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Entrepreneur Will Peterson of Otter’s Chicken

Posted by Ne[x]t on 07.04.14

“If the Colonel had our chicken, he’d be a General by now.” That’s the slogan at one of Cobb County’s recently named Top 25 Small Businesses, Otter’s Chicken. If you’ve ever been in Marietta, Georgia and driven by Otter’s Chicken at The West Cobb Avenue without stopping, you’ve been missing out on some great food.

Otter’s, as it’s called by the locals, is a family-friendly, sports-themed restaurant specializing in freshly prepared (not frozen) chicken tenders served in a variety of ways. Owner Will Peterson, a Cobb County native, recently sat down with us to chat about Otter’s, how he got started in the restaurant business and his overall entrepreneurial spirit.

i[x]: Tell us a little about yourself

WP: I grew up in Marietta where I attended McEachern High School. I went on to college at Shorter University in Rome, GA, where I obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

i[x] When and where was the Otter’s franchise founded?

WP: Otter’s Chicken was founded in Nashville, Tennessee by Talbott and Stuart Ottinger, Steve Logan and Charlie Fitzgerald. The first Otter’s restaurant opened in 2003, and ultimately, the concept was expanded to include locations in three states. Peterson Foods opened its first restaurant in June of 2010.

i[x] How and when did you come to own Otter’s?

WP: I was looking at several different chicken concepts and got a recommendation from Rob Shuler (Former Auburn Football player who blocked for Bo Jackson) to come check out the Otter’s concept in Nashville. Based on that recommendation I drove up to Nashville the next day and as soon as I tried the food, I knew Rob had picked a winner.

i[x]: What decisions went into deciding to focus on chicken?

WP: The main reason that the Otter’s concept originally appealed to me was that it was a simple operation and that allowed an extreme focus on doing things right.

i[x]: What types of meals do you offer at Otter’s?

WP: We offer chicken tenders, chicken wings, chicken wraps, chicken sandwiches, chicken salads, buffalo chicken dip and fried pickles and mushrooms.

Additionally, everything on our menu can be ordered fried or grilled. We use 100% fresh never frozen, antibiotic and hormone free chicken and source all of our ingredients locally.

i[x]: Do you have any plans of expanding your menu?

WP: We have plans on adding a “Georgia’s Own” Chicken Sandwich. I can’t tell you anymore about it, but you can come to Otter’s and try it soon!

i[x]: In 2013, Peterson Foods purchased the Otter’s concept from the restaurant’s founding group and parent company. Tell us a little about that.

WP On June 11th of 2013, we finalized the purchase of the Otter’s Chicken Tenders Restaurant Concept from the restaurant’s founding group and parent company. This acquisition terminated our existing franchise agreement and gave us rights to Otter’s Trademarks and concept.

i[x]: What makes Otter’s unique from other local restaurants?

WP: In addition to great food and excellent service, we are very much a community-oriented business. We are very involved with the local schools and sports teams, and do whatever we can to give back to the community in which we do business. It’s my opinion that if you take care of your community, your community will also take care of you.

i[x]: Do you have any plans for more Otter’s restaurants?

WP: Absolutely. I plan to open another location at Kennesaw State in early 2015 and 8 additional stores in the following years.

i[x]: Can you talk a little about the work and time you put in as an owner of a restaurant?

WP: Owning any type of business take a lot of work and time. Fortunately for me however, I really do enjoy working in the restaurant business. The hours are long and the work is hard, but it is also extremely rewarding.

i[x]: What kind of advice do you have for someone starting his or her own business?

WP: Be prepared. It will become your life for a while. Everything you think and do will involve your business. There really isn’t any off time when it is yours. You need to know that the business you are starting is going to be something that you will enjoy doing.

i[x]: As the i[x] program focuses on smart money management, I’m sure that you have had to deal with your share of financial decisions. Is there anything you’ve learned from the restaurant business that carries over to your everyday finances?

WP: Nothing is more important than cash flow. You have to watch it meticulously. Make your inflow greater than your outflow. Sounds simple enough, but it is a challenge even for the Donald Trumps of the world.


Networking: Taking Steps to Becoming a Professional

Posted by Ne[x]t on 01.28.14

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a job in two years or today; networking (especially in the current competitive job market) is perhaps the most important asset to your employment search. Of course, with networking becoming widely known as the key component for professional success, everyone’s looking for an edge. There’s a good way and a tactless way to go about networking, and i[x] is here to help you distinguish between the two.

Start Early:
As with most everything in life, the easiest advantage to gain is the one obtained by starting ahead of everyone else. Summer internships, job fairs, your college’s career center, these all seem like things for upperclassmen, but they’re all useful networking tools that can be utilized before the last 12 months of your undergraduate tenure. Also, you can apply your social networking skills to LinkedIn, creating a professional online presence that will be very handy in keeping up with connections you make in person.

Be Prepared:
To show your professionalism, you need to be able to make a good impression quickly. A couple of tools that can help you are a business card and an elevator pitch. Business cards are a great way to provide your contact information in a tangible form, and are helpful for exchange purposes. Getting the other person’s business card is actually more important than giving out yours. If you have their contact information, you have the opportunity to reach out to them instead of hoping they’ll go out of their way to contact you. An elevator pitch is a brief (30 seconds or less) synopsis of your skills, accolades, and aspirations. Having a prepared elevator pitch allows you to present yourself positively and succinctly and shows you’re serious about the process.

Keep in Contact:
If you only contact people when you need something, they’ll categorize your emails, phone calls, etc. as unpleasant occurrences, leading to a negative professional relationship. Even though you’re (likely) younger and less experienced, you can still contribute by keeping your networking contacts informed about your recent significant accomplishments, and asking if they’ve had any updates in their professional lives. Creating a steady, symbiotic correspondence is key in creating a successful professional network.

Say Thank-You:
Seems simple and obvious, but makes a huge difference either way. Remembering to acknowledge and show gratitude leaves a polite, positive impression. Failure to do so may not offend or insult your contact, but it won’t help you stand out as a person worth going out of your way for. As renowned author Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Making your contacts feel appreciated can lead to good will that’ll benefit you down the road.

You never know what twists and turns your professional career path might take, and no contact is too small or insignificant to ignore. Be courteous and generous as you build your network and the ensuing relationships could be tremendously advantageous at some point down the road.


How to Write (Right!)

Posted by Ne[x]t on 09.30.13

The Harry Potter series, fantasy football advice columns, text messages, this article: there are few things in modern life as pervasive as the written word. Chances are, you may have to utilize the elusive craft of writing some time in the near future to further your academic or professional goals. Whether you’re constructing the foreboding college essay, an overwhelming term paper, or an imperative cover letter, i[x] is here to offer you tips from a variety of experts.

College Essay
Thought of by many to be a source of tremendous stress, the college application essay can actually be a fun, introspective exercise in personal analysis. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, it’s more important to avoid a “common” essay than a poor one. Writing to impress a stranger often leads to stale, overdone content. In order to create a unique, engaging piece, you need to find subject matter that is specific to your life’s experience. Have you overcome a significant obstacle in you life? Has your perspective evolved during your years as a high school student? Do you have a specific goal in mind that the college to which you’re applying can help you accomplish? Remember, the more unique and true the topic is to you personally, the more likely it is to stand out to an admissions officer.

According to the Professors’ Guide (professorsguide.com), another key component to a good essay is likability: “Colleges see themselves as communities, where people have to get along with others, in dorms, classes, etc. Are you someone they would like to have dinner with, hang out with, have in a discussion section?” This is not to say your essay has to be an exercise in sycophancy. Simply incorporate tact and civility into your prose.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, seek an editor, preferably a teacher, advisor, or counselor. Remember, even professional writers (journalists, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, etc.) have editors – either as their boss or as someone they pay to improve their work. So if people who write for a living receive second opinions, you probably should too.

Term Paper
Hopefully you’re reading this article in October rather than December, because CollegeOnline.org, Professors’ Guide, and AcademicTips.org all insist that the key to a good term paper is starting well ahead of the deadline. If you begin your work two months (as opposed to two weeks, or heaven forbid, two days) before the due date, you give yourself ample opportunity to gain advantages that would not be available had you waited until the last minute. For instance, you may know your topic well in advance, but only in a general way. After only a little research, you can easily come up with a thesis (an argument that encompasses your literature review, analysis, etc.) for your paper and present it to your professor (or at least your Teaching Assistant). Getting your thesis approved can keep you from wasting time on a paper doomed from its inception. Also, a solid thesis can narrow your subject material, helping you research more effectively and efficiently.

While this may seem old-fashioned, all the aforementioned websites recommend researching your topic in your school library. Anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection can post something online. Publishing companies are far more discriminant, subsequently anything you find in a book, anthology, newspaper or magazine is going to have a much higher standard of accuracy and an elevated degree of intelligence. Also, books cite other books, which yields lots of easy, diverse research as opposed to a search engine that results in ten webpages making the same simple point.

Finally, the burden of term papers typically is their length. In order to maintain an intelligible, succinct flow throughout the entirety of your work, it is important to both outline and proofread. Outlining helps you organize your approach to your paper beforehand, cutting down on off-tangent ramblings and clunky segues. Proofreading, in addition to catching typos, can also identify segments that are awkward, verbose or unnecessary. After doing your own proofreading, take advantage of your school’s writing center if they have one. Again, starting early will give you flexibility to get on the writing center’s schedule instead of being at the mercy of chance at the end of the semester when everyone is seeking help.

Cover Letter
You’ve worked for years to earn enough experience and accolades to compile a decent resume only to discover this: your resume is not enough. A huge component to getting hired at a position of any level is your cover letter- a short, but significant piece that both addresses your potential employer and sheds additional light on you as a potential employee.

The First thing you need to do is identify who your potential employer is. By using either the computer or the phone, find out who is the company’s human resources rep or hiring manager. Address your cover letter accordingly.

Additional research will need to be conducted so you can adequately speak to what aspects of the company appeal to you and how you could coincide with their goals and business approach.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin composing the actual text of the letter. Forbes recommends including the name of a mutual contact (if you have one) in the first sentence. This way you’re immediately distinguished from your competition by establishing a relationship with your potential employer.

Don’t repeat your resume. The HR rep/hiring manager you’re dealing with is a professional who gets paid to peruse cover letters and resumes. Don’t waste their time by being redundant. Instead, utilize information obtained in your research of the company as well as positive aspects about yourself that fit specifically to the position you’re applying for that aren’t explicitly enumerated in your resume.

Again, you’re trying to make yourself stand out amongst your competition, so be specific in your prose and avoid banal phrases (i.e. “My name is _____ and I’m applying for ____.”). Finally, save your cover letter (and resume) as either a “doc” or a “pdf” to avoid complications that can arise with other formats resulting in your submissions becoming compromised or unreadable.

Hopefully, with some hard work, several drafts, and these tips from i[x], no matter what you’re next writing project is, you’ll be proud of your final product. Good luck, and check out the i[x] blog (georgiasownnext.com/blog) for more helpful information regarding your academic and professional endeavors.


Finding the right career for you

Posted by Ne[x]t on 07.11.13

“What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up ?”

The all-important question, and the answer that seems to evolve as you get older. At first, you probably aspired to be something that corresponded with your favorite Halloween costume (i.e. pirate, princess, ninja, astronaut). After that, maybe it was something that you saw on television (movie star, professional athlete, pop singer).

But now you’re older, and maybe you’re uncertain of what you want to be. Or maybe you know what field interests you, but not which position you should focus on. Or maybe you know exactly what you want to be, and you just need a little help learning what to do to get there.

Well, no matter your situation, i[x] is here to help. What follows are some of the top entry-level jobs, professional careers, and economic growth trends in today’s rapidly changing economy. We’ll help get you pointed in the right direction.

According to Glassdoor.com (a job/career site), the six-figure jobs in highest demand include healthcare professionals (psychiatrist, physician, dentist, pharmacist), managerial positions (sales director, tax manager, product marketing manager) and engineering/computer science supervisors (engineering manager, IT manager, lead software engineer). Correspondingly, the most viable college majors according to PayScale.com and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics fall under engineering (biomedical, software, environmental, civil, and petroleum), science (biochemistry, physics, and geology), math (statistics and applied mathematics), management information systems, and computer science.

But if none of those careers or majors interests you, don’t worry. Other health care professionals were ranked in Forbes’ Top 10 entry-level jobs, including registered nurse, occupational therapist, and physical therapist. If commerce is more your cup of tea, financial and business analysts also fell into the “best entry-level position” list, along with sales representative.

Still haven’t garnered your interest? No problem! Careercast.com, taking into account both median salary and projected growth, has compiled a list of the best jobs for 2013 and beyond. Jobs including actuary (someone who works for a business determining potential risks and gains), optometrist, audiologist, and dental hygienist all boast impressive salaries and will have great opportunities for new, young professionals for years to come.

There’s nothing wrong with doing a job you love. If you have a passion, you should pursue it, especially while you’re young and don’t have the financial responsibilities of an older adult (mortgages, car payments, tuition, etc.). But if you’re looking for a job just to make some money, Careercast.com has determined some of the least financially rewarding jobs with the least projected growth. These occupations include high-risk physical laborer (lumberjack, oil rig worker, roofer), reporter (newspaper and broadcast) as well as actor and flight attendant.

Finally, if you’re looking for a great job that doesn’t require a four-year college degree, Careercast.com has that covered too. Skilled laborers (electrician, plumber, glazier, repairman, telecommunications mechanic), assistants (executive and legal), and web developers all have promising growth potential and healthy pay.

Regardless of your career aspirations, there are numerous paths to success. If you stay informed, keep diligent, and maintain focus, there’s no telling how far you can go.







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