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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: This entrepreneur's success is a matter of priorities

By MIKE COTE
October 20. 2018 8:16PM
Eric Goodwin's stable of companies includes Goodwin Recruiting, 360 Intel and The Friendly Toast restaurant group. (COURTESY)



Cash is often more prince than king.

Money is third on the list of priorities for most workers, Eric Goodwin says. First, employees want to be engaged and appreciated. And they want to feel they are contributing to a company's overall mission.

Nearly 20 years ago, Goodwin founded his Concord-based recruiting company for yet another priority: his children. Most of the time he had spent with his father growing up had been in a restaurant kitchen.

"I started Goodwin Recruiting, being sort of a restaurant brat growing up, really for the sole purpose of just being a great dad," Goodwin said Thursday at the kickoff meeting of the Association for Corporate Development.

Goodwin wanted to be the father who coached all the sports, chaperoned all the field trips, made lunches for his kids to bring to school - the kind of life a restaurant schedule makes difficult to manage.

"That was like my No. 1 thing. I had no financial aspirations whatsoever," said Goodwin, who had been working as a regional manager for Chili's at the time.

Goodwin figured if he could make $35,000 a year on his new venture, he would be happy.

"I ended up making more than that, and I could do it in half the time. It was a great thing for me," Goodwin told about 60 business people gathered at Fratello's Italian Grille in Manchester.

These days, Goodwin is best known locally for The Friendly Toast. He and a business partner bought two of the breakfast-themed restaurants and have grown the company into a regional New England chain that is scheduled to open its sixth location early next year at Bedford's Market and Main development. Goodwin is about to open another restaurant, Lure Bar and Kitchen, in Portsmouth.

The company Goodwin founded in 1999, however, remains the most profitable in his stable. Goodwin Recruiting employs more than 100 people nationwide, working in every state. The company initially specialized in the hospitality industry, but over the years expanded into executive recruitment, finance and accounting, manufacturing and engineering and health care.

Along the way, Goodwin founded a mystery shopping/customer experience service - initially to help attract clients to the recruiting business. It recently was rebranded as 360 Intel, a company now managed and co-owned by his son, Tyler.

"We're doing well over 5,000 shops a month in every state and different countries," Goodwin said.

Not bad for a side venture Goodwin didn't envision becoming a big revenue generator. He also is an investor in NOBL Coffee, an Exeter-based maker of cold-brew coffee equipment founded by Connor Roelke in 2015 when he was a student at the University of New Hampshire.

"I get to coach and mentor and help - mostly sign and guarantee loans," Goodwin said, prompting laughs from the audience.

With more than 400 workers employed at his companies and restaurants, Goodwin says he has a fiduciary responsibility now to have financial aspirations. He likes to surround himself with people who are competitive, hard-working and driven to succeed.

Goodwin focuses on his leadership team and is trying to position himself as a visionary rather than trying to control every aspect of the businesses - something he acknowledges is difficult for an entrepreneur.

"You've got to know your team. You've got to connect with them, especially in what I call a zero unemployment environment," Goodwin said. "You've got to be the best employer. You have to do everything you can to engage your team."

"Everything" for Goodwin means showing his workers he's paying attention. While talking with a customer service rep at 360 Intel about New Hampshire author Dan Brown, the employee mentioned how he would love to read a hardcover book but could not afford them. So Goodwin had someone send him all of Brown's books.

"A little thing like that goes a long way," Goodwin said.

Next up at ACD: private equity

The Association for Corporate Development (acdnh.org) is a member-based nonprofit for business leaders and professional advisers. ACD hosts five regular dinner meetings per year. Stuart Matthews of private equity firm Metapoint Partners will address the group at its next meeting, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 13 at Fratello's Italian Grille, 155 Dow St., Manchester.

Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or mcote@unionleader.com.


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