Staff Star-gazing

John Nicolakakis, CEO of Roman’s Pizza, talks to us about identifying high-flyers fit to be store managers.


Staff Star-gazing

It’s an unfortunate reality that South Africa has a skills and management shortage.

So if you’re like Roman’s Pizza CEO, John Nicolakakis, who has plans to double his 145 store footprint in the next three to five years, you’ve got to implement a plan to meet your growing store manager needs.

Here’s how Roman’s Pizza is doing it and what you can learn.

You have a history of promoting from within. Can you give an example?

When it comes to training, we’ve learnt that recruiting from outside is a challenge – it takes time to find talent and then become acquainted with the brand. Promoting internally means staff are already familiar, and with the right love, care and attention can grow into excellent managers and area managers.

Mike Ndlovu is our shining example: He started as a security guard at a corporate store and we elevated him to a cashier position. Here we learnt an important lesson though, because while we promoted him, we didn’t see his management potential.

It was a franchisee who spotted it and trained him up to be a manager. Today he’s in partnership with us managing a number of stores.

Can you really take a kitchen worker and transform them into a manager?

Absolutely. We’ve got another two cases like Ndlovu, so we’re now implementing a programme that allows high potential staff in our corporate stores to firstly be identified, then trained and fast-tracked.

We understand that lack of basic education can be a barrier, so we look for staff in all areas who display natural intelligence, use their own judgement, are loyal, committed and disciplined, passionate, and show initiative.

Skills can be taught and acquired, but these characteristics are innate.

How important are franchisees in identifying talent?

Roman's-pizza

Franchisees are very important. Mike Ndlovu’s talent wasn’t spotted by head office, but by a franchisee. It was the franchisee who took the initiative and trained him into a manager.

Franchisees have more direct involvement on a daily basis and they’re able to spot gems. Unfortunately, unless the franchisor has a system in place for developing talent that can move into franchise manager positions, there can be cases where franchisees don’t want to let their staff go and will actually stifle growth.

There’s risk associated with spending time and resources on training, only to fall victim to poaching.

That’s right. At Roman’s Pizza we’ve got a policy in place that clearly states franchisees aren’t allowed to employ other franchisee’s staff. It prevents instances of one saying “He resigned” and another one saying “He was poached.”

It’s important for staff to know there’s a basic career ladder they can follow if they apply themselves.

If a dishwasher with potential knows that he can move into store, multi-store, and area manager positions and one day even into a partnership, they’re more loyal to the brand.

Training for corporate stores is different to owner-operator franchisees. What can they learn?

Whenever we develop best practice in something, we notify our franchisees immediately so they can adopt it too. We give feedback on how our corporate staff are moving through the ranks and it inspires franchisees to promote from within too.

In the case of franchisees though, they tend to need assistant managers rather than store managers. An example of how we identify staff with the right characteristics is by seeing how they wear their uniform and work behind the counter:

Do they take pride? Is the store spotless? Very often, if hygiene is taken care of, everything else is being looked after too. 

Tracy Lee Nicol
About the Author
Tracy-Lee Nicol is the managing editor of Franchise Zone Magazine and deputy editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. She studied her Masters degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and spent the next two years working and travelling in Asia. Her love of people, business and teaching is reflected in telling the stories of entrepreneurs, franchisees and franchisors, inspiring others to take the leap to being their own boss and bringing about positive change in South Africa.

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