By: Wan Kim, Smoothie King CEO
In moments of high stress or anxiety about their respective companies, industry peers often ask me, “Wan, why do you always seem so happy? What’s your secret?” While I don’t think I’m the keeper of the key to human happiness, I can share what I believe to be one factor that contributes to my own sense of inner peace.
On the business level, what keeps me resilient and overall happy is quite simple: I have pride in my product and in my company. I believe from my heart that the Smoothie King mission of inspiring people to live a healthy and active lifestyle is an honorable one, and that the smoothies we sell can be nutritious, better-for-you alternatives or meal replacements that help people achieve their goals. When things don’t go perfect in a day or a week or even a month, which often happens in business, I know I can always go back to the comfort of pride in our products and knowing that I would serve them to my own family.
Product pride was a critical factor for me back when I was scouting business investments. Fast food franchises were thriving in my native Korea. The opportunity to own multiple units of quick-service taco or burger concepts at a substantial profit was right in front of me. But at the end of the day, I would not want my children eating my product. So I looked elsewhere until I found a brand and a product that I would not feel ashamed to be associated with. Smoothie King was my answer.
Would You Serve Your Product to Your Family?
Before investing in a business, entrepreneurs ask a lot of questions. They traditionally inquire about things like overhead, potential profit margin and lifestyle.
But I believe one question – one that is often missed – is most important: “Would I sell these products to my own family?” Owning a business is a long-term commitment. Despite the potential for lucrative profit margins, which can fluctuate based on market conditions, an entrepreneur should deeply consider pride in their product. When it comes to feeling good about what product or service you are putting out there to customers, there shouldn’t be a shred of doubt.
One of my most influential mentors was an uncle who fully enjoyed his business and his life. Before he passed away, the last thing he told me was that he expected me to follow in our family’s footsteps and become a business owner. He gave me three key pieces of advice that I never forgot:
- Always be genuine
- Don’t do anything shameful… because you will regret it
- Always have integrity
Pride and Profits
Pride in your product is not just about feeling good; not being proud of your products poses a real financial risk. The reality is that business is not always going to be great. Things we can’t always control will impact the performance of our businesses. If you don’t actually believe in what you’re doing, it’s harder for you to overcome those challenges. But if you truly believe in what you’re doing and in your business concept, it’s easier to gather the strength to handle whatever comes your way.
When I first bought a Smoothie King franchise, I was a big fan of the product. I drank the smoothies myself and knew I would be proud of what I was going to do. From my experience, the more you’re engaged, the better the outcome.
When I opened my first store in 2003, my passion transferred not only to my team, but also to my customers. I was so completely passionate and engaged that my guests could see and feel it when they came into the store. They saw the enthusiasm and responded to it.
Many people in the market had no idea what a smoothie even was, but I was so passionate and so happy to introduce my product to the area that I would talk to everyone who came into my store. I would tell them about the smoothies and how nutritious they are. I would talk to someone for five minutes at a time because I was so proud of my product.
On weekends, we would be extremely busy with 20-30 people out the door. I would always tell my employees that even if we were busy, we should continue to sample. Why? Because no matter how busy we are, there are still people out there that haven’t actually tried our product. The employees were so proud of what they were doing that it was just an amazing experience for everyone.
One of the things I feel most proud about Smoothie King is that our brand is genuine. We have integrity in our products, which means we never try to be or claim to be something we aren’t. For example, while organic products are clearly in high demand by today’s consumer, we don’t offer organic products and don’t claim to. What we do offer are high-quality products that are nutritious. We are addressing other purposes that people can genuinely benefit from.
We’re continually improving our products to meet nutritional standards and always coming out with new products to serve our guests’ purposes. For example, our Slim-N-Trim smoothies have been on our menu for over 20 years, but we are rolling out new and improved versions in the next few months. We enhanced the recipe, upped the nutritional value, lowered the calories and added more protein. We also reduced the amount of sugar and replaced it with a sugar alternative.
We strive to be genuine with integrity at the core of everything we do.
Life Changing Stories
Throughout our franchise system, we are constantly hearing of touching stories about how Smoothie King is impacting lives. Recently there was a story about a police officer who was shot in his mouth. While in the hospital for 30 days, he couldn’t eat anything except smoothies. He wrote us a beautiful letter thanking us, saying that because of Smoothie King, he was able to overcome the challenging experience.
One of our real estate brokers shared that his wife went through chemotherapy. For 90 days, she was losing weight, but she was able to drink Smoothie King smoothies to help supplement her nutritional intake. Again, we received a heartfelt thank-you letter.
A month ago, a woman emailed us telling us her husband was dying from an incurable disease. Before becoming ill, she said, he loved Smoothie King, so she started bringing him smoothies every day and finally she could see him smiling whenever he was having a smoothie. She brought him a smoothie every day until he died.
Whenever we hear those stories, it makes us so proud. At the end of the day, this is why we do our business. It’s all purpose driven.
The Big Question
Can you be successful without being proud of your product and business? I suppose; but the way I look at it, isn’t it better to be successful and also proud of the work you do? If you have the opportunity to choose both, why would you only choose success and not pride at the same time?
So, yes, I absolutely would and do serve Smoothie King to my own family. My wife and my three kids all regularly consume our smoothies, as do I.