Neil Pathak (BSBA ’18) grew up around the family business – they own 12 Bojangles’ franchises in Charlotte and South Carolina – and was ready to join it after high school, but his parents urged him to go to college first.
Soon after starting at UNC, Pathak got actively involved with the Family Enterprise Center and Family Business Club. Through his UNC Kenan-Flagler courses, Pathak found many opportunities and learned about potential career paths, which sparked new interests and led him to intern for a professional services firm in the summer of 2017. During his senior year, he decided his passion was to return to work for his family’s business in Charlotte.
Pathak returned to Chapel Hill to share his experiences with the Family Business Club.
Weigh the costs and benefits of going somewhere else first. Pathak considered working outside of the family business before returning, but he believed that he could have more of an impact sooner in his family’s business. He could take one to two years to learn the operations of a different business, or he could put that same energy into learning more about Bojangles’.
Find something besides the business to enjoy with your family. Pathak and his father both love to work and they both love their company, but it can get tiresome for the rest of the family if business conversations dominate family gatherings. They are interested in luxury watches and cars, so they often focus their conversation on one of these other passions when they spend time together outside the office.
Earn the respect of the people you work with every day. Pathak has known some of the employees at his family’s Bojangles’ for most of his life. Early on, he decided he would not ask an employee to do something he was not willing to do himself. He even spent time perfecting the art of biscuit-making. This servant leadership approach, modeled by his father, has contributed to long-term commitment by their employees in an industry with very high turnover. Pathak tries to provide value without asking anything in return. It is not always glamorous, especially in the fast food industry, but he finds it worthwhile.
Take advantage of all UNC resources, especially opportunities to connect with peers. Pathak challenged students to take time getting to know their classmates. “Never again will you be around so many driven and intelligent people who hate Duke!” he laughed. He also mentioned classes and great professors, and encouraged students to get to know professors even if they could not fit the class into their schedules.