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Episode 15: Evan Franca Interview on Creating a Likable Work Environment

By Arel Moodie

Dad said no to movie money.  And that was the start of Evan Franca finding out that he’d rather work for himself rather than for someone else.  First things first though; finding the money for the movies meant a snow shoveling gig.  As he grew up, Evan continued to employ himself, working in a restaurant (and even selling cars!). 

            Turns out that particular experience working in the restaurant was more thorns than roses; it was then Evan knew that he’d prefer to work for himself rather than working under someone else-from running his own hot dog stand at his university, opening up upstate New York’s first brick-and-mortar hookah bar, to his current position managing the Brooklyn Crepe & Juice restaurant.   

Quick Rundown:
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Show Notes:

Though Evan knew he didn’t want to work for someone else, he still found it incredibly important to work with other people.  When it comes to interviewing applicants for his team, Evan screens for skill first; you have to be able to make the varsity team to make it with him.  But after the applicant proves his skill, Evan evaluates him on his vibe—he wants to like the person he works with.  “Describe a memorable meal you have prepared,” he’ll ask, and then listen to the applicant’s response.  How about how the applicant handles adversity? 

Once a part of the team, the applicant doesn’t just sit down and do work; they contribute to team management.  Evan’s managerial style involves his team’s observations and opinions; staff gets a say in the work if a particular employee can’t get along with the rest of the team.  What staff like and what staff don’t like also matter to Evan.  Drawing from his experience working in a restaurant before, he’s always looking to improve the work environment for his staff.

Sometimes Evan’s looking for improvement from his own staff.  You know the guy who does just enough to not get fired, but doesn’t contribute much otherwise?  Evan wanted to know how he can motivate these guys to do more for the team, and to accomplish this he goes out of his way to key into each particular employee’s motivations. 

“Little hinges swing big doors.”

Perhaps one person would work harder for more monetary compensation, while another wanted more recognition and appreciation for her work.  When you understand a person’s particular motivations, you can properly incentivize them to step up their game. 

When “No” doesn’t mean No...

Back at home, there were always hot dog stands and available food around the street corner.  At college, there was no such thing, and Evan saw an opportunity to start a small business along with his college career.  When Evan opened up his own stand, he looked for an area to run the stand.  He was immediately met with resistance; a local hotel wouldn’t let him run the stand nearby and gave him a flat “No.”

To get such a flat and immediate rejection is like a punch to the face.  Instead of giving up then and there, Evan asked what about running a hot dog stand concerned the hotel manager the most.  Turns out that it wasn’t the hot dog stand that concerned the manager, but all the residual trash that would be left around in the area.  Aha.  That’s when the tempo of the game started to shift, when Evan understood the root of the problem: 

So if I were to clean up the area for you guys, including trash that isn’t mine, could I run my hot dog stand here?

The hotel manager couldn’t say no to the free cleaning service, and Evan ran a successful hot dog stand along with his college career.

To think that this didn’t have to happen, if Evan backed down from the initial “No.”  Some may say that pushing ahead beyond the “no” is pestering and annoying.  Make sure you understand the other party’s position first before you assume you’re annoying them.  “No” doesn’t have to be a conclusion—Evan used it to start a negotiation, a conversation between him and the hotel manager. 

The next time you ask for something and you get a “no,” that’s not necessarily a final answer (And if you get a yes—then awesome!).  That’s the start of a conversation, a process for you to understand your partner and for him to understand you to work out a mutually beneficial agreement.  So “No” doesn’t have to mean No.

Thanks Evan Franca for coming onto the show!  Likability Fam, the next time you’re in Brooklyn, take a stop by Brooklyn Crepe & Juice and say hi to Evan for us!

Stay tuned and stay awesome!

Questions and comments can be directed via email to [email protected]
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