Management Insight: Neil Hershman is Driven to Succeed
At 27, Neil Hershman has already summitted Mt. Everest (and several other tall peaks), competed in ultra-marathon and ultra-triathlon races—even winning a 703-mile long triathlon, and holds a commercial pilot’s license.
He is also a multi-unit operator for dessert brands Dippin’ Dots & Doc Popcorn (3), and 16 Handles (7), and operates two joint venture stores in New York City for Washington, D.C.-based concept Captain Cookie. Clearly, he doesn’t shy away from dreaming big and accepting new challenges. Quite the opposite!
It’s all about finding the things you like doing, says Hershman, and then doing the best you can at them. Today his focus is on building a nationwide network that runs successful franchise locations and connects with the communities they serve.
Here’s what Hershman told us about his management style and philosophy:
Business philosophy: I exclusively invest my time and capital into long-term strategies with companies that have great products, active managers, and dedicated customers. I believe you can will your way into business success by being focused, determined, and perseverant.
Management method or style: I lead by example and aim to be the hardest-working person at my companies to show customers and employees what it takes to grow in your career. I give my employees a lot of creative freedom and independence because there may be multiple right solutions to a problem. But I do provide guidance and direction to ensure a cohesive working environment.
Greatest challenge: Finding a balance with middle management between being bureaucratic and having too many small rules and too much paperwork to the point where they aren’t focused on the actual job at hand—but also having systems and processes in place so managers can reference cohesive procedures across multiple locations with hundreds of employees.
How do others describe you? Bold, creative, direct, credible, fast-paced, hard worker.
One thing I’m looking to do better: Find a better system for employee reviews so we can help provide constructive feedback more frequently to our retail-facing staff, who may not receive training on every scenario and could use more on-the-job testing and guidance.
How close are you to operations? Very—especially during busy seasons or management changes. I try to spend a few hours a week in every store, hearing from the employees, managers, and helping to resolve ongoing issues and documenting upgrades for maintenance staff to work on. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to the small chip of paint and such.
What are the two most important things you rely on from your franchisor? A franchisor needs to provide constant LTOs and specials to keep the menu fresh, and a well-stocked inventory of product. Many times, franchisors provide a premium-branded product, and while it can be replaced, customers expect the taste and experience of the premium product, so there is no excuse for any outages with them or their distributor partners. At 16 Handles, we take this pressure and hold ourselves accountable to make sure we are always stocked for our many flavors of frozen yogurt and soft serve, as well as 50+ toppings.
How is social media affecting your business? It’s helpful to stay relevant to my customers and provide them with local-level updates such as specials and promotions. With so many brands competing for customers’ attention online, I think it’s most important to just stay present and subconsciously stay at the front of customers’ minds.
How do you hire and fire? We hire through traditional websites like Indeed and Craigslist, but also through a lot of referrals from existing employees who love their jobs and have friends or former co-workers who could be good fits.
How do you train and retain? All employees are onboarded electronically, which gives them a chance to really read through various policies on their own time so they understand expectations like policies for time, attendance, or uniform. We work through various checklist and training guides over the course of two to five in-person shifts. We usually have employees spend time on their first shift interacting with customers to ensure they are a good fit for the team and can have positive and fun interactions with our happy guests.
How do you deal with problem employees? We like to provide constructive feedback through verbal and written corrective actions and offer retraining or guidance where applicable. We want all of our hires to work out and will always support employees who are willing to learn and progress.
Fastest way into my doghouse: Treating a customer poorly for no reason. We sell dessert. We are in the business of giving away smiles!
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