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How I Became an Executive Vice President Starting as an Entry-Level Employee

Mike Jaynes, vice president of operations and new product development at Marco's Pizza

Early in my career, I worked for Wendy's International, where I gained knowledge of operational standards and an understanding of true customer service. Around this time, I received an offer that accelerated my career and changed my life forever.

People often credit their early service-based jobs to their current success, work ethic and people skills. Here's how my past business endeavors helped me get where I am now.

Learning from a mentor

Pat Giammarco, founder of Marco's Pizza and acquaintance from my days in the restaurant business, became a guiding force in my journey. This relationship would prove to be a turning point in my career, allowing me to learn the ins and outs of how to help both a business and its people grow toward a greater purpose.

I began working as a district manager for him in the Toledo area, experiencing business management firsthand. I led and supported the general managers and their teams, stressing product quality, store cleanliness and excellent customer service. Between my love for the product and my growing respect for Giammarco, I began to envision a future with the brand and wanted to play a real part in its success.

Setting goals

I was a district manager for four Marco's Pizzas in the Toledo market store when I asked Giammarco if we could meet to review my career goals. I was nearly 29 at the time and laid out my vision of where I saw myself when I turned 30.

In order to reach those goals within Marco's, I saw two options: open my own store or develop a new market for the brand. A few days later, Pat came to me with the opportunity to develop and open stores in Cleveland, Ohio. This was an untapped market for Marco's Pizza that I saw as a chance for me to take the reins of my future with Pat's guidance and mentorship.   

Reaching higher

In addition to opening the Cleveland market, I opened my first store as a franchisee as the operating partner to Pat in Euclid, Ohio in 1989. During my 22-year tenure as a franchisee, I'd partnered in 15 stores at a time, many of which were struggling. As I took over each store, my recipe for success was founded on the principals I learned from Pat. I maintained a tight focus while delivering superior products and services to each guest.

This formula was simple but effective. My career grew alongside the brand, and I've become a key role for Marco's Franchising as a vice president, where I have helped develop marketing strategies and products that we still employ today.

I exceeded any career aspirations I once had, much of which I attribute to the belief Pat had in me and the leadership he provided me. I worked hard to never let him or the company down. I was gifted with the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a business visionary who helped set me up for long-term professional success, and I wanted to find a way to gift this opportunity to others within the Marco's family.

I wanted to give others that showed me that same level of trust and dedication a chance to reach heights they may never have envisioned for themselves. This has resulted in the creation of the "Dream Big" program, an apprenticeship program providing my stores' successful general managers the opportunity to earn their own piece of the pie as a store partner.

My days with Marco's Pizza have been fruitful; and while I'll always consider myself "just another pizza guy," I hope to serve as a true example of the potential in every "pizza maker" to all big dreamers like me.

About the author: Mike Jaynes worked at a Marco's Pizza as a young adult to earn money for college. Instead, he bonded with the founder who became his mentor and put him on his path to owning some 15 pizza stores in four states. Now, he is passing it on by mentoring others who have proven themselves in his operations by providing ownership opportunities.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.

Image Credit: Marco's Pizza