“There are always opportunities... and every day is a new adventure.”
Business philosophy: As a franchisee, my guiding principle is to enable my
organization to execute the programs and initiatives of the franchisor as best they
can; to not reinvent the wheel or the brand but to execute what the brand is. If we
do that, we’ll be successful.
Would you say you are in the franchising, real estate, or customer service business? Why? At the end of the day I’d say we’re all in
the customer service business. Everything we do is focused against providing a
product and service that meets our customers’ needs. It’s all focused on what the
customer wants, where he’ll be, and what’s relevant today. The business model is
changing on a daily basis.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? The key thing that gets me
out of bed is that today is another day. There are always opportunities to do new
things and every day is a new adventure.
What’s your passion in business? Operations. There are a lot of facets
to the business, but I just love restaurant operators who run great operations. You
can tell it. I know how difficult that is to do.
Management method or style: Today it’s more about setting the course
and direction and enabling those people responsible for doing that to craft and
develop the tactics needed to get things done. My job is to make sure the canvas
is there and the paint brushes are available and let them paint their pictures.
Greatest challenge: The greatest challenge in business is to really stay up
with the times. You’d think that the pizza business is a relatively uneventful business, but in the years I’ve been running the business, and the years before, I’ve
seen it change all the time.
How close are you to operations? I’m not as close as I have been. I
suppose any franchisee would say they could always be closer. My job now is to
be more of a cheerleader, provide recognition for accomplishments, and encourage
people in a down situation.
How do others describe you? I would say passionate is probably the word
How do you hire and fire? I don’t do that anymore. My folks do that
in the organization. When it comes to hiring I believe you have to have a
strong idea of who you want to bring into your organization. We’ve had a lot
of hits and misses bringing in people from outside. We’ve had the greatest
success in our organization with people coming in as team managers. We
develop them into assistant managers and restaurant general managers, and
in some cases have promoted them to area coaches. We use Pizza Hut tools
in screening to get the right profile. Then you need to make sure they’re
As for firing, there are two kinds of people. You have a person who’s blatantly
not following your program or is not honest with you or has a tendency to sabotage your business. When you identify them, you need to move them out of your
organization as quickly as possible. And there are some people who try hard and
struggle, and our goal is to put them into situations where they can be successful.
They can be good long-term folks and keeping that team in place is paramount to
your success. The bugaboo of this entire industry is turnover.
How do you train and retain? It’s pretty straightforward. We have training
that Pizza Hut has published and we make sure everyone has access to that. As
for retaining people, I think it starts really from the top down. When I think back
on my corporate days it seemed like I had a new boss every six months; another
guy to get to know, another set of objectives and expectations. Stability and consistency in franchisees is critical to gaining and retaining longevity with your team.
Minimize change at the above-store level so that expectations and agendas don’t
change all the time.
Annual revenue: Close to $32 million
2009 goals: It’s buckle down and hang on.
Growth meter: How do you measure your growth? We measure
our growth in a number of ways. One is sales growth; another metric, which is
more relevant, is transaction counts. We shifted our incentive program to reward
guest experiences. That will affect the number of transactions.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
I’d like my oldest son to be fully running the business, making long-term decisions. I’d like to be in a position to continue to grow. And if that’s where our
direction leads us, I’d like to acquire more restaurants in the same brand or other
brands that may make sense.
How is this economic cycle affecting you, your employees, your
customers? It’s affecting our customers significantly. Our restaurants in southern Indiana are in smaller towns. We have a lot of auto parts manufacturing that’s
suffering and plant closures are affecting customers. We think long-term that we’ll
be okay. Our unemployment rate is paralleling the national rate. As far as employees, they’re going through the same things. We haven’t had to lay off anybody.
We’re down a little and not hiring as many folks this summer. We’re going to
bunker down and hang on and work through this.
What are you doing different in this economy? We’ve been fortunate. Last year we had very good sales, but the downside was high commodity
costs that hurt margins. Now traffic is softer, but commodity costs are down.
We’ve maintained the spread between sales and margins. Last year we reduced
discounting and promotions, and now we’re paying more attention to promotions
and discounting to keep traffic going.
How do you forecast for your business during these trying
times? I couldn’t forecast this business for the next week, let alone the next
year. There are so many different variables that affect us. You have to stay
focused on every day. How are operations and how are you executing? That
helps you get to the longer term. If you worry about Bank of America or GM
you can get paralyzed in the short term. Take it one day at a time. Try to make
the smartest decisions you can, and be flexible enough to change things if it
Where do you find capital for expansion? Not many places now. It’s
pretty much dried up. We had looked at doing some expansion, and we put that