Mario Valencia is a multi-store Robeks franchisee and seasoned entrepreneur who has leveraged over two decades of food industry experience into a transformative business venture that mirrors his profound personal health journey. As an Air Force veteran who has battled to overcome PTSD, anxiety, and obesity, Mario’s commitment extends beyond business success to the well-being of his community, championing the symbiosis between prosperous businesses and a flourishing society. His advocacy for local organic farms and the environment reflects his belief in businesses as community cornerstones, aiming to create a positive ripple effect from local to global scales. Living with intention and purpose, Mario, a father of twins, embodies a philosophy where service and gratitude go hand-in-hand with entrepreneurial success and community engagement.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Mario Valencia details the journey that led him to open two Robeks locations in Phoenix
- What has made franchising a particularly good opportunity for Mario?
- The previous restaurant experiences that helped prepare Mario for ownership
- The typical day of a father and business owner
- How Mario approaches hiring and team development
- The value of community engagement and the steps Mario takes to ensure it
- Why a perspective of daily gratitude is so important
In this episode…
Many small business owners in the restaurant industry have to contend with the challenges of staff retention and motivation. What can one do to overcome this obstacle while living within the constraints of the marketplace?
As a multi-store Robeks franchisee, Mario Valencia’s approach to staff retention reflects a combination of investment in his employees and a commitment to fostering their personal and professional growth. Despite not being able to offer traditional benefits due to the nature of his small business, Mario takes a proactive approach. Instead of succumbing to stereotypes about the younger generation’s work ethic, he actively engages with his employees, inviting them to learn all aspects of the small store. He goes the extra mile by writing resumes and reference letters for his staff, encouraging them to seek continuous improvement. This approach simultaneously contributes to the success of Mario’s business and the satisfaction of his employees, evident in the long-term retention of staff in an industry notorious for high turnover rates.
On this episode of the Top Business Leaders Show, Rise25’s Bela Musits chats with Mario Valencia, a multi-store Robeks franchisee, about the challenges associated with running a small restaurant business. Mario shares what led him to invest in the brand and its significance within his life journey. He discusses his approach to work-life balance, leadership, working with a younger generation of employees, and how he decided upon the location of his stores.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Bela Musits 0:20
Hello, listeners, Bela Musits here. I’m the host for this SpotOn podcast episode, where we feature top restaurateurs, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn is the best in class payment platform for retail. And they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combine marketing, software and payments all into one. They have served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway, to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot on.com This episode is also brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses get clients referrals and strategic partnerships through custom done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build a great relationship with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at support at Rise25.com. Today’s guest is Mario Valencia. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in the food industry. In 2022, Mario ventured into the world of franchising as a multi store franchisee he successfully launched to Robeks locations in Arizona. His decision to join Robeks was not only driven by its strong business potential, but also by Mario’s personal journey of losing 60 pounds and experiencing the transformative health benefits of its products, making it a meaningful and fulfilling choice for him. Welcome to the podcast. Mario.
Mario Valencia 2:09
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
Bela Musits 2:12
Sure. Our pleasure. So tell us a little bit about the journey. Yeah,
Mario Valencia 2:17
so at that time, I was pushing the to 60 to 70 and started really gaining a lot of weight. It was right after 2020, where things were very turbulent at that time. And, you know, I wasn’t at my healthiest. And what I decided to do was to make one small change in my normal routine. And that was go to robux juice, which was on the way to school and work. So just by me making that change, I have, I had the chance of having something that not only tastes good, but was good for me and then kept me full and content for the day. And I was able to get ice bubbles, avocado toast, you know, fresh squeezed juice, smoothies with, you know, turmeric, and ginger and beets and all the goodies that I really needed to get through the day, and to just feel good. And I just became a customer and a regular. And as I did, it helped to propel me into this thing just started continuing to add on. Well, if I can do that, why don’t I just make this change? And if I can do that, why don’t I just make that change and allowed it to kind of flow? And things went really well. So I bought a couple.
Bela Musits 3:52
Yeah. So were they existing locations that you purchased? Or were they brand new ones? No,
Mario Valencia 3:57
They were brand new ones. So yes, we opened up two of them about nine miles apart on the same street where there’s not a lot of competition. Yeah. Yeah.
Bela Musits 4:12
So for those of our listeners who kind of think about franchising, right, it’s something that’s pretty popular. Can you talk a little bit about that, how that experience was for you and sort of what you learned from going down that path and becoming a franchisee?
Mario Valencia 4:28
Yep. Well, here’s the thing. Here’s what I highly. Well, at least for me, I can only speak for me is that in 2020, I was about to open up my restaurant. And that didn’t go through. The landlord was not going to build the building in the middle of that. So what I’m glad it did not occur because I see I would have saved a lot of money of course, but what it did is it allowed that would have been my first restaurant and there was a lot of money invested in that. And I’m glad I did not do it. I’m glad that I went into franchising because I have a team of people that are there to answer questions I need on all the different pillars that are required in order to run the business. So this, I call where I’m at now is not the top of where I’m at. This is my education, as I call it. This is where I’m learning. And I’m getting all the goodies from everybody. And I’m saying thank you for all this information, and then I’m going to continue to move on. So yeah, for me, it’s useful.
Bela Musits 5:32
Well, franchising sounds like a great way as you put it to learn. Yeah, and to learn within a structure for sure that you can gain experience, right? Because when you when you Blaze out on your own, right, you’re, you’re on your own, you are on your own.
Mario Valencia 5:48
Yes. And I’m glad I did it. Because of all we all know, especially if you own a business of all the different aspects that are involved in trying to balance that out all at the same time. And especially if you’re doing it primarily on your own. Yeah, challenging to schedule that. It’s very challenging. So it’s good to have for me, robux has been amazing for me. They’ve been very supportive. I love their product. I love the staff, and I have no complaints. Excellent.
Bela Musits 6:21
Excellent. Now before you open the Robeks did you have experience in the restaurant industry?
Mario Valencia 6:27
I did. So I worked in the restaurant industry for about 20 years, I worked in the busy places off of Sunset Boulevard, some places off the Santa Monica and West Hollywood, LA area. But then I came to Arizona and I decided to settle down and get into, you know, other food industries. But I always knew this is where I wanted to be. But this is just the start for me.
Bela Musits 6:54
Yeah. So when you were working in the restaurant industry, were you in the front of the house or the back?
Mario Valencia 7:01
I was front of the house. Yes. So that’s why I say for me, I wasn’t exposed to that much of the back of the house part. So for me, that’s why franchising for me is makes it easier for me to learn what I need to know. So I can continue to move on. And I enjoy it very much. Excellent to have that team. Yeah,
Bela Musits 7:22
yeah. So as you were, did you look at other franchises to find out or was it? Did you just fall in love with Robeks? And that’s what I’m doing?
Mario Valencia 7:32
You know, I went against the current. To be 100% honest, I didn’t go with my gut. And for some reason, I was looking at their competition. Instead, as I’m going to Robeks on a regular I was looking at the competition. Don’t ask me why. And I tried, but it didn’t work for me. And then when I looked into Robeks, it went very smooth and happened very fast. Happened to how it should. The team was like, here’s the things you need. And we’re here to guide you and great. And I was like, perfect. Yeah, yeah.
Bela Musits 8:11
So if I’m, if I’m listening to this, and I’m thinking about okay, I’d like to check out some some franchises to own and buy, right, yeah, because I can I can be an owner, but at the same time, I’m still an owner within a structure that’s going to help me and guide me. Yeah, what things should I be looking for? When I’m having conversations with franchise companies?
Mario Valencia 8:35
Um, while the for me, it’s, um, what kind of support do I get? Also, if I’m struggling, and I’m having a hard time, because everyone has their own weak spots? Sure. Everyone has their own. So if you know what your weak spot is, ask them if they can help you with that. So that was something that’s something that I know I have helped in marketing, I have help in all the different pillars, I could reach out to somebody. But I think the most important thing when it comes to purchasing any business or any franchise is not to rely on the brand itself. At least that’s not what I’m doing. I’m relying on myself to get my business where it’s supposed to be. Right. Here’s the business. Here’s the structure that works. It’s doing great. And it’s a great brand. It’s a great product. But at the end of the day, you can’t just write a check and say, Here you go, now run. Like you have to show up. Yeah. Yeah. So you’re gonna have to show up.
Bela Musits 9:33
That’s right. So take me through sort of a typical day in the life of a franchisee.
Mario Valencia 9:41
Oh, boy, well, I’m also a parent of five-year-old twins. So yeah, my life is wild. For me. I wake up at four o’clock in the morning, and I meditate for a full hour. I’m in complete silence and darkness and I’m completely disconnected. Because that’s what helped me organize and structure my life because I could listen to myself thing. And then I can answer questions that I need and solve problems that I have, because there’s no distraction. And then by the time I do that, I do some physical activity. Family Time is all always the most important to me, I’m not going to look back and regret this process period. Yeah, I’m gonna spend time with my kids, I’m gonna be there. This is my time. And then once I’m done spending time with them, then I get to work. I go hit both of my businesses, I checked both of them out on as much as I can every day. But I also spend about three, four days a week, at home sometimes because I need to work on the back of the house, not only back to the house for the business, but back to house personal. Because that’s also a balance, because I noticed when I first bought these two franchises, that all my attention was just on the business, and I was missing something at home. So now I’m like, wait a minute, I could balance this stuff out. If I just ease up a little bit and get I’m a lot more effective this way. Yeah. Yeah, a lot more than that work. Life balance, really is key. And when you own a business, I think it’s even more challenging. Because you’re, for many folks, you’re much more emotionally engaged and involved with the business. Yeah. So striking that balance, I think, for a lot of people is a real challenge.
Bela Musits 11:27
Yes. Do you do you have any, you said, you get up you meditate that, you know, that’s sort of what works well, for you? Do you have any other thoughts or words of advice for people who are trying to figure out that work life balance?
Mario Valencia 11:37
Um, you know, you don’t hear meditate when you talk when you have conversations like this, especially when it comes to business or even family life. But the way I see it is that I’m not going to look back on this and have a regret. That’s what I’m saying. Like, I want to spend time with my family, Mike, I can do all of it. The only person who says I can’t do all of it is me. And I don’t run like that anymore. I ran like that about five years ago, and I took that person out. So the thing is, is I want to be happy on my journey, as I’m learning as I’m growing as I’m experiencing stuff, right? It’s not just about the business. I want to walk in business. Like that was fun with my kids today. What a great day. You know, I don’t want to be tired. I don’t want to be stressed out. I can balance it
Bela Musits 12:23
all. Excellent. That’s excellent. So you’ve, you’ve owned the franchises now for a couple of years. Yeah. What have sort of once you decided to go with Robeks and open them? What have been some of the big challenges for you?
Mario Valencia 12:42
Staff? Well, right now we hear a lot about it is the staff retention? Yeah, I’m going to take a step. But one of the ways I have found that works for me and for my stores, and it’s in its infancy, but it’s working very well is that I advertise them promote that. Because I’m a veteran, I call it operation lift off and Air Force. And how to throw that in there. Sorry, that if, if I can, because I’m a small business and I can’t afford benefits, What can I offer them? That would make them want to stay there? So what I do is I ask them if they are interested in learning all aspects of that small store. And there’s a lot of young people that are like, yeah, sure, because I have faith in every single one of them. I’m not going to be that generation that goes, oh, you know, that younger generation? They’re, they’re such horrible workers. What if they’re horrible workers, then where are you at as a boss? Where are you at as a boss? Right? And you raise them? That’s right, where are you at?
Mario Valencia 13:40
So I have to show up. So if I’m going to do it I’m going to show up this way is I write resumés and I write reference letters for my staff. And I try to do everything I can to build them up to teach them that they need to become valuable, they need to become worth something. Because if they bounce from job to job, they’re not being valuable, and they’re always going to have the same result. So if I can make them valuable, I’m not only giving back to me, but I’m giving back to them. So I expose them to things like that, and I help them out and some tickets, some don’t. And that’s okay. But I have a lot of staff that stay there that have been there for the full year. You know, and for a place like this. Yeah, it’s pretty tough sometimes, you know, two, three months, a couple of weeks in the beginning. Now I have, you know, six months, a year, year and a half, so it’s getting there. Yeah,
Bela Musits 14:47
very nice. Very nice. So one of the things you always hear about retail, and abroad sense restaurants, retail, you’re selling to the consumer. Yep. Location is really, really important. How did you think about where you were going to locate these two stores?
Mario Valencia 15:04
Well, I’m one of them. The vino was easy because it was right next to a freeway and it was on the corner and there was a high school directly behind Did and there’s a building is going everywhere. It’s brand new. They’re putting a hospital across the street. There’s the college. Yeah, there’s a college the numbers are, are doing great. But you can have the best location in the world. But if you’re not there managing your store and making sure that it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing the nuts on the on.com, the owner, right? Yeah. So my other store is not that lucky. And that’s my first store. But in order to battle that, what I’ve decided to do is and it’s working very well as I plan on planning healthy events, or runs five K’s walks hikes I’m getting with all the groups, because they want to come to my store. They want to be there. So now, because in in Arizona, there’s a slump in numbers because of the heat. It’s not very nice out here. And the snowbirds aren’t here, right? And people want to stay inside. So for me, it’s kind of like a breathing space where I can say, okay, nothing’s going on. I can regroup, organized, and now I’m working on I have things going on at both locations, every month, for every week, throughout next year through March. Yeah. Yeah. So you’ll see what I mean. So I’m not looking at the excuse, because if I’m gonna go to the destination, I’m planning on excuses don’t work for me. There’s always a solution. So I’m just gonna bring what I need to do to me.
Bela Musits 16:40
Well, that’s what you’re talking about is engaging with the community?
Mario Valencia 16:44
Oh, for sure. Well, yes. Yes. Well, I mean, both of my stores, were online to my nonprofit called Unity and Bridges, both stores are going to be donating to, to this where it will, it’s going to give back to the community, sure, local community where my stores are at our art, art nonprofit, when both stores will funnel into those nonprofits, because that will make my company and my business is valuable if I’m giving back to the community.
Bela Musits 17:13
Sure. I think a lot of people miss that. Right?
Mario Valencia 17:17
They don’t realize that I don’t see anybody doing it to be honest. Yeah.
Bela Musits 17:25
All around, whatever, wherever you are, whether you’re an individual, or whether you’re a business or a restaurant, or retail, you’re part of that community, and engaging with that community, and by now, and helping that community grow is really, really important.
Mario Valencia 17:35
I mean, I don’t know, that’s what sounds like a good idea to me. You know what I mean? I mean, I’m in, I’m trying to get involved in all the local community gardens to teach people about healthy eating. That’s why I’m bringing healthy events to the area I’m getting with community leaders. Because I’m not to be honest, I’m not in here for the money. It’s about the platform to try to leave a good legacy and something positive behind. I want to show my kids that this is what it looks like. And struggle through it.
Bela Musits 18:04
Yeah. And you know, what happens is when you do that outreach, and you do that engagement, at least for me, it always leads to something new and great in the future. And
Mario Valencia 18:14
then it makes you feel good. Yeah. Hey, listen, I’m gonna do anything I can, as I’m going through this process to do things as I’m working. That makes me feel good. And this is one of them. Yeah, this is one of them. You know, why would I not if I have a business in that community, not invest in the community? I mean, I don’t know no brainer if you ask me. But some people are in it for the money. And you know what, you can have all the money in the world. But if you’re ungrateful for what you already have, right now, you’re gonna be ungrateful for when you have 50 million $100 million, you’ll still be ungrateful will be one of those miserable, unhappy, wealthy people not doing anything in your life period. Yeah. Yeah.
Bela Musits 18:57
Mario, this is great. This is fabulous. So you can so what’s what, when you what has been a more of a challenge in opening these two locations that you thought it would be? In other words, what was more difficult than you thought?
Mario Valencia 19:15
Me. I’m not doing I will look in, I only look in I don’t use the I don’t, I’m unhappy because of that, or all these things are going wrong. Because that I don’t do that. That’s a waste of my time. I look in. So what I found is that I’m not organized, I found that I could use a lot more help with that. I could, I could use a lot more education with accounting, you know, and understanding how that works. I could use a lot of education. So I’m out there. I’m registering at ASU. From going I have mentors now. And I’m putting everything I can with that balance. Because I’m also disabled that so I have to balance my mental health, my spiritual health, everything on top of family life and business. That’s why I say that meditation in that silence. People don’t know how to disconnect you think that all that hustle and bustle is getting things that slow down, you’ll get a lot more done when you quiet your mind. Yeah, yeah.
Bela Musits 20:23
And you mentioned mentors. Do you have? Do you have sort of like a board of directors or a board of advisors for your not for profit your business entity?
Mario Valencia 20:32
I do. So what I decided to do is my niece, I brought her on because she runs nonprofits. So I was like, Can you please help in case this thing does get crazy, because I have a feeling it will. Because I’m doing a massive, massive 5k run between the two stores on the theme Main Street on Veterans Day, and all proceeds will be transparent and posted will go to veterans service. And both South Mountain and Levine every single penny. Perfect.
Bela Musits 21:04
So yes, sorry. No, this is good. So I want to start wrapping this up. So where can listeners go to maybe contact you or learn more about your stores and Robeks?
Mario Valencia 21:23
Yeah, well, and I want to make something really clear is that when I speak I’m not speaking for Robeks. Because I speak for myself, Robeks. I own, but I am my own person, period. And so there’s a big separation. So how I speak is me, not them, right, but Robeks I love them, and I would go to www.robeks.com. And you can reach out to me at email@example.com.
Bela Musits 21:42
Excellent, we will make sure all that information is in the show notes. Hey, is there anything that I haven’t asked you, or something else that you’d like to share with our listeners.
Mario Valencia 21:55
Um, if you’re in a position of business, I hope you’re at least in a position of gratitude. If you’re not hungry, just be excited to just start that in your day. Wake up and just say I’m grateful I’m in this position first. But I can do these things first. Because a lot of people would die to be in your shoes. Live like that. Give a little, give a little, you know what I mean? And I’ll make you happier. But silence your mind and allow yourself to enjoy the life that you have. Because a lot of people have a beautiful life from the outside. But then you look inside and you’re like out. No thanks.
Bela Musits 22:49
That’s right. That’s right. Hey, Mario. Oh, this has been really great. I really enjoyed our conversation was a real thrill to get to know you a little bit.
Mario Valencia 22:58
I appreciate it.
Bela Musits 23:00
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