Todd Fishman and Hunter Brooks were childhood friends who attended the University of Washington before heading to corporate Manhattan for several years. The friends reconnected in New York, bonding over their love of great salad.
Yes, young men eating salad.
Salads are so trendy that in Manhattan the lines for gourmet salad bars stretch around the block. While waiting in one of these lines, the friends had their "Aha" moment. They looked at each other and said, "This would be killer in Seattle!"
A Quickly Budding Dream
Enter Evergreens healthy food chain, co-founded with their associate Ryan Suddendorf in 2013.
Over five years, Evergreens has seen 200% revenue growth each year, with six stores in Seattle and a projected 11 more by 2019. Evergreens caters and offers salads, wraps, and grain bowls while keeping food fun with names like "Dice-Dice Baby," the "Cobbsby Show," and an Asian mix called "Pear-ly Legal."
While entertaining, Evergreens is rooted in a focused business strategy to ensure the start-up succeeds. Successful staffing has been fundamental as Evergreens has scaled for growth and shaped a positive culture to attract the very best team.
Infrastructure that Keeps Pace with Growth
People are the backbone of every company, and Suddendorf said staffing was lean in the early days.
Chaos abounded, with lines out the door and the three founders acting as the company's only corporate employees.
"It was like changing the car tires on a moving car," said Suddendorf. "There was no time to step back and establish a process and then try to teach it to everybody in the stores."
"We were working in the business rather than on the business," Fishman said. "We were very much in the weeds."
In retrospect, the friends say they would have raised more money upfront and contracted consulting from restaurant specialists or professional staffing agencies. Simultaneously growing a business and a competent staff is like parenting: along with joy and new discoveries, each phase presents greater challenges.
To grow effectively, healthy businesses need to adopt staffing strategies that meet current needs but also anticipate the future. Since Evergreen's early days, Brooks says great people have been key to scaling growth without sacrificing quality. The founders gave intense focus to its corporate team in 2015, bringing on a COO and aggressively hiring HR, business development, IT and accounting specialists shortly afterward.
"There's part art, part science to staffing the corporate team when your store count is growing," said Brookes. "Sometimes you're going to be a little heavier on the corporate overhead, and sometimes you're going to be a little leaner."
Attracting Engaged, Competent Employees
People are your company's biggest asset, and engaged employees can give your business a huge advantage.
Finding and maintaining great staff requires a people-focused approach. As you develop short and long-term staffing goals, hiring should align with your business objectives.
Whether you want to expand certain sectors, launch new products, or grow online visibility, your hiring strategy should be totally in sync with these objectives. While you proactively work toward long-term objectives, temporary or contract staff may provide the essential support you need for specialized projects, seasonal rushes, or particular areas of expertise.
Evergreens strives to grow a brand that generates inbound applications versus actively recruiting staff. This means prioritizing a supportive, energizing work environment that includes above minimum wage pay, free employee meals for each shift, and $40 monthly bonuses for employees who lead healthy, active lifestyles.
Suddendorf says the company also makes a point of promoting employees to maximize unity and momentum:
"About half our corporate team started in our stores."