Photo Credit: MacKenzie Coffman/Assistant Photo editor
Episode 20: T.K. Pillan
T.K. Pillan is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Veggie Grill, the leading 100% plant-based restaurant company in the U.S. Since founding Veggie Grill in 2006, T.K. has been on a mission to help people advance their conscious food journey in an approachable and attainable manner.
T.K. concluded that one of the most impactful ways to create a better future was to change consumer habits around food. Today, under T.K.’s leadership, Veggie Grill has grown to 39 locations across California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington.
Veggie Grill has been credited with creating some of the most iconic plant-based dishes such as the Rueben on Rye and the Santa Fe Chickn’ sandwiches.
T.K. is also the Co-Founder and Partner at Powerplant Ventures (PPV), a venture capital fund that supports visionary entrepreneurs with world-changing, plant-centric companies delivering better nutrition in more sustainable and ethical ways. PPV investments include Beyond Meat, Thrive Market, Ripple Foods, REBBL, Beanfields and Vive Organics.
Prior to T.K.’s work as a food entrepreneur, he Co-Founded Guidance Solutions, one of L.A.’s first e-commerce development firms that was consistently named one of the fastest growing technology companies between 1999 and 2001. He earned an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from UCLA.
WHAT YOU'LL DISCOVER IN THIS EPISODE:
● The single consistent action that helped T.K. go from someone with no food and beverage business or being a vegan, to founding the largest vegan restaurant chain in the country. (39 restaurants and counting!)
● Why it’s paramount to get control of your employee turnover.
● The key leadership lesson he learned from surviving the 90’s dot com bubble.
● The insecurity he experienced as a child that ended up fueling his success.
● How a few awkward visits to an Ashram as a kid helped shape his career.
● How to use meditation as a success strategy in athletics and business.
● The hard lesson he learned as a fraternity president and multi-sport athlete at MIT.
● Advice for people who realize they may have taken a wrong turn in their career.
● The single mental exercise T.K. does when contemplating if he should take a risk.
● The big health benefits T.K. experienced 30 days after becoming a vegetarian… ABS, lower cholesterol, and improved athletic performance.
● What T.K. sees as his legacy.
● Why self-awareness is the one trait he’d instill in every employee, and what the impact would look like if everyone had it.
● Why he’s shifted back to reading physical books instead of the e-reader.
● T.K.’s handy workout tool that helps him stay in shape at home, office, and the road.
Two reasons for firing people quickly:
1. Sometimes the business landscape has changed where you just need to cut your costs.
2. When you determine someone is not a fit, you have to move on.
What benefits T.K. noticed when he switched to plant-based diet:
● Lost 5-10 pounds within 2 weeks.
● Cholesterol levels down from over 200 to under 140 after 3 months.
“As you get older, diet matters even more.”
“The more success we have, the more impact we create.”
Built to Last, Jim Collins
Good to Great, Jim Collins