Beto Guajardo

Hungry for Connection?: President of Focus Brands International (Cinnabon, Carvel, Auntie Annies!) Beto Guajardo, Shares his Secret Sauce for Successful Business During Covid and Beyond

On the first episode of Season Three of Left to Our Own Devices, Erica welcomes Beto Guajardo, President of Atlanta-based Focus Brands International, a leading developer of some of the most iconic and beloved brands in the foodservice industry—including Schlotzky’s, Cinnabon, Carvel, and Auntie Anne’s, among others. Long time friends from Kellogg Business School, Erica and Beto discuss what it was like for Beto to move into a new role in the middle of a pandemic, the long game to building up emotional capital with one’s team, and the company’s daily Covid contingency meeting—a ritual that sprung up virtually overnight when the world shut down last March. As the Hybrid work model approaches, Beto recognizes that while he and a handful of other leaders have been spending time working from the office, he understands that, as of right now, returning to the office is a personal choice that individuals have to make based on what’s best for themselves and their families. If there’s one thread that has weaved throughout Beto’s accomplished career, it’s his focus on connecting with people genuinely and authentically, which can be most clearly seen in his retelling of his final day as Head of Global Strategy at Starbucks. This season opener is a masterclass in connected leadership.


5:42 – On the daily Covid contingency meeting: “That call every single morning really created a sense of purpose and being and belonging. And what’s really interesting about it—I can say with complete clarity—we became a better team because of the pandemic. We became a stronger and closer team because of the pandemic. And what drove us to get there was something that no one ever saw coming. And that was, we’ve got to change the way we work together. We’ve got to be together every single day if we’re going to move with the agility that we need to in order to help our business franchisees overcome the challenges they have out there in the field.”

18:17 – “As a leader in transition, the advice that I would give to another who might be going through the same thing is how important it is to take the the time to just talk about and listen to one another, not with regard to what’s happening in the business, but what’s happening in your life, right? How are you feeling; how is your family? How have you been dealing with this difficult time of isolation, given the pandemic? Let’s get to the point where, even if it is over a Zoom call, we can genuinely look each other in the eyes and say with compassion, ‘I care about you and want to know how you’re doing.’”

20:00 – On why he wants the camera on during meetings: “I shared with the team, ‘Hey it’s really important that I can see you, because I want to know who you are, and I want to know that you’re okay.’ And I think as a leader, it’s important that you set those expectations that connectedness matters to you. It really matters. You have to go out of your way to make sure that you are modeling and requesting that the right behaviors are in place in order for that connectedness to grow.”

29:21 – On the true measure of success: “The measure of success for the team is that we all recognize that there will be an end. That someday you’ll walk away, for whatever reason—new opportunity, personal reasons. And only then will you be able to look back on our time together, and if you can say that, ‘I grew as a person, and I grew as a professional, and I am better off today than what I was before I began this journey with you as an individual,’ then we were successful together.”


Focus Brands website