Javid Javdani is an American success story. Currently a professional pharmacist, small business owner, and entrepreneur based in San Diego, California, Javid worked hard to forge a life for himself after he escaped from Iran in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. Attempting to make the best of the situation, Javid moved to the United States as a teenager in 1982 to seek out new opportunities. Throughout high school, he took on various jobs to support himself and save for his post-secondary education. By working at a car wash, a gas station, and a few restaurants, he learned valuable lessons about hard work and self-reliance, as well as one or two things about how to run a business. Javid Javdani went on to earn a degree in chemistry from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, then a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific. He became a licensed pharmacist in 1994.
Upon entering the professional world, Javid found work as a pharmacist rewarding, but he also nursed a burning desire to create his own enterprise. After a few years working at a hospital pharmacy, he learned that a small grocery store was up for sale in his neighbourhood, whereupon he decided to embrace his entrepreneurial spirit and buy the business. Success came quickly as Javid revamped the shop to appeal to many of the local ethnic communities by stocking a wide variety of international products previously unavailable in the neighbourhood. In the years since, Javid Javdani has expanded his holdings to include a restaurant and catering business. He now works only a few days each week as a pharmacist, dedicating the remainder of his time to operating his other businesses.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I was already a pharmacist when I decided to try my hand at running a small business. To be honest, I just happened to drop by my local grocery store to pick up a few items one night when I learned the owners were putting it up for sale. I was immediately struck by a bolt of inspiration—why not buy the place? So, that’s what I did. It wasn’t quite what you’d call an ‘impulse purchase’, but it was pretty close. I thought about it for a few days and consulted with my family before putting in an offer. Luckily, it was accepted. After that, I never looked back.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
There aren’t too many commonalities between being a pharmacist and running a grocery store, restaurant, and catering company, but one big one is that I get to interact with a wide variety of people from a very diverse set of circumstances. My neighbourhood in San Diego is populated with folks who hail from virtually every corner of the planet, and they all need medicine and food. I love meeting and talking to them. I love making their lives better. As a pharmacist, I do that by dispensing them the medicine they need to survive and make their lives manageable. As a grocer, caterer, and restaurateur, I do that by providing them with nourishment and playing host to the special moments in their lives. Countless couples have gotten engaged in our restaurant over dinner, and our catering company is often retained to cook feasts for anniversaries, birthday parties, graduations, and holidays.
What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?
With regards to the pharmaceutical industry, I would tell them to study as hard as you possibly can. It’s a tremendous responsibility dispensing medication to people. You hold their health—and many times, their very lives—in your hands. So, with that in mind, don’t coast through school. Learn everything you’re able to, even if it’s not on an exam. And stay on top of new developments in the industry.
With regards to running a small business, I would tell them to, if possible, retain the services of a trustworthy accountant, bookkeeper, and lawyer. The services these professionals provide will more than pay for themselves as the years pass. I realize that a large percentage of small businesses probably won’t have the budget for this kind of thing in the first few years of operations, but once it’s a viable option, it should be done right away. It will prevent a lot of headaches and save a lot of money.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned managing your business?
I’ve learned that it’s never bad business to be nice to people. That is to say, be civil and respectful to everyone. Engage them in affable conversation. Wave to people. Smile. Ask them about their families and friends. Share a joke. Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do and that it will enrich your life as well as theirs, it also makes sense from a marketing standpoint. If people form an emotional attachment to you, they’re far more likely to become loyal customers and tell others to patronize the business. What I don’t mean by saying “be nice to people” is to let people take advantage of you, financially or otherwise. That’s an entirely different matter altogether.
How have your businesses grown from their early days to now?
When I bought the grocery store, it only catered to the local Persian population. Because of its location—it’s smack dab in the middle of a slew of neighborhoods that include many ethnicities—I realized pretty quickly that we were missing out on some surefire business by not carrying certain specialty items. So, my first big decision was to stock foods from Eastern Europe, Russia, Korea, China, and Mexico, too. That widened our customer base significantly. Soon after that, all the increased business and food traffic prompted me to expand the square footage of the store. Since then, I’ve opened my restaurant and my catering company. In retrospect, my businesses have grown a lot more than I anticipated.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Earning my Doctor of Pharmacy was a big deal for me. It ushered in my professional life. I remember walking up and accepting that diploma all decked out in fancy academic robes. That was one of my happiest moments, for sure. But right up there with it was the day we re-opened the grocery store under my ownership. We spent weeks and months preparing for that. That first morning when I flipped the ‘closed’ sign on the interior of the front door over to ‘open’ was so exciting. It gave me a special feeling.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I kind of learned how to manage a small business on the fly. I have no formal training in that respect. So, I think I made some amateur errors, especially in the early days of the grocery store. My procedure for taking inventory, ordering supplies, and keeping track of everything was pretty sloppy until at least my second year as an owner. In order to overcome that, I sought out guidance from some more experienced shop owners, and they set me straight.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
“Say what you mean, and do what you say.” A wise family member told me that one day when I was fairly young—though not so young as to not understand how important a statement it was. I have tried to abide by that advice every day since I first heard it. To me, it’s among the best ways to make sure that your words and deeds are honest and honorable.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
I would wholeheartedly endorse the statement I used for the answer above: “Say what you mean, and do what you say.” In the business world, there is nothing quite so valuable as knowing you can trust someone’s word. As a peripheral benefit, if you consistently practice that wise piece of advice, you will inevitably cultivate a good reputation amongst the people you deal with, which is useful when asking for customer loyalty, employee loyalty, credit, or favors of any kind, really.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I have long-term plans for expansion and diversification. In 5 years, I hope to have a few more locations for the restaurant, and maybe to go regional with it. I’ve been thinking about increasing the square footage on the grocery store again, too. I’ll probably put another addition on it so we can carry more products and serve more customers at a time. I might eventually phase myself out of my role as a pharmacist, but in all likelihood, I’ll still be practicing in 5 years. I like it too much.
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