Paul and Holly Alfonso are great business partners. They’re also pretty crazy about each other.
“We’re best friends,” Paul said. “It’s easy. We’ve worked together for so long, and we complement each other well. Her personality is strong in certain ways, and mine is strong in other ways.”
Together, the pair has launched eight Smoothie King franchises in the Houston metropolitan area and on the Texas A&M campus. In almost twenty years of partnership, Paul and Holly have learned how to capitalize on their different strengths to meet their business goals – and their life goals, as well.
From Teacher to Business Owner
During college, Paul worked for Smoothie King’s founders, Steve and Cindy Kuhnau, as a manager at their store Town & Country Health Foods. The Kuhnaus opened the first Smoothie King within that store, and when Paul heard they were franchising the concept, he asked to get on board.
He opened a Smoothie King in Houston in 1993, and he was working as its owner-operator when he met Holly through a mutual friend in 1999.
A high school geometry teacher, Holly had no business background. She did, however, have experience managing and mentoring people. That’s why when Paul decided to pursue a real estate venture, Holly stepped up to run the Smoothie King locations.
Saying that she succeeded would be an understatement. Under her leadership, their network grew from two locations to eight locations. She created a system for scheduling (not an easy task when many of your team members are busy college students) and helped promising team members progress in the company. Paulhandles operational troubleshooting.
“She is the force behind our growth,” he said. “It’s thanks to her that our company Alfonso Enterprises, L.C. became what it is today.”
Fostering Effective Teams
The couple’s ability to delegate based on each of their strengths is their secret to success, according to Paul. Holly’s organizational and people skills help build a cache of engaged team members, while Paul’s quick thinking keeps operations running smoothly.
Holly’s ease with team members is especially advantageous when working with young team members, Paul said. She’s great at figuring out how her team members communicate and meeting them at their level. She also went the extra mile to create very flexible scheduling, which drastically decreased their turnover rate. One of their general managers has been with them for more than 20 years.
“One of the biggest joys we have is when one of our team members makes shift leader and then goes on to have a leadership role,” Paul said. “
At work, Paul and Holly are careful not to step on each other’s toes or make decisions that are better left to the other person. This keeps them from contradicting each other and helps them accomplish more things faster.
The Travel Bug
Now, Paul and Holly have their sights set on a new goal: travel. Holly “got bit by a travel bug,” as Paul puts it, and she wants to see the world. The two plan on working hard to reach a place where they can entrust day-to-day tasks to competent managers, step away from their eight franchise locations and spend more time having adventures together.
“We want to go everywhere,” Paul said. “If it were up to her, we’d travel for a week every quarter. So that’d be a really fun thing, when we can buy back some of our time.”