As Franchise Partner of Browns Socialhouse, one of the fastest growing franchise and restaurant groups in Canada, Derek Archer really knows something about finding your passion, learning the ropes and running a successful business. In this interview, Derek shared his thoughts on the power of mentorship, the importance of giving back to the community and what it means to be doing well by doing good business.
Q. Browns Socialhouse has been hugely successful – it seems like you’ve hit on just the right mix that people are looking for in a place to eat, drink and socialize. What’s been the key ingredient to that success?
Well, any business owner knows that hard work and serving your customer well is what it’s all about. But at Browns we also try to be good member of whatever neighbourhood we’re in, so we can help be a part of building a stronger community. Everything from joining the local business associations, helping kids in minor hockey, putting up Christmas trees, supporting the volunteers of North Shore Rescue and many things in between.
We feel that we really get to know our customers and our community. It’s pretty natural, if you think about it. Browns is a place where people come to visit and relax, but also to talk about all the things that are important to them. A lot of life happens at our tables.
Q. What inspired you to get involved in the restaurant business?
Funny you ask. I started in the restaurant business at 14, working in the kitchen at Earl’s. During my teen years and early 20’s, I wasn’t sure what a career might look like for me. I’d been busy playing hockey and growing up as a fairly typical n
orth shore kid. Going the academic route didn’t inspire me but I did know how to work hard. And I was curious and enthusiastic. So restaurants were a great place for me to learn and grow.
Looking back, I think those three qualities – work ethic, curiosity and enthusiasm — might have helped me stand out to some older, more successful business people who helped take my confidence to the next level and realize that I could really thrive in this industry.
Q. You brought up the idea of mentorship and leadership, and how that’s a big part of your personal definition of success.
Yes, that’s right. I guess how I really define my success is by how much I’m able to inspire young people to become something more.
I’m constantly on the lookout for young people who show potential. A classic example is some young person working in our kitchen, early 20’s or so, and he or she is a bit hesitant and confused about their career options … but in fact they’re a natural leader and don’t even know it. I’ll often reach out and say give me a call, let’s chat. I can relate to that young person.
Being able to inspire and help others is huge for me, because I wouldn’t be standing here today without having had somebody do that for me.
Q. Any memorable moments in your business journey?
The only thing that comes to mind is what I learned when we got our first location. Scott Morison and I were looking for a location to set up a restaurant. It was very early stage — at that point we didn’t yet have a business plan or even financing.
One day we stopped for coffee at a little shop in North Vancouver and the owner was a friendly, talkative fellow. We started up a conversation, one thing led to another, and we realized this could be the perfect location. Two weeks later I was selling my house for part of the business investment and we had the first Browns. We’ve never looked back.
To me the business lesson was about risk, momentum and courage — you gotta believe that you can figure it out.