Chris Graham, 23, is employed as an Executive Assistant at the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a franchisee of The Burger Project and co-owner of the home bakeshop spearheaded by his wife. He also sporadically takes on musical scoring projects when he finds time.
ON THE CLOCK
As an Executive Assistant, Chris’s role is multi-faceted. From sorting meetings and taking over minor accounts, to actually overseeing and supervising when his boss, the Managing Director, has too much on his plate. Chris is also responsible for setting up Educational Concerts for clients. These are mini-concerts priced very low for schools and organizations with the purpose of exposing the Filipino to orchestral music in a fun and interactive show. While it is a 10am-7pm job, events and concerts (which happen more often than not) require him to clock in overtime.
Not to be daunted by his already seemingly long list of things-to-do on his day job, this young urban professional plans to put his finger on as many pies as he can.
EXPLORING AND ENTERPRISING
Chris believes in entrepreneurship as (1) a major help to the nation’s economy and (2) a conduit to gaining financial freedom. In fact, as soon as he graduated, he deliberately set out to find opportunities to set up his own business—from Pharmacy to other food restos—he finally decided on The Burger Project.
While he recognizes the value in being employed—experience, benefits, stability—his main goal is to generate enough income such that the necessity being employed is eliminated. This, in turn, would free up his time to focus on things that really matter to him: family and music.
BAPTISM BY FIRE
Chris and his family ventured out to franchising The Burger Project in Taft in August 2012. Together with his brother and sister, they put up their liquidated insurance plans and a business loan from BPI with their parents’ help to finance this undertaking and get the ball rolling. It was a scary process, especially when faced with the actual figures. Despite the very real possibility of failure, his determination did not falter. The key was taking a step back and viewing it logically. This was good debt and, in the long run, can only add to their assets.
More challenges kept coming up on the onset and lessons were learned the hard way; a “baptism by fire” as it was. Lessons on location, dealing with suppliers, marketing, and customer relations—the list was endless. It even came to appoint where Chris was contemplating on quitting his day job and focusing on the business. Thankfully, things are starting to look up.
Chris and company took major steps into social media marketing, customer loyalty development, keeping an open ear to customer feedback, and maintaining a good relationship with suppliers. All these seem to be paying off.
“It always feels great when happy customers post great reviews on our Facebook page,” says Chris. It reminds him that despite the stress and difficulty and sacrifices, the business is making a good product and people are appreciating it. The students, the main target market, seem to appreciate their quirky and off-the-wall marketing style. People now use it as their hang out place.
Chris adds that it also it feels good to be giving some people a source of income (the employees). Not one to deny an opportunity to perform acts of kindness, Chris and his family do their best to be kind to the people who work for them. Deeds, both good and bad, don’t go by unrecognized or without being dealt with.
“They’re such a big part of the success of the restaurant. I do plan to bring them with me and my family as we grow our investments.”
A FULL PLATE—AND STILL HUNGRY
With a demanding full-time job, a family and two start-up businesses, Chris seems to lead more lives than the average superhero. When asked about his typical daily routine, here’s what Chris had to say:
“I wake up at around 8:00 am, and sometimes I try to get up earlier to get some side-jobs done (music rackets like music beds, sound production and scoring). I then get to work at 10:00 am and finish at 7:00 pm. At work, during breaks and down time, I check on things at the Burger Project, answer business emails, check on orders for Mrs. Graham’s, and whatever it is that has to be done for Mrs. Grahams and Burger Project. I get home at 8:00 pm and—as much as possible—I don’t work at this time till I fall asleep.”
Chris has even bigger plans for his business. The cash flow generated from The Burger Project would not be withdrawn for dividends but instead, will be used as capital for other future ventures. This includes expanding the Mrs. Graham brand to possibly investing in other businesses outside the food industry.
For Chris, the sky is the limit.
HUSBAND AND FATHER – THE OTHER SIDE
Manning the business and holding a full-time job does take its toll at times. The key is proper delegation and knowing how to let go of things that you can’t change and focusing on things you can fix. At the end of the day, there’s nothing Chris loves more than to spend moments with his wife and daughter. Those are “sacred” hours that have to be given to his family no matter what. He still even has the time to take his wife out on “date nights” however exhausted he may be.
HOW TO SUCCEED
Chris doesn’t consider himself a “successful businessman”; not yet. But he has been in the business long enough to narrow down what he recognizes are the skills you need to get into the game:
- Drive. The willingness to do what has to be done despite the sacrifice it eventually entails.
- Inquisitiveness. The humility and courage to ask even the “stupid” questions.
- Imagination. Ability to visualize an idea down to the nitty-gritty details; the whole experience of finding, purchasing and holding the product as if in your customer’s shoes.
“I really don’t [have a formula to success]. I believe it’s a matter of knowing what you want, recognizing what you don’t know (so you can find out about it), and then (this is the hardest part) putting it all to action. The Entrepreneur, I believe, is really just the Dreamer who decided to act.”