Before the blazing Texas sun even thinks about alighting the sky, Mark Moore is wide awake. The CEO of Entertainment Properties Group (EPG) typically wakes up around 5 a.m., his mind already on business. He scrolls through the 50 or 60 emails that are usually waiting for him, highlights the ones that need a follow-up, then heads to the gym. After that, it’s time to head to the office.
“It’s not what you might think of when you hear ‘C-suite,’” Moore explains. And the setting is a far cry from his hustle-and-bustle days as a banker. Instead of a formal environment brimming with suits, sales and the aura of “always be closing,” the EPG corporate office–about 10 people in total–is, like their business, pretty laid-back. The CEO himself usually wears a Texas A&M hoodie, tennis shoes and a baseball cap.
“That’s what I’m wearing right now, actually,” he says with a chuckle.
In other words, when you’re in the business of having a good time, a tie is definitely optional.
Moore’s company operates Pinstack, the popular bowling destination that now has four alleys (and a fifth on the way) spread throughout Texas. Of course, those locales also offer games, laser tag, bumper cars and an assortment of other attractions. As CEO, Moore oversees all of it. Make no mistake: His job still involves dealing with insurance, real estate, legal and all the logistics that come with being the top boss. But most days are pretty fun.
“My friends always ask, ‘Do you like this more than banking?’” Moore says. “And my response is always, ‘I get to play video games and eat pizza and pick what wines we’re going to serve. So, yeah, I do.”
Neil Farren, the owner of Frisco's Strikz, is also enjoying the business of entertainment. Before he opened the family-operated bowling alley, Farren worked in sales for the Brunswick Corporation, a manufacturer whose long line of products includes bowling balls.
With six children at home, he was eager to end his days of constant travel. So, when an opportunity arose to open Strikz, he jumped at it. After all, he was pretty accustomed to life in a bowling alley: As a teenager, Farren, the son of a bowling mechanic, worked with his father behind the scenes. The chaos, clamor and collision of plastic balls meeting wooden pins practically scored his childhood. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he is ready for the PBA tour.
“I’ve bowled in one league in my life,” he says. “I think people would make fun of how bad I am.”
However, no one would make fun of his business acumen. Like Moore, Farren has navigated his company through the throes of an ongoing pandemic. In early 2022, as he shared his story and perspective with Local Profile, Farren was still making decisions tied to COVID-19 safety. At this point, it had become his usual routine, another checkbox to mark off on the ever-growing “To Do” list of a business leader.
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“It’s been a lot of sleepless nights and question marks,” he says. “Luckily, my lender has been easy to work with.”
This statement, as pedestrian as it may seem, is Farren to a tee. He is, above all else, a humble guy, quick to give credit where credit is due. Usually, he is giving credit to his kids, each of whom worked for Farren when they were younger.
At the time, it was a necessary arrangement: Farren wanted his kids to have jobs, and in turn, the kids got some nice walking-around money. Yet in hindsight, that time spent together in the business of entertainment–working the long shifts, managing the parties, keeping the guests happy–are some of his favorite memories.
“I think it built them to understand what work is about,” he says. “I probably didn’t think about it as much then, but I do now. Hindsight is interesting. At that point, I was just trying to build the business, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. It was a great time.”
Fortunately, Farren’s kids were there for him.
“We had no corporate event in December 2020, and Decembers are usually packed. But the first weekend of the New Year, someone called in sick, and business was popping.”
So, Farren turned to three of his favorite former employees.
“I texted three of my kids, and all three showed up,” he says. “They brought their uniforms, too. If people knew, they might’ve gotten a kick out of a CPA working the floor.”
The Farren children have gone on to successful, diverse careers. One is an occupational therapist, and another is a petrochemical engineer. Their dad is proud of all of them, and he hopes working in the family business left them as many great memories as it has for him. That’s another thing Farren and Moore have in common: They both love their teams. For Moore, that means putting up with the occasional awkward question.
Like most family-owned businesses, Strikz fell on hard times during the start of the pandemic. After a rough 2020 in which they were fully closed for 45 days, Farren’s revenue was just 26 percent of what it was the prior year.
“When you work with a group that is primarily 16-to-24-year-olds, you never know what you’re going to get asked,” Moore says. “Whatever they have on their minds, they say.”
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It helps that the team mostly knows him as “Mark,” not “Mr. Moore.” The former banker has worked hard to cultivate a community of camaraderie–so hard, in fact, that sometimes people have no idea that the guy in the hoodie is the CEO.
“One time, one of my team members was describing these options he had for the prom,” Moore recalls. “Then he asks me, ‘Who would you take? This one or this one?’”
Moore declined to weigh in with his opinion, but he was happy to see that same kid and his brother, both Pinstack alums, drop by for a visit recently. One is a doctor; the other is a lawyer. And while Farren and Moore’s businesses may differ in size, both leaders share a passion for continuously honing their operations.
For Farren, that means adding new facets to Strikz: He started an axe-throwing attraction in February, and he recently bought some new virtual reality games. Meanwhile, Moore is continuously enhancing the way he takes care of his staff. Inspired by Chick-fil-A’s community, the CEO has made it easier than ever for employees to take time off (“high school kids have homework and dates,” he notes) and switch up their work hours with a scheduling app on their phones.
“My favorite part of the day isn’t those emails or that morning workout,” he notes. “It’s getting to interact with my team.”