Work diligently to be productive, but recognize that any problem can be solved over time.
Philip Sobeck was born into a legacy, as the grandson of the founder of Chicken Shack, an American restaurant chain that boasts that it serves “Michigan’s best chicken and ribs”. Although Mr. Sobeck was born into the family business, he did not know for sure that he would end up working for the family until he was finished with college.
Mr. Sobeck graduated from Kalamazoo College with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. After looking at alternative careers in the computer science field and the pay offered, Chicken Shack seemed to offer the greatest opportunity for future advancement.
Philip Sobeck started out working at Chicken Shack as a store manager. After maintaining that position for two years, Mr. Sobeck decided that he wanted to become an owner of the business. He purchased a portion of the location where he worked. He then built or purchased other Chicken Shack locations when they became available.
Philip Sobeck is now the owner with the largest number of Chicken Shack locations in the chain. He is currently the direct owner of seven Chicken Shack locations and also has a seat on the board of directors of Sobeck Enterprises (the franchisor of the Chicken Shack chain) as the vice president.
In addition to his franchises, Philip Sobeck has also dabbled with the real estate industry as a landlord and a house flipper. While he was in college and for a few years afterwards, Mr. Sobeck purchased a house. He rented out rooms to tenants. Over his real estate career, Philip owned a total of 26 houses in the Detroit suburbs during the U.S. recession, which began in 2008. When the housing markets stabilized, he sold the properties at a profit, which helped him buy into the family legacy.
Philip Sobeck married his high school sweetheart in 1998. The couple had seven children together. Being part of a large family gives Philip a great sense of pride that he is able to provide for them and enjoys all the regular family life activities that children bring to life. He is active in enrolling all the children in many different sports including soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, and swimming. Although scheduling at times is a bit difficult, Philip enjoys seeing his children grow and develop in their activities.
When time permits, Philip Sobeck enjoys his own set of hobbies, including golfing, scuba diving, and cycling. He has been involved in the Make A Wish Foundation 300-mile bike ride on three separate occasions. He is happy to help the Make A Wish Foundation, as the organization helped his daughter, Emily, when she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Emily is now in remission, but Philip continues to stay involved with Make A Wish as he is able in order to help other children in similar circumstances.
In the future, Philip Sobeck plans to continue to open new Chicken Shack locations and to explore additional real estate opportunities. He would also like to someday obtain his pilot’s license.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My grandfather started the Chicken Shack company in 1956 and it has been run and owned by my family the entire time. As the third generation of Sobeck family members, I was happy to be a part of growing the company and ensuring that it is as profitable as possible.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts at my office in Troy when I check and return my emails and run reports on how each location is doing to hit the correct percentages of food and labor and also examine invoices from vendors to ensure that we are being charged correctly for the items that we purchase. After that I will typically go to one of my locations to examine how the employees are doing to ensure that they are following the correct procedures and to make repairs or hire contractors to make any repairs that are necessary in that location. I am pretty good at being productive because I know that if I am not my to do list will get very long and also the profitability of the stores will suffer.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am constantly reading articles online about things that other restaurant chains are doing and evaluating if they are ideas that I would like to implement into our chain. I also am always thinking about different ways that I can make the process more efficient so that our employees will be able to get more done in the same amount of time.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The recent trend that excites me is the way that restaurants have started to get more and more into online and app ordering. I have also started implementing this trend into our restaurants so that customers have the easiest time possible placing an order. If enough customers utilize the online ordering component, it makes it easier on the employees in the store because they just need to prepare the food and don’t need to spend time taking the orders.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit of mine that makes me more productive as an entrepreneur is that I am always available online to handle any problems that come up as well as having the ability to run reports and make sure that each store is hitting their sales and labor goals.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to make time to enjoy life a little more and not to always make everything about work. In my younger years, I spent all of my time working and didn’t take the time to pursue any hobbies or fun things in my personal life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
One thing that I know to be true that almost no one agrees with me on is that everything will always work out. Frequently I run into problems that coworkers or employees think is this huge problem and I tell them not to worry so much because it will work out. It doesn’t always happen quickly, but problems can be solved and we can move on to other things.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, I am always double checking that my employees are following the procedures that I setup. I would recommend that everyone else who is in a position like mine do the same. If I don’t double check what employees are doing, over time it just gets worse and worse but since I’m always watching for issues they typically can be resolved quickly and easily.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has help me grow my business is to always be on the lookout for future opportunities and to be patient until that happens. For instance, I’m always looking at the real estate listings to see if there is a possible future store that is being sold at a price that is below market value. I have been fortunate to find a lot of opportunities to purchase real estate cheaply, giving me enough money to expand. If I just took the first location that I came across I would probably have overpaid and it would have cost a lot more to expand.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had as an entrepreneur was to try and expand too quickly before I had the number of employees available to handle that expansion. I overcame it by hiring people as quickly as possible, but it took a lot of time and aggravation before things got better
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I always thought that someone would make a lot of money if they were able to somehow simplify the labor market so that I can find employees easier. I have tried some talent agencies, but it doesn’t seem to be that they can find me the right people at the right prices. If there was a place I could go and put up my job request and have it filled quickly, it would make my work life a lot easier.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent recently was on a Chromebook. I discovered that they are incredibly useful items and the fact that it was around $100 is amazing so I can afford to have a few around for whenever I need access to a computer.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
One web service that our company has found to be incredibly useful is the ADP workforce new payroll service. It used to take me a ton of time to run payroll and now it is as easy as just filling in the number of hours for each employee on a website.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend reading “The Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump because it illustrates how being patient and not jumping into decisions quickly can lead to better outcomes.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whatever you are, be a good one” – Abraham Lincoln
- Always be on the lookout for opportunities.
- Be patient, if a good opportunity isn’t available right now wait until one comes along.
- Work diligently to be productive, but recognize that any problem can be solved over time.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.