Working at a place such as Jamba Juice, the health-conscious juice, smoothie, and meal retailer, is a rite of passage for the countless teenagers who make it a great high school job. Not many pursue it as a career, though, as Mike Reed did. He turned that high school job into his life’s work, and now, as director of facilities management and construction for Vitaligent, a holding company that owns Jamba Juice stores across the country, Reed has gone from blending smoothies to building, maintaining, and remodeling the company’s 100 or so outlets.
Reed was born in Los Angeles but grew up in the East Bay area of northern California. He started working at a Jamba Juice as a teen. “It was just a typical high school job,” he says. He left to go to college to study psychology at San Diego State University. Then, when he needed a job while in college, he joined a store in San Diego. He worked there through college and decided that maybe this was the place to launch a career. “Jamba Juice had that positive, upbeat vibe,” he says. “It was about healthy living, about the customers, and every day was fun.”
He wanted to be more than just a team member. “I thought I wanted to do something with this, so I pressed to be shift manager and then an assistant manager,” he says. “By that point, I wanted to make sure I would be GM one day.” As an assistant GM, he opened a new store with his boss—and met his current girlfriend there. When his boss quit, he was promoted to fill the position. “I went from team member to general manager in four and a half years,” he says.
His store became a training store for incoming GMs and district managers. Reed was also selected to train and transition a handful of franchise locations back to company-owned stores. While leading these trainings, he continued to run a busy store. “Building my team made it fun to come to work,” he says. “We set a company record for the longest-tenured staff. With an average employee age of about 19, that was not easy to do. We also won nine awards for operational excellence. We were a solid, successful store.”
In 2012, he was promoted to regional facilities manager. “I always repaired things myself in my store and had an excellent understanding of the equipment,” he says. “When I saw that our facilities manager had left the company, I gunned hard for that job.” His territory covered 150 stores throughout southern California. But, unfortunately, after just two and a half years, Jamba Juice moved to a predominantly franchise-based business model. Reed helped prepare stores to sell to franchisees, and once the territory was gone toward the end of 2015, he was laid off. “There were no bitter feelings,” he says. “They gave me a generous severance package, and it was all on very good terms.”
They had even given him the opportunity to go back into managing a store. “I thought it was very generous to offer that,” he says, but he decided to stay in the field but look for another opportunity.
He became a project manager for a local construction company in San Diego. But, six months later, he got a call from Vitaligent, the largest Jamba Juice franchisee. “My old boss’s boss called me and said, ‘What would it take to get you over here to do facilities?’” Reed says. “I hopped right over. That was an easy call. I loved facilities management.”
In his current role, he manages all repair and maintenance work for about 100 stores. “I manage and dispatch all our repair and maintenance crews,” he says, adding that bringing the crews in-house was his doing. “We used to use all third-party vendors, so to save money and be more productive, I put together a team of in-house technicians certified in HVAC, plumbing, electrical—you name it, they do it. We handle about 90 percent of our calls in-house now.” Instead of paying extra to an outside company that needs to cover its own overhead, insurance, and trucks, he now runs a “much cheaper, more efficient crew that provides better service because they are part of the company and invested in it,” he says.
He also manages new construction and store remodeling. In the past two years, he has overseen the construction of the first two drive-through Jamba Juice stores in California. “We don’t have a lot of experience with drive-throughs, so it was interesting,” he says. “The business model shows big returns, a big boost in sales with drive-throughs. But you have to have the space to build one, and it is rare to lock one down. The bigger players in fast food seem to get first dibs, so when the opportunity arises, we strike.”
Reed manages his crew a lot like he did his team when he was a store manager at Jamba Juice. “I am very close with my guys,” he says. “I am not a dictator, but I manage very closely. I make sure there is consistent, effective communication between the group and pretty much give them whatever they need to be successful. But work-life balance is important, too. These guys work their tails off, so I push them to focus on family time whenever possible. They deserve it.”