I had just opened my third Subway store and was scouting out a new location. In my comings and goings as a Delta pilot, I believed that Logan Airport in Boston would be a great location. I made an appointment with the airport officials to discuss the process of leasing commercial space for my Subway venture. I discovered that Host Marriott (HM) held a long-term lease for food operations, and I would have to deal with them for any Subway discussions. I made the appointment.
Bob, the General Manager for Host, listened politely and told me he wasn’t interested. It turns out that HM had national franchisee agreements for several fast-food lines, and he said if they wanted to have a Subway, they would just become a franchisee. After talking with Subway headquarters, I discovered that no national agreement existed with HM, so I made my second appointment with Bob. I told Bob of my discovery regarding a national agreement and made the pitch that Subway would be the healthy alternative to the burger and pizza locations that HM had at the airport. Bob listened politely and again sent me on my way with a “no.”
Over the next several months, I would periodically stop by Bob’s office and quickly ask, “Are you ready to do that Subway yet?” The answer was always “no,” but it got to be a running joke after a while. One day, after coming in from a Delta trip, I stopped by with the same refrain. He looked up and saw me in my pilot’s uniform and said, “I thought you were a Subway guy?” I said I was but was also a lawyer/businessman and still hoped that he would lease me some space.
Well, Bob’s attitude changed, and we started looking for some space. A couple of potential locations fell through, but after almost two years, I was finally hopeful! And then I got the call from Bob that I thought I was waiting for. Except it wasn’t. Bob called to tell me that he was being transferred but would introduce me to the woman who was his replacement and tell her what we were trying to do. I was disheartened-having to start from scratch building a new relationship.
Helen was polite, but the chemistry was cool, and my prospects dimmed quite a bit. I called to follow up, but she was still getting her hands around the job, and I got the classic, “Don’t call me. I’ll call you” response. Quite sometime later, I got Helen’s call, but it wasn’t for Subway. It was to discuss acquiring their Dunkin’ Donuts locations, and I was not enthused. I was a Subway guy and didn’t want to go to a new school and learn a new system. Dunkin' Donuts was more expensive and more complicated and didn’t fit my business plan. But I didn’t share my thoughts and agreed to a discussion.
The structured deal was better than I could have ever imagined, and the potential profits far outweighed what my Subway would have done. After almost three years of chasing the Subway location, I had technically failed to achieve my goal. However, by not giving up, I had been rewarded with an even more incredible opportunity that proved to be much more lucrative and significantly expanded my food service business. I had been reminded once again why determination is such a crucial part of a culture of excellence.
"It's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek." - Mario Andretti