Need a good business partner? Zain Attawala and Sagar Panjwani have advice: Don’t just focus on your strengths. Acknowledge your weaknesses, too — and know how your partner balances you out. “That’s where I think the majority of the people fail: They don’t want to accept weakness,” Attawala says. This strategy has proven itself out for Attawala and Panjwani — which is how, at ages 32 and 27, respectively, they’re the owners of 28 thriving My Eyelab locations across Alabama and Georgia.
The pair met each other through their entrepreneurial fathers, and quickly found their rhythm. “Now when anything comes our way, it’s a very unsaid thing of: Who will take over that?” Attawala says. “We divide responsibilities based on our strengths. If it requires analysis and details, it’s Sagar — but if it requires creating a relationship, then it’s probably me.” Here, Attawala shares how they built a multi-unit franchise team by focusing on people first.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in franchising?
When you go into a business, you want to do everything by yourself — maybe because you want to keep the funds so you don’t have to pay salaries, or you just feel like you’re the best person to do something. But we realized that we can’t do everything ourselves. And if it’s not done in time, then there’s no point in doing it in the first place.
Related: 5 Characteristics to Look for in a Business Partner
Was there a moment where you learned this?
At the opening of our third location, we had a realization that even if I allocate myself to one location and Sagar allocates himself to another location, what happens to the third location? What if something goes wrong?
We realized we needed someone who could focus on aspects of our business no matter where we were in the journey — because we were opening locations, constructing locations, finding locations, and at the same time, we had operational locations that were making us revenue. We were like, “Okay, if we’re here, then we’re not somewhere else. Then who’s managing that aspect of the business for us?” You don’t hire everyone in one shot. You just hire as you start realizing what’s missing.
So how do you identify what’s missing?
If something is frequently getting delayed or compromised, or frequently coming to your desk to be done, then go back and try to figure out the best way to solve the situation. That’s how we identify a need.
To find an individual who can do that job, you obviously can use recruiting platforms — but what’s worked for us is our network, our community, and connections. That also answers the question of, “How do you know they will do the job?” Because we know them, or have seen them throughout some years or months. It also makes life easier, because they have seen everything we accomplish and they want to be a part of the journey.
Related: 3 Tips for Creating Powerful Partnerships
What’s your advice for other franchisees looking to hire great people?
The recipe for success is building relationships and not hesitating to talk to somebody. I look at every event as an opportunity to find new individuals who can play a part in our journey — and the journey can be mutually beneficial.
A lot of people don’t do this, because to them it’s either awkward or they see no benefit. But we are constantly in search of good people.
Not everyone works with a business partner. Why do you find it valuable?
Having two minds to review something, to identify an opportunity, to evaluate something, to analyze something — it’s far better than one. And our goals are similar, right? Be successful financially, emotionally, physically, whatever. So if our goals are identical, then I think it’s always better to have somebody to fall back on, because sometimes desperation or aggression or compassion can lead you to decisions that are not viable.
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