Marco's Pizza CFO On The Key Ingredients To Growing A Franchise

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pizza is often a quick and easy staple at our dinner tables, but behind the pizza box is a fast-paced and highly competitive industry - even more so for a franchise. In order to grow and compete effectively, Buddy Solomon, CFO of Marco's Pizza, explains that your strategies must work globally and adjust locally. This month I connected with Buddy to learn more about his role as CFO of a growing franchise and the challenges they face as technology advances quickly.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Jeff Thomson: Since joining Marco's Pizza in 2016, your approach has been to shift the mindset of the finance department to focus more on business strategy. What value do you see in participating heavily in growth and strategy operations?
Buddy Solomon: Marco's is a rapidly growing franchise. Over the last three years, we have opened an average of one new restaurant about every three days. By 2020, our goal is to have 1,500 stores open. Fast-paced, successful growth requires all members of the executive team to be focused on a common set of strategic goals. We all have to work together as a cohesive team to achieve those goals. The CFO plays a key role on the team, tasked with sourcing needed capital, developing and implementing the technologies required to compete in the highly competitive pizza industry, and designing the benefits and rewards programs necessary to attract and retain top talent.

Thomson: You're also working to restructure the company - in what ways and why? Will this allow for more efficient processes?
Solomon: Our challenge is to retain the energy the entrepreneurial spirit brings to our brand while simultaneously upgrading our processes and procedures to sustain more accelerated growth. We embrace the changes needed to ensure our product quality and guest experience is equally excellent in every one of our 800+ stores in 34 states and four countries. It's no mistake that our executive team reflects exactly what we are talking about - a high energy drive for excellence coupled with the large company experience and savvy that's necessary as the company grows to 1,500 stores and beyond.

Thomson: A key part of your role as CFO is helping the franchise grow in order to compete against larger pizza concepts. What does the future look like for Marco's Pizza? Are growth strategies different for a franchise as opposed to in a singular business?
Solomon: Marco's doubled in size between 2012 and 2016, and we expect to have more than 1,000 stores open by the end of 2018. As CFO, it's clear we need to develop the technologies necessary to assist our stores in competing more effectively in an increasingly digital world. Our company mission includes being the pizza of choice, the employer of choice, and the partner of choice in every community in which we do business. Local and regional differentiation is important to meet that mission, so our strategies have to work globally and adjust locally. In a single business, the ability to react quickly is easier than in a franchise system with several hundred owners under the umbrella of one Marco's brand. This makes the implementation of new technology challenging, but essential to the continued growth of the brand.

Thomson: You've been exploring a number of initiatives outside of a "traditional" CFO role to boost employee morale and bolster the brand financially, such as changes to compensation and benefits packages. How do you see this contributing to the growth of the franchise?
Solomon: Marco's believes in the Service - Profit Chain, which, in its most simple interpretation, means engaged and satisfied employees will in turn provide excellent customer service to create highly satisfied and loyal guests that keep a business healthy. To that end, Marco's has created a culture that recognizes employees for their contributions, provides the tools and systems necessary to do their jobs well, and offers continuous appreciative and constructive feedback to help keep them on the right track.

We've created the routine of Pep Rallies in the stores so each crew coming on for the day knows the important goals to focus on. We are also dedicated to improving the quality of work, life and the careers of our employees. We do this through educational opportunities such as our Marco's University training platform and partnerships with higher education institutions including DeVry University. At the corporate level, we have improved benefit plans and bonus programs, implemented a relaxed dress code, and offered gym memberships -- all of which add up to employees who are happier and more engaged.

Thomson: In pushing the boundaries beyond the typical CFO role, what skills have you found yourself relying on most?
Solomon: You might assume that financial skills are paramount, and they are. But even more so, today's CFO has to rely on people skills. In order to fulfill business aspirations, it's essential to provide people the right process, procedures, and funding for tools in order to achieve those goals.

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Marco's Franchising LLC
5252 Monroe St.
Toledo, OH

Phone: (419)885-7000
Toll Free: (800)262-7267
Fax: (419)885-5215

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