I recently caught up with Ryan Patel, VP of Global Real Estate & Business Development at Pinkberry, one of the world’s fastest-growing retail brands. An expert in growing both domestic and international brands, Ryan shared his thoughts about learning and the future of work. Check out the interview below.
Alex Khurgin: So what do you do at Pinkberry?
Ryan Patel: I oversee the real estate and business development teams, plus construction, legal, etc.I got recruited four years ago and started with about 95 stores in a few countries. We now have over 260 stores in 23 countries.
What trends are you observing that will have the biggest impact on the future of the workforce?
I think you see a few trends. A lot of companies of different sizes are getting rid of offices and doing hoteling, creating an atmosphere where you sit down with your team. Another thing: the word ‘entrepreneur’ has become a part of everybody’s vocabulary. You may not have an idea to start a business, but that doesn’t mean you’re not an entrepreneur.
I met a French couple on vacation recently, and the woman was trying to get a job at a startup. It’s funny how so many of phrases the French use in a startup environment—’brainstorming,’ ‘benchmarking,’ even ‘startup’ itself—are all American. Though of course entrepreneur happens to be a French word.
Haha, yes. I speak a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit. I think in 2020 that drive, that innovative piece that’s in each of your team members will be more apparent. Work is going to be more competitive. How do you get more out of not just one job function, but every one? Every department should know what other departments do, I think we’re already seeing that trend. An HR person knows what a developer does and vice versa, not just because they know the job description, but because they know how it affects the business. I think by 2020 you’ll see a lot more individuals understanding the overall perspective. People will want to know how they play a part.
What does that mean for job titles and other kinds of rigid structures, insofar as people are working more collaboratively across different parts of the business?
We’re still a society that values titles. I would assume that will go away down the road, but I’ll take it one step further: I think the focus will become more ‘are you a leader?’ I’d hope this is the focus from an organizational level. As for individual employees the question will be, ‘How do I fulfill this job while becoming a leader?’
Is it more that the world has changed, or work has changed—or, in order to succeed you need to be that innovative all the time?
We live in a global world now. People can come up with an idea and get it to another country so fast. Franchising has become a huge trend. You could have only two restaurants in California or in New York, and now open in the Middle East. That was unheard of back in the old days—Chili’s would saturate the market in the US first and then go abroad. That model is no longer applicable because when you have more competitors, you have to innovate. You look at some of the top brands: McDonald’s didn’t have breakfast. It was just lunch and dinner at first. Now, guess what? They have their own McCafe—which is really quite nice internationally. They’re innovating. Same with Starbucks. They do it because they want to, but I also believe innovation is necessary to evolve the brand. To your point, times are changing, people’s tastes are changing. You see wellness and health coming in, the whole pizza category is coming into its own. It’s re-energizing.
What are some of the most innovative and visionary approaches driving to that future?
Thinking globally. That doesn’t mean that you have to open stores globally, but you need to be more aware of cultures, different attributes, different tendencies. If you think globally, you’ll even look at your team differently, saying ‘OK, how do I get the best out of them?’ It’s about adapting.
What are some of the factors that are holding you back from innovation?
The first thing that pops to my mind is time. Resources, and time.
Do you think some companies don’t feel that urgency, while other companies do? Is that what distinguishes innovators?
I feel like there’s always an urgency, especially among companies that are publicly traded. There’s urgency on their worth, on their brand—and the protection of their brand—as well as their people.
What advice would you give people who oversee the workforce in some capacity to prepare for the future and overcome objections to innovation?
I’m a big believer in building the foundation of your team. What I mean is investing and helping your team members reach not just their professional goals, but their personal goals—which means it’s about more than just title and money. If someone said, ‘Hey, I want to talk to Ryan Patel at Pinkberry, you know him, can I pick his brain?’ You’d say ‘Sure! he’s on my team, he’s a great guy, I think you’ll learn from that.’ If you always stay true to that foundation, and to your team, they’re always going to work hard, they’re always gonna have that trust in you. And you’ll always work together to face any obstacle. I can’t guess what the future holds, but over time if you have great people, and you guys work hard through the ups and downs, you have a fighting chance.