Obby Khan (Shawarma Khan, Green Carrot Juice Company)

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David Noël: Welcome to the Manitoba Business Podcast, featuring interviews with business leaders and entrepreneurs based right here in Manitoba. I’m David Noël.

Today’s guest used to be a pro athlete. Now he runs two separate restaurant chains, with over 60 employees, and still growing steadily. In our conversation, we talk about why he got into that business in the first place, and all the challenges facing the food services industry.

Now, normally at this point I insert a little reminder to tell your friends about the show–and you should! The website is www.manitobabusinesspodcast.com. But for the next several episodes, I want to try something different. If you enjoy the show, and also if you don’t, send me a text message! My phone number is 204 400 4255. I want to know what you think of the show, and how I could make it better. Once again, the phone number is 204 400 4255.

Alright, now let’s get started. Here is Obby Khan:

[to Obby] So yeah, Obby, thanks a lot for taking the time.

Obby: You’re welcome. My pleasure.

David: How about we start by having you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Obby: Okay. Name is Obby Khan, real name is Ibrahim, but Obby is a lot easier for people to say. I played pro football for ten years with the Ottawa Renegades, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders. Now, I am a retiree from CFL, and I own Shawarma Khan which is a Middle Eastern Restaurant with two locations in downtown exchange, Pembina South and we have four locations at the football stadium, and I also own Green Carrot Juice Company in Osborne village, the airports. And we’re looking at opening many more of each soon.

David: So I did a bit of reading before you came. You got a degree for kinesiology at Simon Fraser. So you do your kinesiology thing, you do CFL, you’ree done playing football. Why open a restaurant? What could have possibly possessed you to do that?

Obby: Because I needed a job. CFL does not pay what people think it does.

David: Fair enough.

Obby: You know, way, way, way back when I was in Simon Fraser University, I was doing bachelors of science in kinesio and bio. I was supposed to go to med school. And the great legendary Cal Murphy was with the Indianapolis Colts, and he said to me back when I was getting scouted in NFL and CFL as well, he goes, “Obby.” He goes “You can become a doctor, and that’s great. But you’ll never play football again, or you can play football for a couple years. You try it. If you’re good at it, you have a long career, and you have fun. If you’re not good at it, you leave and you go back to med school.” So he said you gotta do one or the other. You can’t do both. So either gotta be med school or football is done or football and then go med school after. Or football, for ten years, it turned out for me.

So I chose football. Ten years later I needed a job. So I said, it’s too late to go to med school I forgot everything. So when I retired from football, it was what do I do? Football is best when you’re playing, but my resume kind of sucks. Ten years of pro football offensive line, you’re not looking at getting a really good job right after that. I had a couple job offers with various companies, mostly sales, investment banking etc. But I wanted something different. And after playing ten years, I built a bit of a name for myself or a brand in Winnipeg. People knew who I was.

David: Totally.

Obby: Six foot four, 300 pound East Indian, Muslim guy walking around the city, you kind of stand out. That’s Obby Khan. Hey, that’s Obby Khan. And I had a great career here with the Bombers. So people really knew who I was. So I said, maybe I can do something with that. And then I got the wheels turning, said what can I do with my popularity, my brand. I do a lot of community work, very visible. I think it’s six out of ten people like me. Those are pretty good stats. I said, let’s open up something.

So I threw a bunch of ideas a clothing store, barber shop and a restaurant. What do I do? Do I buy a franchise? Do I do something where people will come to me for the first time? And if they really like their experience and whatever it is, they’ll come back again and again and again. So I had a whole list of things, ended up coming down to a couple, but the winner was obviously Shawarma Khan. I love shawarma. I think it’s delicious food. I grew up in Ottawa where there’s more shawarma restaurants than there are anything else. We used to travel as a team we’d always look for shawarma shops.

So Winnipeg had a couple of really good ones, but not the way I wanted them. I thought I could make a little bit of tweak on it. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, but I took a shawarma shop and made it a little more North American, a little more modern, a little more menus, more North American style.

And I was tired of also paying ten bucks when going to Subway and going to McDonald’s or just getting crap food. Says it’s fresh, and it’s not. So I kind of carved out an idea there and voila! Shawarma Khan was born. And a bunch of ideas started coming from there, and that’s essentially why. And I said if I open the doors and it’s popular, people will come they’ll try it. Because Winnipeg is such a small beautiful city, everyone knows everyone, everyone wants to support everyone, but only if your food is good. And the food was great, and people have been coming ever since.

David: Awesome! Interesting, so that was kind of what I was getting at. I was curious if you were intentionally sort of capitalizing on the brand that you built up as a football player.

Obby: For sure, I was. I didn’t know I was doing that while I played. I think probably about my eighth or ninth year, I was like, “Holy crap! Obby Khan,” and I can say that I know it sounds ridiculous, but if Obby Khan is liked and popular in the city, maybe I can do something with that. Because when you know when your football career is coming to an end. I had four knee surgeries, back surgery, shoulder. I knew it was coming to an end. I knew I had to do something. So about my eighth year, I said, “Man, Nissan was giving me a free car. Reebok was giving me gear.” I was getting stuff handed to me. I said, maybe there’s a bit of a brand here.

First, I had to look up what is a brand anyway because I was kinesiology guy. So yeah, totally. It was somewhat intentional, but while I was playing, I wasn’t doing it to cash in on it, and it just kind of happened that way, and it was great.

David: Cool, now you mentioned a little bit like you didn’t have any background in it. You had to look up what a brand was. How did you get over sort of the like the logistical and operational stuff that comes into starting up?

Obby: What makes you think I’m over it?

David: All right, well how have you stumbled along until now?

Obby: Painfully, very, very painfully. I’m still learning. I’ve never take a business class in my life. I like a challenge. I like working hard. I like being my own boss. And you just learn as you go. The school of hard knocks. Like when we first opened, it was just open everyday. Just make the food. Who cares about what we we’re spending, what we’re… just make the food and sell the food. And then slowly started to develop systems and when we first opened, I was at the restaurant at 6 a.m., and I was leaving here at midnight or 1 a.m. It was craziness. Now, we know. And slowly after a couple months, you say, “I can’t do that forever,” and you develop systems. And you kind of learn.

And then it’s, okay what’s the systems for the food? What’s the systems for ordering? And we’re developing those. We’re still working on those in our third year. And now finally after I think three years of starting out, we get the financials of it. Hence, the papers everywhere in the office. I’m learning how to read my P&Ls; and my GL and my chartered accounts. Really starting to make this a viable business, but it’s just I’ve got to learn on the go. I still don’t know what I’m doing in some aspects, and we’re doing well in others.

David: When it comes to putting together systems, was that just something you kind of intuitively knew you had to do, or was there someone telling you how to do that or did you read something?

Obby: I’ve read a lot. I had a couple really good mentors. I have a lot of people in the city who are entrepreneurs and business people who have done well for themselves. Brad Houghton’s one of my guys from Moxie’s who put together a networking group, Futurpreneur. Canadian Youth Business Foundation which is now Futurpreneur. Got a mentor program. He was my mentor and helped me out with some stuff, but a lot of it is just you just gotta learn. You just gotta go.

Things aren’t working, you gotta come up with a way to do them and we’re still learning. We’re still figuring stuff out. 2016 was the year of systems. I told all the guys in the restaurant. And it’s August, and we still don’t have solid systems in. So it’s a long journey, and every day, there’s something different. Before this interview, we actually just changed something in the restaurant downstairs today because it just wasn’t working. So you always gotta get better. You always gotta make things… try to make up a system to make things easier for your guys.

I wish I would have worked at McDonald’s in the off-season playing for the Bombers. I wish would have worked in Tim Horton’s or something because I could have seen how they did it.

David: That would have gotten people’s attention. Obby from the Bombers in the drive-through.

Obby: I wish I would have because they know what they’re doing. They got their systems down pat, and they’re are a well-oiled machine. I aspire to one day be something like that, but you just gotta always wanna get better. And you’re always going to trying different things and implement different things. And it’s just a constant battle every single day.

David: Awesome, so you mentioned McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s and their systems and wanting to be like that. I know that you’ve got… what is it? Two locations for Shawarma khan, and we’ll get to Green Carrot in a minute too. It’s two Shawarma Khan…

Obby: Yeah, we have two Shawarma Khan brick and mortar stores, 225 in McDermot and 2589 Pembina just South of Bison. There’s a plug there. Go check it out. And we have four at the football stadium. So we have four kiosks at the football stadium which is fantastic.

David: Totally, and keeping in mind what you just said about McDonald’s and Horton’s are you thinking like you want it to be even bigger or is this kind of where you want it it to be? So what’s the vision for…

Obby: No, no, bigger. Bigger is better, right?

David: Sure.

Obby: I hope. For sure, I have ideas of opening up many more stores. If they’re corporate stores, great. Hopefully one day, we’ll get a position or we can maybe franchise this model out. But for sure, we wanna do a couple more corporate stores and then see from there. I mean we can’t expand anymore until I know exactly what’s happening in every aspect. And this is kind of where I’m learning now, right? I gotta know my P&Ls;. I gotta know… because financial statements are so important which is funny because the first year, I didn’t have a bookkeeper, an accountant or anything. And I said, “What’s a P&L?” Bookkeeper just says, “Are you serious?” I go, “I don’t know.” So I went home and I got… I think it’s called Canadian Small Business second edition for Dummies. And I read that, and I was like, “Oh, my god. I gotta a lot of work to do.” So I think for sure I wanna open up a couple more stores and see where it goes from there.

David: Awesome. Now, you’ve got another venture that you’re doing now too. Green Carrot Juice, right?

Obby: Yeah.

David: And so after what happened with Shawarma Khan, seeing how tough it was, why did you wanna do it to yourself over again?

Obby: I got that bug, right? You get that entrepreneurship bug, and you’re like, “I wanna do more. I wanna do more.” I know a lot of entrepreneurs do that which is bad on us. So I juice a lot at home. I watch a lot of trends, what’s happening in the States. The cold pressed juice is big. I suffer from ulcerative colitis which is how I started juicing, still getting my nutrients. And I won’t get into the the whole deal of what cold pressed juicing is, but I really thought there’s a good market for that.

You just look what’s happened in the States, what’s happened in the rest of Canada. Then I said, “You know what? Maybe there’s a viable business option here, to open up a local cold pressed juice. We do everything in-house.” Very similar to Shawarma Khan. Everything is local. Everything is made in-house. Everything is made fresh. Our smoothies are made in-house. We literally package all our smoothie packs in-house. We do as much locally as we can, and it’s healthier. It’s not that perceived healthiness like Subway is or Quiznos or Pita Pit. It’s real.

What ingredients are going in there, same thing with Shawarma Khan, same thing with Green Carrot, we know what we’re doing. We make it all in-house. So I think there’s a real push and a movement towards that. So with that in mind with me juicing at home a lot, with seeing what’s happening in the States, I said, “You know what? Maybe this is another viable business option.” I approached a friend of mine, Tina Jones who owns Banville & Jones, and I asked her if she wanted to partner with me on this, and she was all in. And we’ve had a great ride for two years now, and it’s just getting better and better there too. We opened up two stores. We’re looking at doing a third right now. We’re looking at building a central processing facility because we need more space.

David: Interesting.

Obby: So it’s been really good to have her as a mentor or business partner because until she came along, I never did financial statements, and now her as an investor and a partner, if I don’t have financial statement sent by the 25th of the month, I’m dead, and I’m a big dude. So it’s not good. So she’s been really good for that aspect of it, and just offering advice on how to grow a business.

David: Totally, cool. So you’ve got two locations now, one on Osborne and the one at the airport, right?

Obby: Yeah.

David: Cool, cool. This is maybe digging a little, but I’m curious. I assume there are extra security considerations working at the airport. Does that make it more difficult for like logistically or is it…

Obby: Is that because I’m Muslim? Is that what you’re saying?

David: That didn’t even cross my mind, but now that you’ve mentioned it…

Obby: It crossed my mind. No, the Winnipeg airport authority has been great. There are some for sure like post-security. So we gotta take our shipments loaded up. We gotta have proper paperwork. We gotta go through a security chain protocol and make sure everything is checked and brought in. So it is quite a bit more labor-intensive in that aspect. They get deliveries at certain times because you gotta go through underground, it’s gotta come up. The staff that work there have all been screened. You gotta get a blue pass. But now, once you go through the process… I have the blue pass I come and go to the airport as much as I want. Just go through security, show me your pass, scan through. So setting up is a little bit tough. Construction was really tough, getting all the contractors all that sort of stuff in…

David: For sure.

Obby: Equipment. Logistically, there are some things, security measures. You can’t just have a knife moving around in the airport or in restaurants. You got a hundred knives. So there are certain restrictions on us, but they’ve been great to deal with. It’s been fun. It’s been a great learning experience.

David: No kidding.

Obby: And that’s the way you learn as an entrepreneur. You just gotta do it. I thought of doing my MBA, I guess going back. When I was finishing school, I was like, “Maybe I’ll do my MBA.” Then I said, “You know what? I don’t know if I need my MBA just yet because I got the name, I got the common sense, I got the hard work ethic. I think I can try do this on my own,” and it’s been great. Now I’m getting to the point where it’s, “Okay, maybe I do need some sort of formal education to take me to the next level.

David: So in light of that, are you actually thinking of taking a course or going back to school or are you thinking of hiring some expertise or both?

Obby: Both. And again, we’re expanding, so we have one office person. We’re looking at getting another office person now. I have 60 staff.

David: Wow. That was gonna be one of my questions. Sixty staff between the two businesses.

Obby: Between the two businesses. We have 60 so that’s a lot.

David: No kidding.

Obby: It’s just been me and one other guy who we promoted about six months ago. And now it’s like, “We need another one.” And I do for sure wanna get some sot of formal education as well. I think that’s just the only way I’ll be able to elevate my game to the next level if you want, right?

David: Sure.

Obby: Being a former pro athlete, I think I’m wired. I think all athletes are wired a little crazy. For sure, we’re crazy. I know I am. You always wanna do better, you always wanna do more, you always wanna push the boundaries. And I think the education is the next one for me for sure.

David: Besides the hard work ethic and just kind of pushing yourself to the limits, what other kind of lessons do you think transferred well from your football career to what you’re doing now?

Obby: I think all of them, all of them. It’s funny. When I look at resumes, I look to see if they’re athletes, amongst other things, education, experience. But I think everything in sports translates. I think teamwork, communication, leadership, sacrifice, hard work. Whatever you wanna call it, whatever cliche term you wanna use in sports is so relevant in running a business, running a restaurant, post-restaurant or whatever you wanna do. It’s those skills you learn. Playing football is tough. Going to university, getting an education and playing sports is tough. Whatever the sport is and not only sports, any sort of extra-curricular activity.

So I think all those skills like I said the sacrifice, time management, communication, leadership, those are all vital skills in any successful industry. I think being an entrepreneur, for sure, all those things translate. The only thing that didn’t translate was snapping a football and beating the crap out of Doug Brown. Other than those two things, I think everything else translated really well.

David: Fair enough, fair enough. You’re not snapping football around downstairs?

Obby: No, I do throw a shawarma every now and then.

David: There you go, perfect. In terms of hiring people, what have you kind of learned about how to hire besides looking for people who are athletes or have extra-curricular?

Obby: It’s tough. That’s been a real tough one. I think that’s kind of common knowledge. The labor force is tough. Hiring…

David: Totally. Well, especially running 60 people and probably a lot of them, I’m assuming in your business, part-time stuff like that.

Obby: Yeah. That’s been one of the hardest things for me other than financials. Financials are what financials are, but the other part of that is managing people. I think a lot of skills, being a leader in the locker room help. Although some of my pep talks are a little too aggressive for some of the staff. Just get out there and sell. It’s been tough. I’m blessed that I have a great team. We have a solid core of probably about 20 or 30 that are just rock solid, and I really, really love God. I thank the stars. I thank God for that.

A lot of turnover in this industry. A lot of kids are applying and just don’t really know what hard work is and say it’s too hard and they wanna leave or it’s too boring. I don’t wanna bottle a hundred juices. I don’t wanna sit there and make shawarma wraps all day. I don’t wanna cut onions all day. And then you get some kids who have great, great work ethic, great and they understand what it takes in the grind to get to where they wanna go.

So that’s been the toughest thing. Me too is hiring someone was… I don’t really know what I’m looking for. When we first opened, it’s like, you want a job? Yeah. You gonna work hard? Yeah. Here. You got the job. That’s how it was. The first five hires were just friends that said “Hey, I have a friend who wants a job.” Done.

David: How did those turn out?

Obby: Three of them are still with me out of, I said, the five, are still with me. Two of them moved on to other jobs, but they actually wound up pretty good.

David: Good.

Obby: References have turned out really good. Referrals have turned out really good for me. Saying so and so’s kid wants a job or so on so, because I think those might be a little more skin in the game.

David: For sure.

Obby: With that, could you use a little hire? I’m a small business I can’t go out and go to Pinnacle or winnipegjobshop.ca or whatever they’re called, right? We’re still so small. We’re still so new. It’s been tough. It’s been very, very tough. I wish there’s easier way to do this that was affordable for small businesses like myself. But it’s one of those things I’m learning and getting better hopefully as we go. When the people do come in, I try to create a culture in the restaurants. I’m really big in the culture of what is Shawarma Khan, what is Green Carrot, and it’s teamwork. It’s a family.

David: Would you say that both businesses are pretty similar in culture?

Obby: Very, very similar. The culture starts, I think, at the top, right? That’s with me. It’s more important that we have a real culture of working for each other, working for a bigger picture, having fun, knowing that we are all accountable to one another and that we all communicate. We’re all in this together. I tread through my staff really well, I think, but that builds the culture, and that’s why we have such a high retention. I got a really retention rate of my top people. And the kids come and go for part-time work. They’re kids. I get it. But the culture, I think, starts at the top with me.

David: Cool. You mentioned sort of the challenge of hiring, and it makes me think of sort of the marketing challenge in general. How do you approach marketing for both Shawarma Khan and Green Carrot? I mean I understand that initially, your personal brand has a lot to do with it and still does probably but what other kind of initiatives are you doing?

Obby: It’s tough. Small business, we don’t have big budgets. We can’t go out to sponsor events. We can’t just sponsor big shows. We can’t afford radio advertising. It’s just not on the budget, right? It’s radio advertising or buying a fridge for the guys to put stuff, right? Buying some new knives or doing newsprint, right? You need the knives to operate the business, so you can’t…

I really lucked out in the personal branding. I’ve a strong following on Facebook. I’ve a strong following on social media. Instagram has been great for us. Twitter has been great for us. Playing for the Bombers, and being in investor’s groups has been great for us. So a lot of it has just been me out there grinding, giving talks, being in the community, being in the community. I love being in the community. I love giving back, but it also carries through the restaurant. So marketing has just been word of mouth, social media. That’s been our biggest asset. And like I said, if the product’s good, people will come back.

David: For sure. On social media, is there anything that you’ve learned that works or doesn’t work or is it really just kind of you kept doing what you’ve always done just being yourself on social media?

Obby: Yeah, I mean I have my own Obby Khan on social media, so I’m myself. Shawarma Khan’s a lot of my personality as well. Green Carrot, I let some of our staff run it at Green Carrot. But a lot of it is engaging customers. Like posting pictures, having dialogue with them, doing contests, being available to them. I think that stuff really helps, and it makes it real, right? I mean like when Shawarma Khan posts something or Green Carrot posts something, you know it’s local. You probably know if you know who I am, you know it’s coming from me somewhere. So that gives that real connection as opposed to Subway or Tim Horton’s or another big franchise… posting something.

Who are they? What are they? What do they stand for? I think people know that when something’s posted here, it’s me, and that’s what I love about Winnipeg. I think that would have really been lost in going to a city like Vancouver or Toronto or Calgary even. That kind of gets lost because it’s just so big, people may not even care. Winnipeg, I feel really like they care. When I post something, you have enough followers, you have enough word of mouth that people care and see that genuine connection.

David: Yeah, interesting. You mentioned a bit earlier about expanding plans and stuff like that. Do you still kind of envision that both businesses are gonna be in Winnipeg for the foreseeable future or are you thinking of expanding?

Obby: Yeah I think for the next at least a year or two. I’m kind of looking at both which one can I take to the next level sooner than the other one. It’s a real push for both, the pros and cons of each one, but I think the next year or two, I’ve seen them both being in Winnipeg. But after that, I think in 2017 or 2018, I, for sure, see us taking one of these somewhere.

David: Cool, cool. Speaking of that, the pros and cons of each, what are… I wanna ask this as one question, but I’d like you to tackle the answer from the perspective of both businesses. What are sort of the… both the opportunities and the challenges in the next year or two for both Shawarma Khan and for Green Carrot?

Obby: Well, I think for Shawarma Khan it’s different than Green Carrot. So one of the obstacles for Shawarma Khan is definitely staff. It’s definitely hiring qualified staff. Shawarma is a very different concept. It’s not a prepackaged product made in a factory, like a lot of fast casual restaurants. We don’t get our burger patties made somewhere. We don’t get our sauce made in house. It’s not like opening a Subway where you can just pick up a phone call and call the supplier, say, “I need X amount of this,” and it’s done.

We gotta make it all in-house, so we gotta have qualified guys. We gotta have cooks and staff that are trained to know. And it’s not like working at Earls or Moxie’s. We’re not making fries, and we’re not making salmon or steak on the grill. We’re making 50 KG’s spits of beef and lamb, rotisseries all day. We’re making 50 KGs spit of chicken. We’re doing hundreds of kilos of meat. So we gotta have guys qualified to do that, to cut the meat, to prepare the meat, to make the sauces.

So that’s probably could be a real obstacle for us for Shawarma Khan. So finding that qualified or labor staff, that’s gonna be tough for us. Then that’s a big obstacle for Shawarma Khan. Green Carrot’s a little different. With Green Carrot, the obstacle for us there is finding space. It’s such a niche product at a higher price point than for say buying orange juice at Safeway is three bucks. Buying orange juice for us is seven or eight bucks. Cold-press, local, but finding the retail storefront for us, finding the 500 to 700 square feet of retail space that’s got a high foot traffic, that’s viable as a business. You’re not paying $50 or $60 a square foot.

So you gotta look at those numbers, but finding spaces for us is the next sort of… and we’re actually right there right now with my partner Tina Jones. We’re looking at spaces, and we just can’t find that retail space. Everything is 2000, 3000 square feet, and we’re small. We don’t need 3000 square feet. I’m not moving my whole family in there. We literally just wanna open up a storefront. So that’s a big obstacle for us there. They’re quite different than one another.

David: Totally.

Obby: So trying to tackle both of those at the same time has been a difficulty.

David: Now in terms of space with Green Carrot, do you have options outside of doing the distribution yourself? I noticed downstairs at Shawarma Khan you’ve got a fridge where you’re selling Green carrot stuff. Are there plans to have more fridges like that selling Green Carrot stuff in other people’s shops?

Obby: For sure, we totally do. So we have about 15 sites that’s selling now.

David: Oh, really? Cool.

Obby: So again, very niche market, right? So we have them at Maples Chiro, at Norwood Chiro we have them at Aevi Salon & Spa, Jellyfish, Banville & Jones, Shawarma Khan, both locations. I missed some suppliers. They’re gonna kill me, but we have a couple of cooperate places like National Leasing is on board, Princess Auto. I think the big push for us is… yes, we gotta get more of those fridges out there. We gotta get more people to have accessible… “Hey, let me buy this.” It’s seven or eight bucks for a juice versus three or four dollars on a pop while the juice you’re getting five pounds of produce the pop you’re getting sugar and chemicals added preservatives.

People that see the value in it, they totally buy it. So we have those fridges. We’ve actually ordered more fridges from the States where we get them, and we’re gonna hopefully have more… distribution centers, we call them. Some coffee shops… Thom Bargen came on board. They’re selling. We have people buying coffee, and they get a juice which is fantastic. And there’s another great local success story, right? So that’s for sure something we wanna push. Part of that is also we gotta get a storefront. We gotta get a storefront, so we can actually offer our full line. Our vegan sandwiches, our vegan brownies, our smoothies, our organic stuff, our Acai bowls, our products, people want the whole menu. You can’t do the whole menu at Shawarma Khan. So we gotta get more of those storefronts as well.

David: Got you, cool. Just looking at the time here. I don’t wanna go too too long.

Obby: It’s all good.

Interviewer: There’s two questions that I ask every guest on the show, and I’d be curious to hear your take on it. And you already mentioned both of them a little bit earlier, but in terms of personal mentors and people that have influenced you or even people that you’ve looked up to from afar. You mentioned Brad Houghton earlier. Sounds like he had had some influence on you and obviously your business partner in Green Carrot. Who are some of the people that have sort had an impact on you both as a person and as a business person?

Obby: Yeah, well I mean you have to say your family for sure. My dad, of course, gave me my work ethic and being honest, doing the right thing, that sort of stuff. Lots of former coaches and all that jazz. I think what’s really inspirational for me and I look up to is, of course, the people are tangible and available to me, Brad Houghton, Tina Jones, people like Joelle Foster from Futurpreneur…

David: I know Joelle.

Obby: I’ve joined the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and the reason why I joined that was A, because it’s important to be part of the business community, but it’s also a great networking and learning from other success stories. So I really look up to people in the city here locally who have done great things here. And that would be from the Bob Silver you’ve interviewed, for Steve Chipman, for… I can go on and on about local. Trevor Nott, Glen Daman’s a big one. All these guys are local successful Manitoban business guys who either started off with nothing but built their way up, and now they’re super successful.

Those guys although I may not know them personally some of them, but some of them I do know, and I’m like, “Man, you did it. I could do it. How can I do it?” I talk to them. We have these real conversations. Hey, Trevor. How did you get to where you are? Hey, Glen. How did you become president of the Dilawri Group? Hey, Bob Silver. How did you grow your company? Albert Tassi is another really great one from the Muslim community. He’s a godfather of the Muslim community. Albert’s fantastic. He’s been a huge help. Gene Dunn, guys at David Asper have been real big mentors in my life, and say, “Hey how do I this? How do I take it to the next level?”

And not only that but if I need help from them. Hey, guys, I’m kind of screwed here. What do I do? I can’t make payroll. How do I make it work? Or I can’t do this or I can’t do that or suppliers and this… so those people, a lot of them, man, I can go on. Must be probably dozens just local success Manitoban who have done it.

David: Totally, and I mean that’s why we’re doing the show. I agree. Those stories are inspiring. Final question, you mentioned you read a lot. You found Small Business for Dummies. What other books have you read and would you recommend to the listener?

Obby: Dozens. Here’s a really good one. I got it right here. It’s called “Rocket Fuel.” Have you heard of this one?

David: No, I haven’t.

Obby: It’s fantastic. Gino Wickman. Anyone who doesn’t have it or who’s an entrepreneur, Google it. It’s called Rocket Fuel. The first two chapters… employee of mine. And I read that and I got that from another business friend of mine. So he said, “You’ve gotta read this book, Obby. This is you. This is you in a nutshell.” There’s that one. There’s Life’s Greatest Lessons. I read a lot of biographies, Mark Cuban, the Shark Tank guys. They are all inspirational. Jim Treliving, he’s Manitoban, great story there. Books, god, I don’t know. Whatever is the flavor of the month.

I hear from business groups. I read it, and it’s good, but Rocket Fuel has been a really good one and Life’s Greatest Lessons, I’m reading that one now. You kind of sit back and say, “Wow. There’s more to life than business,” but running a successful business and then being happy with who you are really could take you to the next level. So I think those books are really good. Just pick up anything and read it. Just read something, do something.

And you can always absorb something. I’ve Twitter and social media, and that’s great. You don’t even have to read a hundred pages. You can read someone’s blog or just someone posting on top ten tips for entrepreneurs, leadership skills, all those sorts of things, you can read them in five minutes while you’re in the bathroom or lying in bed and you’re gonna be like, “Wow.” My staff know when I read a new book because I come up with a new idea. “This is what we gotta do, guys!” They’re like, “Oh, Obby just read another book,” or “Obby just heard this talk or this podcast per se.” So just get out, always try to get better, and go from there.

David: Totally. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time, Obby. It’s really been a pleasure.

Obby: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

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