The father-and-son franchisees are able to remain focused on family by relying on each other and on a strong staff
Myron Allen and his son Keith spend a lot of time together. And that’s not just because the two work together as unit owner and area supervisor, respectively, of three Minnesota-area Toppers Pizza locations. Myron and Keith strive to be family men, and thanks to Toppers’ strong network of support, they’ve found the freedom to balance their personal and professional lives accordingly.
“I like to be with my family as much as possible, especially on weekends,” Keith said. “I work hard, but I don’t lose sight of what I’m working for. If I don’t have time to spend with my family, what’s the point?”
So how is it that two busy multi-unit store operators are able to stay focused on their families? For Myron, the answer starts at the office, which also happens to be his basement.
“I’m doing all the financials for all three stores, so it’s a lot of work, but I’ve got flexibility in how I tackle that,” Myron said. “If it’s easier to work in the evening one day, I’ll work after dinner. In any case, I’m at home with my wife, and I don’t have to commute back from the office every day.”
Myron makes sure to put some face time in at the stores, too, knowing that a tangible presence is crucial to leadership.
“I try to pop into a store at least once a week,” Myron said. “It’s important that everyone knows our faces, and Keith and I always want to convey our passion for the brand to our team.”
In a pinch, Myron will even set the accounting aside and fill in wherever a busy store might need him.
“Last week I was working from the home office when one of our stores got an especially large order on a low-staff day,” Myron said. “So, I went in to the store to help fulfill the order. It turned out to be a busy day besides that order, so I jumped on the line and helped out for the rest of the day. I’ll do whatever is needed of me.”
That spirit of versatility and accommodation is doubly important for Keith, who is the multi-unit network’s de facto problem solver.
“When I wake up in the morning, my cell phone is in my hand before my head’s off the pillow,” Keith said. “85 percent of the time, I wake up to a clean slate, but there are those days when the power went out overnight or there was a problem with our ordering system. Our stores are open until 3:00 a.m., so there’s a large window for issues to pop up. So, the first 15 minutes of my day are spent making sure everything is in order. Sometimes, if there was an issue, that will turn into the first few hours of my day, but more often than not, I can move on to the day-to-day management.”
In terms of management, Keith’s main focus is team morale, which he sees as paramount in running a strong staff that can work effectively without constant oversight.
“I try to meet with team members almost every day,” said Keith. “I’ll have lunch with a shift manager or check in with stores to make sure everyone has everything they need. I pride myself on having a keen sense of how my people are doing, whether or not they are happy. If I sense a problem, I try to get on top of it right away. The first thing is just getting in touch with the person and talking to them one on one. Face to face is always ideal, but I’ll do a lot of texting; that’s just this generation of workers. I try to get a sense of where people’s heads are at and work from there.”
With a happy, high-functioning team, Keith says he spends about 10 to 15 hours in stores per week. If there are any issues, he’ll bump that time up accordingly.
That flexibility is encouraged by Toppers’ World Headquarters support team, which both Keith and Myron say is constantly supportive and never overreaching.
“In my day-to-day work, I don’t find much need to involve the team at World Headquarters,” Myron said. “Occasionally I’ll call their accounting department with a question, but most of my interaction with them is when they come to visit the stores and chat with the staff.”
Keith works with the team at World Headquarters more frequently, relying on operational support in a number of different areas.
“I was working with the IT department this morning,” Keith said. “I was on the phone with the director of franchise development yesterday. Last week I met with the CEO in one of our stores here. And I like to get over to the World Headquarters office every now and then for committee meetings and trainings. We try to be self-sufficient, but the communication lines are wide open with those guys, so I take advantage.”
Beyond support from World Headquarters, the Allens’ stores also benefit from a strong personal relationship with the other area franchisees.
“It’s a close community,” said Keith. “I’ll help out in their stores when they need it, and they’ll help out in mine. It’s like helping out friends. It is helping out friends. We have annual events where franchisees get together, and we’ve been going to those for five years. It was especially important in those first couple of years when we were building relationships. Those relationships really have become friendships.”
Support from World Headquarters, the local franchisee network, and the Allens’ reliable and motivated staff allow Keith and Myron to enjoy unique flexibility in the industry.
“If I worked at another company, the actual work I do might not be that much different,” said Myron, a career accountant, “but the flexibility of how and when I do my work is so important to me. My last job before Toppers was a real Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five thing. I happen to like working on Saturday mornings, so I do that now.”
“I’ve always been the type of person who needs to schedule my own hours,” said Keith. “I don't mind working hard or working long hours, I just need to be in control of that. So, I’ll work some long days, but I’m able to keep my weekends free and take vacations. I just got back from vacation, and I was able to turn off my cell phone when I wanted to. A lot of restaurant owners will tell you they can’t do that. There’s always some work to do when I get back, but I never have to worry about things falling apart while I’m away.”
The Allens are a strong example of the type of franchisees that Toppers Pizza seeks to partner with to grow the brand.
“Our franchisees are like a family, and we support them in finding a work/life balance that suits them and their families,” said Cairns. “We give them the tools and support they need to run a successful business, but also give them the freedom and independence to manage it themselves. The system works, and our franchisees find great happiness in being their own bosses and carving out time to spend with their families.”
As existing franchisees like the Allens grow their portfolios and new franchisees come on board, Toppers Pizza is in the midst of a year of impressive growth. The brand is set to open its 85th unit in 2017, and has developed a strategic growth plan to hit 200 units by 2022. For more information about the Toppers Pizza franchise opportunity, please visit www.toppersfranchise.com.