, this young, Detroit-area franchise owner says your success isn’t only measured in numbers.

By Chris LaMorte1851 Franchise Editor
Updated 9:09AM 06/07/21

What makes someone a successful entrepreneur? 

Yes, making a profit is part of it. And for franchisees, the number of locations you own may be part of it as well. But earnings and unit numbers don’t represent the whole story, according to Salem Najjar, who at the age of 31, owns nine Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in the Upper Midwest. 

When asked what success means to him, Najjar says it really depends on what you mean by success. “If you polled 100 people, I’m of the impression that you get 100 different answers.” In his own view, Najjar says, success means building a strong team: “The first way that I measure success is the attitude of my employees. If they’re motivated, positive, and, most importantly, if they're reporting to me that they feel successful, then I feel successful.”

There are also customers to consider, of course. “If they feel happy, we will hear it come through in their feedback,” Najjar said. “And there will be a direct correlation with our sales growth, and that will make me feel successful.” 

But Najjar says the main thing that drives his success, ironically, is that he doesn’t really see success as an endpoint, but as an activity and an outlook. “I'm not necessarily looking to achieve success, because I don't see it as something to be achieved or as an end goal,” he said. “I always want to learn more, grow more and outperform more. I feel like that is what fuels my tenacity.”

In other words, it’s about the journey, not the destination. 

But this is no solo journey for Najjar. “I believe that your people are your most valuable asset, more important than the equipment that you buy, or [your] location,” he said. At the end of the day, if you've got strong people and a strong team, they will be the catalysts that fuel your growth, so you have to invest in them like an asset.”

Najjar says his own philosophical outlook on business surprises him. A CPA, he says he usually approaches the word very analytically. So when he was preparing to jump into the franchise world, he bore into dozens of FDDs, taking a deep dive into the numbers. 

But then sometimes there are other factors to consider in addition to good numbers. 

In 2015, when Najjar met the CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe and the executive team, something clicked.

“I could just really feel a sense of belonging,” he recalled.  “I could feel that it was a brand that I could really grow with and create a strong portfolio with. It really just came down to a gut feeling for me.”

So his best advice for investing in one or 100 units is to study all the data, crunch all the numbers, and then take a step back, and do a gut check. “Take into consideration how you feel about that brand,” he says. “You don’t want to be investing in something that you are not personally on board with.” 

Watch the full interview above, or click here to watch it on YouTube.