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Aslam Khan, CEO of Falcon Holdings

December 18, 2008 by  


By Ayub Khan, MMNS

44F8 Falcon Holdings, LLC is an operator of approximately 100  Church’s Chicken restaurants.   Falcon Holdings is a limited liability corporation. The primary owner is Aslam Khan who bought the company in September 1999. Aslam Khan purchased a severely challenged company that without the purchase would have gone into bankruptcy. In the last 2 years the company has improved substantially with better operational controls and financial performance. 

In 1952, Church’s Chicken opened its first fast food restaurant in downtown San Antonio, across the street from the Alamo, and from there grew to 1,500 restaurants worldwide. The Church family owned and operated the chain until 1968, when it became a publicly traded company. By 1989, it was the second largest chicken franchise organization in the US next to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Khan came on the scene in the mid-1980s, first as a dishwasher. He quickly went on to become a cashier, an assistant manager, and general manager, until he eventually joined the leadership team.

After more than 20 years of making his way through the ranks at Church’s Chicken, Khan knew the company had potential; all the right people were in place, but they were not informed or properly motivated. “Because they did not know how the company was doing on a daily, weekly, or quarterly basis, they didn’t know how to move forward,” he said. In response, he sculpted a new mission statement: inform, influence, and engage.

To keep the company informed, Falcon Holdings developed an IT system that slices and dices each restaurant’s financial performance on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and year-to-date basis. Khan noted that previously, this work was done on an Excel spreadsheet and disseminated to each restaurant separately. “We’ve taken the guess work out of the equation and created a sense of competition among our restaurants,” said Khan.

When Falcon Holdings takes over a struggling restaurant or market, it completely overhauls the management team, without replacing a single person. “We train them, give them the tools to succeed, and create an environment where they feel a sense of ownership. That is our number one rule: don’t take ownership away from anyone. Managers have their own ideas as to how to succeed, and it is our job to help them execute,” Khan said.

The company asks, “What can we do to help?” so often that it has become a mantra. “We sit down with each manager and listen. People often don’t trust new leadership because they think what they say will be used against them. But if you have a trust-based organization, and people know that you are willing and able to help, they will open up, and everyone can start moving forward.”

A generous bonus plan that Khan predicts will revolutionize the quick serve restaurant industry helps everyone in the organization, from front line employees to the president and CEO, feel a sense of ownership in the company. “Second only to feeling respected, money is a primary motivator,” he said. The tiered system rolls from the management level upward; from the assistant manager to the COO, everyone receives a fraction of the bonus.

“We’ve put our managers first; it is incumbent on them to succeed,” he said, adding that managers and employees are given the tools to calculate their additional earnings. “A manager can end the day knowing he made an extra $100 for his family and feeling that he can do the same, or even better, tomorrow.” In fact, some managers have doubled their yearly income as a result of bonuses.

As a result of these strategies, and a generous health insurance package that kicks in after 90 days on the job, Falcon Holdings doesn’t have to spend a penny recruiting employees for its Church’s Chicken restaurants. And, according to Khan, the company’s retention rate is among the best in the quick serve restaurant industry.

With employees on board who feel informed, influenced, and engaged, it isn’t too hard to turn around an ailing operation. In fact, it took only three months to transform the Georgia market, purchased in January. The trick, Khan said, is to ease into big changes during moments of joy. “People resist change inherently, especially during times of stress. If you make a big noise, you will push them away. As you achieve one success, you tweak things a little. The next day, with another success under your belt, you tweak them some more, and before you know it, the organization has turned 180 degrees.”

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