Getting to know you: Atul Pathak

What do you currently do?
I am the managing director of Appt Corporation, trading as a McDonald’s franchise. I established my first McDonald’s restaurant in Southall in 2003 and now operate 20 McDonald’s restaurants across north and north west London. I oversee the business strategy for my restaurants, which employ over 1,500 people.

As well as overseeing the growth of my restaurants, part of my time is spent coaching my senior management team to ensure that our people deliver the highest level of customer service for visitors to my restaurants.

The training and development of my people is fundamental to the success of my business and I work closely with my people development manager to ensure my staff are enabled to reach their full potential. I have also invested heavily in a state-of the-art training facility so that my people have the opportunity to study onsite the range of nationally recognised qualifications provided by McDonald’s. These include Certificates in Adult Literacy and Numeracy, Level 2 Apprenticeship in Hospitality and even a Foundation Degree in Managing Business Operations.

Being a franchisee is not just about ensuring that my restaurants are performing well and are profitable. I believe that running a business and being socially responsible are inextricably linked. It is for this reason that I take part in a number of community initiatives including chairing my local safer neighbourhood team. I am a business owner, but I am also part of the community, so it is important for me to give back to the community wherever I can.

What is your inspiration in business?
My inspiration comes from wanting to do well in business and at the same time be socially responsible. Another source of inspiration is my employees, who are assets to my business. It is important for me to have a happy workforce and, as such, I have an open door policy that enables any member of staff to contact me directly by phone or email, or in person, should they have any issues.

Who do you admire?
There are a number of people that I admire, but Bill Gates remains at the top of my list when it comes to business. I admire his innovation and determination to succeed. In addition, I admire the positive work he does through his charitable foundation to make a difference to the lives of those who are less privileged.

Outside of business I have always looked up to Mahatma Gandhi, a great man whose philosophy of equality, fairness and tolerance is one that I respect and think is useful for humanity as a whole. Ghandi said that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world, and I think that business owners can play a part, if they choose to, in bringing about positive changes to communities.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
I see business as a journey; one on which I am always learning and seeking to improve. The truth is that there are things that I could have done differently, but because I see my business journey as something that is long-term, I accept that there will be mistakes made along the way.

People can tell you their personal stories about how they would have done things differently and you can read books which guide you on how to make business decisions, however, I do not believe there are any hard and fast rules in business.

Instead, there are many factors at play including effort, values, the decision making process, how your decisions are perceived and your attitude to risk, which means that two people making the same decision about their respective businesses can have two completely different outcomes. Therefore, I continue to look forward, accepting the mistakes that I may have made along the way, but always learning from them and looking at them in the context of a long-term journey.

What defines your way of doing business?
When I left India in 1984 with ambitions to become an entrepreneur in the UK, I wanted to be an entrepreneur with a difference. I had a strong desire to maintain the values and ethics that had been instilled in me since childhood, which are all about sharing with others.

This defines my way of doing business today: giving back to the communities where my restaurants operate, helping to develop my staff to be the best they can be, and helping to inspire budding entrepreneurs through sharing the experience of establishing and growing my business.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
It’s imperative to take time out to step away from the ‘doing’ element of the business and to have a look at the overarching systems and procedures that are in place. In relation to these systems and procedures, business owners should always be asking: Are they working? What do customers or clients think about our products or services? Where are the opportunities to improve?