If Charley Shin had to use one word to advise others about how to be a better leader — in business or in life — it would be courage.
“I think inherently most of us need more courage because we think of the worst possible scenario, and a lot of us get fearful of what may happen or may not happen,” says Shin, founder and CEO of Charleys Philly Steaks and Bibibop. “I just try to instill and lead with: Let’s do the right thing, and if we do the right thing everything is going to turn out well.
“I try to coach them to live with less fear and believe in what we do.”
Just like in life, Shin takes a holistic approach at his restaurant chains.
“I approach business like I approach life, and I think we are a whole person. Whatever I do in business is likely to carry over to my personal life and into my faith life as well,” he says.
Caring for others, always seeking to learn and having the courage to stick to your convictions are the ingredients of the culture at Charleys, which has stood the test of time and had its strongest sales increase in history for 2014 and 2015.
Shin also has taken elements of that culture and used it to found the fast-casual Korean-inspired eatery, Bibibop, which is spreading out from Columbus to other Ohio cities to become more of a regional player.
Here’s how Shin and his leadership team have stayed true to their beliefs for its nearly 560 Charleys and nine Bibibop restaurants.
Don’t chase dollars
Shin is no longer as involved in the day-to-day operations of Charleys, but he acts as a coach for his direct reports in order to guide them and enable them to make important decisions. He says his executive team has more experience, which allowed him to take a step back to a more strategic role.
That coaching is also prevalent for the company’s 220 franchisees, many of which are opening their third, fourth and fifth restaurants. Charleys are located in 45 states and 20 countries worldwide, and Shin says the company is stronger than ever because their existing franchisees want to open more restaurants.
The company makes its franchisees and customers a priority, which is why Shin believes Charleys is still growing 25 years later.
“I have an old saying, and I say this to our new franchisees in training class all the time: Don’t chase money, because the money will run away. Make the customers happy and money comes to you,” he says.
Most people are in business in order to make money, but money is a byproduct of doing things right — taking care of your employees and customers, he says.
Shin says finding a balance between the vision/mission and profitability is a continual challenge, and something he’s always watching with himself and his company.
It’s not easy to be in business, he says, and being a for-profit entity and doing right by your employees sometimes come in conflict.
“We just try to stick to our culture as much as possible,” he says. “We believe that the business will do well as we help people to grow in their role.
“We are focused on the learning or development of people, and also helping them to live courageously and become much more entrepreneurial. We just want to keep that spirit within, as we grow.”