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Lead Boldly!

Life sometimes hands you great “start-over” opportunities, and other times, you have to make your own.  In either case, the key to starting over is going bold.

I just had a visit with a new Area Supervisor, recently promoted from his very successful role as General Manager.  He’s had good success in some key areas but his stores are not “gold” performers, so I asked him how he’s going to get them there and by when!  He said that he is taking it slow and will change these things over time, that he doesn’t want to “be that guy that comes in and changes everything”.  (That’s “fear”.)

For sure, his General Managers deserve respect and deserve to understand the Why of any and all of the changing expectations that he has.  It’s appropriate to align with each of them so that they share a vision of what excellence looks like.  But they deserve to be lead boldly right now, and I deserve to have this leader get the job done expeditiously.  And in any case, not doing it now while it’s fresh, apparent, and emotionally exciting to execute puts the likelihood of it ever getting done at risk.  “Later” is another way of just saying “never” or “I don’t have the will right now”.  Fuck that.  Find the will right now.  Life will be more fun!

In my early 20s as I was learning how to lead and manage, I was lucky enough to run 3 different stores for Dominos Pizza. My first assignment was in Terre Haute, Indiana where I was the youngest person that worked in the entire store.  I was fired up and did some good work, but I made all the mistakes that new managers make.  My overarching failure was that I was unwilling to keep high standards in basic areas because I was afraid.  Bottom line.  For example I knew that my store was dirty and people came in late sometimes, but I didn’t step up and make my expectations clear.  I didn’t do what was necessary to be awesome.  I was there for 3 months (… and I’m still proud to say we set the record week for that 10 year old store through our LSM efforts).

My next management job was at the highest volume store in the state of Illinois.  I really cut my teeth there.  But I had to learn on the job and restart a few times.  One breakthrough moment came when one of my drivers came in about 5 minutes late causing me to have a late pizza that we gave away free.  I finally found my voice and told this guy, who was a law student at the University of Illinois, that to him this might be some part time job that doesn’t really matter, but for me this is my career and it matters.  I expect him to be ready to deliver at the time he’s scheduled.  He got it.  Of course he got it.  Sure, I had said things casually like “you’re late”, or such, but I never said it with clarity, staring him in the eye.  I was not going to let this guy, (Ryan Nachreiner was his name) keep me from being the badass successful manager and leader I was finally getting committed to being.  I worked there for 2 and a half years.  We nearly doubled the record week for that store and set the record sales for a 5 state area.  I was nominated for Manager of the Year.

My last General Manager job was in Rantoul, Illinois.  This time I walked in and I gave a letter to every person in the store.  I told these good people that we were going to be nothing less than the best Dominos Pizza store in the entire Nation, and that meant that we were going to be over-the-top excellent in every single detail.  I said in my letter that if anyone came in late by even a minute I would send them home and if they came in late a second time they would be fired.  (I fired Pat Hawley about 2 weeks later and not one person ever came in late even a minute other than Pat during my entire tenure).  I said that the store was going to be spotless, that our food was going to be beautiful and that we would deliver over 99% of our orders in less than 30 minutes.  I said that they were completely empowered to do whatever it takes to make every single customer happy, and that I excepted them to bend over backwards to do that … and that if I got any complaint at all from a customer that mentioned your name, I would fire you. 

It sounds intense, but really it wasn’t.  It was just very clear what my expectations were and that they were very high!  My team loved it.  They loved me and how I lead.  We had a ton of fun together kicking ass.  They, like nearly every person, wanted to be part of something excellent.  They wanted people to show up on time and for the store to be clean and the food to be awesome and customers happy.  Of course they did.  And they didn’t want Pat to be on the team either.

My franchisee, Mack Patterson, came to my store a few months later to promote me to Area Supervisor.  While I was flattered and said so, I immediately and easily declined.  I told him that I loved being a store manager and that I was going to be Manager of the Year and set records at this store.  I was just getting started!  And besides, I loved my bonus plan and I knew I was going to make a ton of money.  He told me that I would have a company car and wouldn’t have to work as many late night and weekend hours.   I told him I didn’t need a car and I liked working nights and weekends.  He left.  

The next morning he called me into the office and he made me an offer and a pitch that convinced me.  I was going to have the opportunity to have the best AREA in the company and to continue my leadership journey teaching and developing others to build incredible teams of caring people focused on excellence.  He wanted and needed me to bring my style of fearless leadership and excellence to other leaders.  And he paid me.

And I literally wrote my letter to my new GMs.

It’s ok to be afraid, and it’s normal.  Courage and Leadership means that you do it anyway!  You know what excellence is in your job.  YOU KNOW.  Now is the time to do it.  Boldly and fearlessly make excellence happen!  Your people will love you, your customers will love you, I will love you.  You will love you.  Write your letter to yourself and then say it to your people.

If you work at Toppers Pizza, then you are on my team.  If you don’t lead with excellence, you are holding me back and holding your peers at Toppers back.  I’ve moved on from expecting people to show up on time and having the goal of running the best store in the company.  Now I expect leaders to boldly teach and demand excellence, and we have the goal of being the best pizza company … in the World.  

See you out there!


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Scott Gittrich

Scott’s unwavering affection for pizza became a full-fledged love affair when he decided to drop out of college to focus on a career at Domino’s after only two weeks on the job. The gamble paid off as he worked his way up through the company’s system. He stayed focused on having a successful career in the restaurant industry and he decided to create a pizza concept, Toppers Pizza, which delivered unique, fresh food made from scratch that rivaled anything available. Pizza is the best food in the world, there’s nothing that’s as celebratory and fun as pizza. It brings people together like no other product on earth.