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The People-First Culture podcast is one where we share lessons on building a great company and career.
Welcome to episode 1 of the relaunch of my podcast. This episode means a lot to me. By listening you’ll learn:
- Why I’m leaving a very comfortable life to start again with no salary or guaranteed income.
- Why I’m building my next company with my family heritage in mind.
- How I want to build the company I’ve always dreamed of.
- Learn stories of my childhood that I’ve never shared with anyone.
How we can link up:
- Website: www.michelfalcon.com
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Interested in having me as a keynote speaker in your company?If so, visit → http://www.michelfalcon.com/
Check out my book ‘People First Culture’ → https://www.amazon.ca/People-
Welcome to the People-First Culture Podcast with me, Michel Falcon, where I share lessons I’ve learned, and those of others, on how to build a more purposeful business and career.
I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Nothing. Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.”
Hey everyone, that was not me speaking. If you’re not familiar with the sound of that voice, that is Denzel Washington, quoting Nelson Mandela. By all accounts, it would appear that those are two individuals that we can listen to and maybe seek some advice and counsel from. They seem to be reputable people. I am Michel Falcon, and welcome to the relaunch of my podcast, formerly known as Breaking It Down, it is now titled the People-First Culture Podcast.
You’ve got to piggyback off of the book I wrote in 2018. I wanted to use this first episode to share things about me that you likely don’t know and things that I have rarely shared with anyone outside of my very close circle of family and friends. It will help you understand why I am building the next business that I am building. It’ll make sense why I’m launching the podcast and why I’m about to take great risk in my career when things were very comfortable for me.
This podcast is going to be a mix of solo episodes like this one, but I’m also going to be interviewing individuals, like Balbina Knight, who will be on episode two, and I’m going to help unpack some of their stories, some of their tips to be able to grow a great career and lessons that they’ve learned. And I’m excited to be doing this because I am going to be sharing things that mean something to me. And I recognize that the reason I didn’t push forward with my last podcast was because I wasn’t fully committed to the topic. But if you are connected with me on social media, or if you know me personally, you know that the topics that I’m about to describe in this episode, and ones to follow, are very genuine. These are the reasons why I have a career and why I very much enjoy it.
So let me start by describing what’s going on in my career. And I share this with you because it’ll make sense why I’m moving forward in this direction. Perhaps there are certain things I will share with you that will resonate and have you subscribe to the podcast. And it really started in 2018. 2016 is when I started a hospitality company with my business partners and built some really cool businesses within the hospitality industry here in Toronto, and we were celebrated as a group. We grew really quickly, we had a great customer experience, and our customers and the city of Toronto really loved the businesses that we’re building.
At the time, I had also written a bestselling book, I was keynote speaking all over the world, and if I had continued down this path, I would have quite comfortably made half a million dollars a year. And on the surface, you would have thought that “He must be really happy. Customers really like his businesses, people are paying him great money to speak, his book is selling.” But I wasn’t fulfilled. There was something eating at me that was telling me there’s got to be something else.
I played that quote for you at the beginning of this podcast because my risk tolerance is very high. Now that might be the same for you, or maybe you have a lower risk tolerance. I just happen to have a higher risk tolerance because when I know that I want to do something, I become fixated on it, and I must clear the forest, if you will, and go after that one thing.
Toward the middle of 2018, I recognized that I needed change in my career, and I didn’t know what that was. And I was doing some kind of discovery and asked myself, “Well, what will be the next thing?” And in no particular order, because it’s actually hard for me to remember how this all came about moment by moment, I knew that I wanted to be in the B2C space of serving customers. I wanted a customer facing brand, or consumer facing brand. I knew that part of the reason of why I became disengaged, looking for change in my partnership in hospitality, was because I wasn’t challenged.
We had figured out some hard things that needed to be solved, and I felt like it was kind of rinse and repeat. So I knew that I, whatever I’m going to do next, I need to make sure that it is going to be challenging year over year. I can’t just rinse and repeat. At the time I was working with a nutritionist. And one of the places that he said was meal plan friendly was Chipotle, if I customized the bowl in a certain way. So I was going there quite often, and I liked the business side, and I liked the product. So I started thinking about fast casual restaurants before I was in the full service restaurant. So fast casual restaurants are ones where you just kind of grab and go, and even if you do sit down, it’s probably for no more than 20 minutes, just like Chipotle.
I saw the industry in food changing. This was before the pandemic. I felt like fast casual was the place to be in, and then the pandemic just proved that because the industry is growing remarkably. As I was continuing to eat Chipotle, and I think it was about three or four times a week, I believe… being Peruvian, I knew that Peruvian food was just as good, maybe even better, than Mexican food. If you know food well, you know that Peruvian food is fantastic. I’m Canadian-Peruvian. I don’t believe that Peruvian food has properly been marketed for scale in North America, which is why you probably haven’t had it.
So the idea came to me, I said, “What about a fast casual, Peruvian restaurant?” From there, I started thinking about, “Okay, but why?” Well, I want to build a company that will have tens of thousands of employees and be global, because scaling seems hard, and hard things keep me engaged. But then I started thinking about my family. My parents were both born in Peru and they immigrated to Canada in the seventies. My sister was born in Edmonton in 1981, I was born in Edmonton in 1985, and we had humble beginnings, sounds cliche, but we did.
I remember growing up in North Vancouver, the four of us lived in a duplex that was maybe a thousand square feet, one bathroom. How my parents managed to pay for hockey, an expensive sport, is beyond me. I would not say that we were poor because I always had food and I played hockey, but going to an elementary school that was in West Vancouver, where there was a lot of affluence, I went to school with kids that came from families that had more means. And I remember being bullied, teased, whatever you want to call it, for being Peruvian.
Now they wouldn’t specifically say, “Hey, you’re from Peru, that’s funny, that’s weird,” but it was just, being a child of immigrants where we spoke another language, the food I would bring for lunch was different. It wasn’t the ham and cheese sandwich that the other kids had, I had food that was different. It looked different, it smelled different. I had a different name and that made me ashamed to be Peruvian because it seemed to make my life more difficult. I remember telling my parents that I didn’t want them to speak to me in Spanish because all of the other kids spoke English and I want to speak English. So, I think my parents regret this, but they obliged. And that’s part of the reason why I can’t speak Spanish as fluently as I wish. A big regret that I have.
Growing up at 2030 Sandown Place in North Vancouver in this duplex I told you about, I would remember being driven home by a classmate’s parents, and across the street from 2030 Sandown Place was a home where a family named the Hughes lived. It was a detached, nice house with a front yard and a backyard, and it was multiple stories. It was just a much nicer house. And, being shy of not having nice things, I would have these classmates parents drop me off across the street outside the Hughes’ home, and I would pretend to slowly walk up to the front door like I was about to enter, but once my classmate’s parents would drive off, I would just cross the street and actually go to my other house, well, my real house. I remember asking my parents why we didn’t have a big house like the other kids, and just being really confused as a kid, and embarrassed.
Going back to Brasa Peruvian Kitchen, the fast casual company I’m about to start, and I’m extraordinarily confident that it will be the last company that I build, because I’m going to give it my all and I want to be the CEO for decades, I’m doing this because of my family as well. I’ve been on some podcasts recently and I’ve told the podcast hosts that this isn’t business for me, this is very personal.
And this is where the story gets very personal, and I hope my father is okay with me sharing this, but my dad always wanted to open a Peruvian restaurant in Canada, but he hasn’t been able to. He’s still alive and I love him very much, but I’m wanting to build the company he always wanted to build. And in the 10th grade, I remember, after my dad had to file for bankruptcy because he owned a restaurant, a full service restaurant in Vancouver, and I don’t know the finer details, I’ve actually never asked, but he got screwed over where he ultimately, by people who he thought were his friends, and he ultimately had to file for bankruptcy, which made our family… they put our family in a difficult position.
I wouldn’t suggest that it was so difficult that my parents almost divorced because of it. I guess my mom is just an angel on earth and the strongest woman I know, but it made things very difficult. And I remember being in the 10th grade, standing at the top of the stairs of my parents’ home at the time, which actually is still my family home, and seeing my dad crying and yelling, “There’s no fucking money in this house!”
I can’t remember if he collapsed to the floor, just anguish, but I remember my mom helping him saying, “We’ll figure this out.” At the time, it didn’t register with me what my dad must’ve been feeling, but I’m old enough now, and while I don’t have kids, I do have other, I have responsibilities, and to think of what my dad was feeling at the time, maybe emptiness, maybe embarrassment, shame. Maybe he realized that, “I’m not building a life or career that I had dreamed of building when I was younger.” I don’t know, I can’t speak for him, but that is part of what’s driving me to leave a life of earning half a million dollars a year to do something else. That is extraordinarily high-risk, but I know that it’s the thing that I’m supposed to be doing in my career.
And that is a little bit about me. My father always told me, pardon me, he told me one time, he said, “Whatever business you ever get into, please don’t ever let it be the casino business, because that is a poor business that robs people and feeds peoples’ addiction, and that is not a good business to be in.” If you are winning when other people are losing, when they can’t feed their families or they can’t maybe feed themselves at times…
And my dad is the most generous person you’ll ever meet, along with my mother as well, and that’s where I get my generosity from, and maybe I’m the person that coined the term “People-First Culture” and wrote a book about it, but when I think about who I am as a person, there’s absolutely solid lines that are drawn right back to my mom and my father, so if I’ve ever worked with you and you felt like this person cares about me, if I’ve ever delivered a speech at your conference and felt like, wow, he really gave it his all, and we benefited from that because I was focused on the customer, that’s all the DNA that I’ve gotten from my mother and my father. And this next business, sure, I will be doing the building and the heavy lifting, but my parents will have a part of this because, ultimately, they are the people who raised me.
And that’s why I have this podcast, because I want to share the things that I’ve learned throughout my career, how I went from working in a call center to hopefully one day building a billion dollar company, and everything that has been accomplished in between. Because I want to share lessons that I’ve learned that I wish that I had access to when I was 21, 22 years old, trying to build my career. Because when you are in a position that I am in right now, it is our responsibility and our duty to grow that next generation of leaders.
And I actually am disgusted when I hear people say, “I don’t have the time to let people pick my brain because I’m too busy.” And I’m paraphrasing, but I’ve seen the influencers say this, and that’s just not me. I love when people reach out to me and say, “Hey, can I ask you a question?” Of course you can. Maybe I’m not going to be able to respond right away, maybe my response is two sentences because I’m busy, right? But it’s flattering that anybody cares to listen to my podcast. If you subscribe to this podcast, thank you, that’s flattering to me. But whether I have one subscriber or a million subscribers, it’s irrelevant to me. I don’t intend on obsessing over how many subscribers I have, because it’s much better for me to record a podcast sharing this information than just letting it live in my head, because that does nothing for anybody.
That is episode one. You’ve learned a little bit about me, you know why I’m recording this podcast, you know why I’m interviewing people like Balbina Knight, learn how they grew a great career and started earning some more money. If you’re interested in learning more, hit the ‘subscribe’ button so that you can be alerted when I record the next podcast.
I know it’s early, but if you liked this episode, please write a review, that helps as well, bring some more attention to the podcast as maybe other people may want to listen as well. I am @Michel Falcon, M-I-C-H-E-L, Falcon like the bird, online. My parents blessed and cursed me with this name, they blessed me because I’m easy to find, they curse me because people call me Michael at least three times a day.
Everyone, thank you so much for listing. Episode two, you’re going to love it, Balbina is a great person, she has developed an amazing career, she is so kind. So hit the ‘subscribe’ button so you know when episode two comes out. Thank you.
If you made it this far, thank you. Please consider leaving a rating and review for my podcast.