Zambrero founder shares his secrets to success

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

What are the elements that drive a business to success? Is corporate social responsibility a must-have? Check out these personal insights from entrepreneur Dr Sam Prince, founder of Mexican cuisine chain Zambrero. 

Prince has carved a humanitarian niche in the food retail space for Zambrero. But he isn’t an out-and-out advocate for corporations adopting social responsibility.

“I don’t believe social corporate responsibility is so important. It’s a free market, and if you want to build a business and spend the profits, that’s fine, it’s an admirable way to run a business.”

What is important though is to define and then reflect the core principles of the business rather than compromising the essential values, he says. “I understand it’s a free market and there is a place for aid work. But these are two different markets. I think organisations try to operate in one, hoping to be sanctioned by the other,” says Prince.

Hard work beats talent

“I think talent is a complete liability. When I was at school in year three I couldn’t be beaten at the 100m dash. It was easy until I got to high school and for the first time I was beaten.” When he asked his victors how they had got over the line first, their response was “We saw the time we had to beat and trained and trained. What did you do?”

Prince admits, “I assumed I was going to win.”

When he applies the analogy to business it is clear the rate of change is important to him.

“Our model has been profitable but we are always wanting to be continuously better, to serve the customers better. How can we make their experience better? We’ve overhauling all the time, the ambience, the music, products. I’d be disappointed if it stayed the same. We have to remain flexible."

Stay customer focused

“Be careful not to wrap your ambition round a marketplace, but let the market wrap around your ambition,” he cautions.

Prince describes himself as an entrepreneur, not a franchisor.

“When I started Zambrero it was to delight the customer any way that I could. It was about innovation. Franchising fields growth and allows us to scale. But we’ve done company operations and joint ventures, we employ all strategies.

“The fact that customers are written out [of some business models] baffles me,” he says. “I watch accountants make decisions. I get that it’s a way of squeezing profits out,” but it isn’t the Prince way.

“It’s about the big game. I don’t feel a strong identity as a franchisor, it doesn’t encapsulate who I am. I feel strongly that I’m a customer advocate. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

How does the company move ahead?

“We’re largely irreverent to best practice, we believe in next practice,” he says.

Advice for wannabe entrepreneurs

“The seed of your leadership will come from a) how well you can define and understand your value set and, b) how strongly you can stick to it, can you stick to it more ardently than anyone else in the room?

“That’s how you should grow your team.”

He admits his biggest mistake was linked to people: employing the wrong people and not acting fast enough when it was evident they were damaging the culture.

“In the team, if you’re good enough and hungry and spirited, your world is as big as our companies are.”