Mohamed Fakih’s Paramount Advice on Success
Mohamed Fakih immigrated to Canada 15 years ago to create a life filled with more opportunity for him and his family. After working at Tim Hortons, he made a risky decision: to purchase Paramount Fine Foods — a restaurant that was about to say goodbye and serve its final customer in 2007. After purchasing the company, Fakih implemented strong leadership skills and turned what was once a struggling brand into a immensely successful chain restaurant that can now be found nationwide. In addition to spearheading the development of Paramount Fine Foods, Fakih also founded Paramount Butcher Shop — consisting of halal premium cut meats.
We got the chance to sit down with Founder and CEO, Mohamed Fakih, to learn about his ups, downs, paramount success and innovative skill-set that many entrepreneurs have wanted to know about.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
Mohamed Fakih: To be an entrepreneur you need to have a vision, something that gives you more motivation to wake up in the morning. Once you have that vision you mix passion, innovation and drive to turn it into a working business. Someone with the mindset that “no” and “can’t” are not obstacles but rather challenges to keep pushing forward.
Can you share your most challenging moment as an entrepreneur?
Fakih: The most challenging moment was the day I took the risk of my life: buying a struggling Lebanese restaurant. In the first year I transformed that risk into my opportunity, turning a profit and creating the flagship location for a future franchise business. Today, Paramount Fine Foods is the fastest growing Middle Eastern halal restaurant chain in North America.
What advice would you give young people who wish to pursue entrepreneurship?
Fakih: [Just like anything else], If you want to pursue entrepreneurship you need to determine the ingredients for success. Follow the steps, consistency in your product or service, do the math required, hire the right people to know what you don’t know and train them very well.
Can you describe your business model to us? (what is unique about your business approach?)
Fakih: Initially Paramount set out to change the attitude towards shawarma — it was viewed in a very different manner. We wanted to bring the experience from back home and make Lebanese food accessible to all Canadians the way we have it there. Now we have built up Paramount as a mainstream restaurant to serve Canadians of all cultures at a reasonable value.
What does success mean to you? (how can entrepreneurs achieve success?)
Fakih: In the business that I am in, success means that the customer and our community is happy. It means that they keep coming back to enjoy the food and environment that Paramount has to offer. I believe in order to achieve this success your team must be equally as happy and eager to keep the company on track.
I always say if you can teach it, it’s a hobby — but if you can repeat it, it’s a business.
What is your #1 tip in building a business that stands out [in a world where there is constant change and innovation?]
Fakih: My number one tip that I always share and have always believed is: love what you do and believe that you are capable of achieving it. Having the opportunity to teach your dream and passion is what really matters and I feel so honoured to be able to do so. Along with that though, you must make sure the numbers add up. Paramount has grown so much and continues to grow because of that love, passion, knowledge and dedication that is put into it by my team and myself.
What is the role of your family in your business?
Fakih: Their continuous support for the business and understanding the commitment required to have continued success goes beyond what I ever could have imagined. Different aspects of the company have come from my family, example the Butcher Stop was my wife’s idea and the playground was for my children. Their excitement for the growth of the company is what helps me strive for more.
How do you manage it all?
Fakih: The only way you can grow fast without losing the main focus of when you first started is by hiring and training as many executives/staff as needed. You need to know that you can’t manage it all by yourself as much as maybe sometimes you want to. I try and strive for balance in my life between my family, my Paramount team and growing the business.
What makes Paramount unique?
Fakih: As a Middle Eastern restaurant we really wanted to embrace those fresh and healthy flavours while sharing the most authentic and exotic recipes. These recipes have been passed down for generations. We serve fresh baked pita straight from wood burning ovens, charcoal barbecue Halal meats, chicken and beef shawarma and fresh baklava handmade daily. These provide guests with a culinary experience that will not be forgotten. The Paramount Fine Foods experience is designed to go beyond great flavours and recipes at a great value. We even brought in chefs straight from the Middle East to help with authenticity – to prove we don’t believe in cutting corners.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs venturing into new businesses?
Fakih: First you want to identify your passion and purpose, does it make sense?
Then you want to ask yourself a very serious but simple question: “Can you honestly stand behind your numbers? Do they make sense or are you creating a false image to pursue something that may not be in your best interest.” Financial statements are like report cards but for your business – your current financial statement tells you and everyone else how well you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to fall just don’t make the same mistake twice.
Finally, don’t forget your best asset which is your team.
What role does your faith as a Muslim play in your success?
Fakih: Believing in goodness.
How do you maintain your deen (religion) and your work?
Fakih: I feel very blessed and lucky to have come across an idea that allows me to incorporate my deen and work together. For instance Paramount is a Halal restaurant and also we provide a prayer room open to our customers. At Paramount we have dedicated our success to better representing the Muslim community within the Canadian society.
What are some of things in your opinion which Muslims living in Canada could do better to achieve success for themselves and their community?
Fakih: There are no shortcuts to success, Muslims like all good Canadians share the same great values and qualities. Muslims have to continue to work hard and place humanity before themselves and strive for excellence in our communities. We must always remember Canada is a great country and we must maintain the appreciation of what is offered to us.
Paramount Fine Foods has gained international attention for its well renowned Middle Eastern foods, but it also cultivates a warm family environment that people enjoy returning to. Fakih is a skilled businessman with a keen vision, but he also goes above and beyond in valuing his employees, creating motivational exercises and days out to maintain a wholesome team spirit- something that I can undoubtedly say revitalizes the traditional business model.