Five minutes with: Marc Mushkin, Carl’s Jr.

Five minutes with: Marc Mushkin, Carl’s Jr.

We catch up with Marc Mushkin, vice president of international sales for Carl’s Jr.

During the 1990s, Marc Mushkin was known in El Torito Restaurants, a California-based Mexican restaurant chain, as an avid traveler, a polyglot and a manager with experience in many sides of the restaurant business, although none in franchising. So when his company acquired another brand and moved their international franchise operations director to run that new company, the first person senior management thought of to take over that role was Mushkin. Within a week of being offered the position in 1998, he was on a plane to Tokyo and then on to Abu Dhabi and Istanbul. Taking over development a year later, he hasn’t stopped flying since.

What attracted you to the food & beverage side of franchising?

All the way back to my night shifts making “runzas*” while studying at the University of Nebraska. I’ve never stopped loving the restaurant business. (*Runzas are a regional Nebraska fast-food specialty, a bit like hand-held pierogis but bigger!) Even in high school, I worked in restaurants. This business just feels right to me.

What does your role with Carl’s Jr entail?

I’m responsible for new franchise recruiting, qualification and onboarding globally for Carl’s Jr. Additionally, I support our global teams in keeping our agreements up to date and contributing to market planning and restaurant development.

What’s your secret for successful international franchising?

Making the deals is all about building personal relationships, listening and trying to build bridges across cultural and language divides. I try to see things from the point of view of the candidates, crafting each deal to work in a particular country or region being considered. Then building the business, international franchising requires great balance and mature judgement: protecting the brand while understanding what adaptions are critical to fit in each market.

What affords you most satisfaction about your work?

There are two answers to that question: first, the satisfaction of reaching an agreement and signing a deal in a new international market is wonderful, but second, the most satisfying part of my work comes over time seeing franchisees successfully build businesses that last into the future.

What aspect of your work offers the greatest challenges?

While engaging with candidates, adapting to myriad business and negotiating cultures around the world is the greatest challenge I’ve faced. No matter how many years one has in this role, there are always twists and turns that come up, especially when entering new markets around the world. One challenge that comes up frequently is the way many international companies keep their owners and decision makers behind the scenes, having lower level personnel represent themselves as real authorities in negotiations, when in fact they need to report back on everything. This can cause real problems when the actual decision makers come into negotiations late in the process. 

How do you think would other people describe you?

Respectful, patient and persistent. I hope. 

What’s the next step in your career?

As I become a senior leader in the field, working on bigger, more complicated deals is very gratifying. I’m learning about different business formats besides traditional franchising (joint ventures, hybrid models), and this phase of my career is fascinating.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

No regrets, but there are two things I wish I had done differently. First, it would have been nice to have studied Mandarin! And second, learning about accounting early on would have been better than picking up bits and pieces along the way.

How do you relax?

Red wine. Music. Long drives in my convertible.

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