If you want to get anywhere in this world you’ve got to have a vision of the place you see yourself at a certain point in time. At Ian’s, we firmly believe in having a vision but we take it one step further: by writing down your vision, you help forge the path to success.
A vision must be inspiring, yet strategically achievable. It’s marking an “X” on your life’s map, a definition of “what” you’ll accomplish. However, a vision isn’t a plan, it isn’t simply stating a goal, and doesn’t include step-by-step directions of how you’ll achieve your goal — but it does remind you of where you want to end up. We believe that by documenting and focusing on your vision, you’ll make decisions that lead you in the right direction.
Below is the Ian’s Pizza 2020 Vision. Please enjoy, and if you’ve got ideas or resources to help us in our quest, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Who we are: Today is January 1st, 2020. Ian’s United is a federation of 10-14 financially successful, independently-owned businesses tied together by a common vision and set of values. Ten to twelve of our businesses are retail restaurant operations with pizza by the slice being the main concept. The other two businesses either support or complement our pizza operations. Our company is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. We currently have 6 pizza restaurants in Wisconsin and another 6 pizza restaurants outside of the state. Our combined revenue for this year is approximately $15 million. Although we recognize the importance of consistency, we celebrate and encourage the individual personalities of each of our businesses. Our federation exists as a positive support system helping us to overcome the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey. We measure success beyond what our financial statements tell us. Success for us is a staff that is achieving its personal and professional goals and having fun while doing so!
Structure: The core of our company is “The Board”. The “Board” is comprised by our group of Managing Partners as well as the company founders. Every cluster, and by extension every store, is represented on the Board. Board meetings are formally held every three months in person and informally as needed. While the number of participants varies from meeting to meeting, every cluster has to be represented for a vote to take place. The Board deliberates all decisions that pertain to Ian’s United, whether it is deciding on a new charitable initiative or debating the merits of a new quality control system. The Board reviews, approves and supports the expansion of the Ian’s brand of businesses. Decisions are made on a majority vote basis. The Board Chairman, who is elected every two years and receives a stipend for his work, leads the Board.
Our Managing Partners hold each other accountable in maintaining the excellence of the Ian’s brand. MP’s not only exchange ideas but also discuss the standards which need to be upheld and in some cases improved. When the board makes a decision that requires the participation of all businesses the Managing Partners are expected to execute the decision at a store level. We are a values-led organization. Our Managing Partners are the gatekeepers of our values. We are an organization that is committed to learning, teaching and advancement. Many of our businesses practice Open Book Management.
The Board is directly in charge of Ian’s Soul Central. ISC has two main functions: provide store support services and support new store openings. ISC’s store support services include office/accounting support, HR support, training classes, and recruiting services. ISC also organizes company wide meetings, Board Meetings and company-wide marketing initiatives. Back in 2013, for example, ISC coordinated the launch of a new company website.
ISC’s staff is small. The current composition is as follows:
Food Mastermind (i.e. our Head Chef): This individual is tasked with all things food. The Food Mastermind is to us what “Q” is to James Bond. Our FM is constantly searching, developing, improving, and testing recipes for all types of goodies, which we look to sell in our stores. The Food Mastermind is continually working with our various in-store kitchen managers to improve the execution of our pizza as well as improve our training methods.
Chief Service Manager: This individual spends time in all of our store performing store assessments, working to improve staff training, coordinating company-wide training classes and overseeing the company-wide website.
Assistant Service Manager: The Assistant Service Manager conducts monthly store visits, manages shared services such as the company cell phone plan and manages the company-wide calendar of events.
Chief Vision Guy/Girl: Works with Managing Partners and clusters to create an annual plan to achieve the cluster and company vision. The Chief Vision Guy helps prospective Managing Partners successfully navigate through the company’s path to partnership and helps the entire organization with external recruitment when necessary.
Each of the Ian’s United Businesses pays 3%-6% of gross revenues to ISC. Half of ISC revenue is used to provide services back to all of the stores. The other half is used to fund growth initiatives as well as compensate the founders.
Clusters: We define a cluster as at least two stores, located no more than 200 miles from each other, which share resources. Currently, we have five clusters. Every cluster is run by a Managing Partner. The internal organization of each cluster varies from cluster to cluster. Some have a central office where all bookkeeping is performed. Others even have a central production kitchen. The Managing Partner represents the cluster on a federation level. Managing Partners are granted a great deal of freedom to run their stores and clusters. Many of the innovations that we have incorporated throughout Ian’s United started as experiments by Managing Partners within their stores. A spirit of cooperation permeates our clusters and our federation.
Stores: Each of our stores possess soul. Our store mojo starts with our people. Our stores are run by a management team which is engaged, enthusiastic, creative, and caring. These qualities trickle down to Front of the House and Kitchen staff and plant the seeds for creating our next generation of leaders. Our Management teams execute our commitment to being a great employer. We are proud to say each of our stores offers great employee benefits including health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off and a very generous bonus program. The energy and caring invested in our staff means we experience low turnover, generate strong loyalty, and receive consistently high performance.
While every store shares design elements, our decoration is also geared to reflect the uniqueness of our staff and our communities. Stores catering to families possess lots of kid-friendly seating and accessories, while our late night-focused stores emphasize line flow and quick service.
Ownership: We are a company of owners. Every cluster is owned by the people who operate the cluster. Managing Partners and Owner Operators actively work in the business at least 30 hours per week and 10 months out of the year. We strongly believe our success is due to the onsite presence of owners throughout the business. Of our roughly 200 full- time employees, 15 are Owner-Operators and 5 are Managing Partners. Some of our businesses also have ownership held by Ian’s Bling Support, our own internal financing business. All of our owners earn an excellent living. In addition to earning great wages, most of these individuals have also achieved an excellent quality of life. Managing Partners are those who have the final word in his or her cluster. Managing Partners are involved in daily operations as needed. These individuals work with their Owner Operators and managers to realize the cluster and store visions. Owner Operators are individuals who have distinguished themselves in their work at Ian’s. Several of our Managing Partners and Owner Operators own shares in multiple Ian’s businesses.
Expansion: 80% of our expansion has been fueled by the internal development of our staff. The purpose of our growth has been two-fold: First, to create exciting new professional opportunities; and second, to capitalize on the talent and passions of our people. We have multiple success stories of staff who risen to become managers and a couple who have even become Managing Partners. Our preference has always been to favor internal growth, but we also have been open to external candidates who possess valuable industry experience and passion for our company. All of our Managing Partners, regardless of their history with the business, must prove to be a good cultural fit and actively uphold our values.
Extensive planning and careful deliberation have been the hallmarks of each new Ian’s United business. Every store we’ve opened has had an opening team which included at least one Ian’s veteran from another store. We’ve also invested a lot of time and energy to ensure that none of our businesses are geographically isolated. Thus, we’ve chosen to expand to places where we can operate at least two businesses.
The growth of Ian’s United is driven by our staff, but made financially possible by Ian’s Bling Support. Bling Support is our own internal Investment Bank. Ian’s Bling Support was created in 2014 and was initially capitalized by our owners. Bling Support finances new stores as well as the buying/selling of shares in our existing businesses. Bling Support is run by its own Managing Partner. This individual has a strong background in investments, finance and accounting. Bling Support invests in Ian’s United ventures as well as outside enterprises. In a couple of instances, Bling Support has helped finance the purchase of real estate for our businesses. Bling Support is currently working to create a pension fund for Ian’s United employees as well as receiving accreditation to manage our employee 401K plan. Bling Support also organizes and conducts classes on personal finance and Open Book Finance for our company. Every Ian’s United employee can invest in Bling Support and those who do, receive a return on their investment on an annual basis. Bling Support’s success is defined by the financial success of our staff and our individual businesses. Bling Support works with our staff to help them achieve their individual financial goals, regardless of what they are.
Food: Our food is produced with exceptional ingredients, but more importantly, it is expertly prepared. We have achieved a culture of excellence in all of our kitchens. We continually monitor and measure the excellence of our execution as well as our ingredients. Everyone working in our stores is responsible for the quality of our food. Thanks to extensive training, our FOH staff can recognize and take action when our food isn’t up to our standards. Our food standards clearly define execution excellence for all of our staff. As a result of our hard work our food has received local and national praise. Every year, our Madison cluster hosts a pizza-making skills contest amongst the Ian’s Pizza by the Slice businesses. Past winners proudly display their trophies at their store and eagerly look to add more trophies every year. In addition to the contest, we host a round table amongst our Kitchen Managers to share ideas and expertise. Several times per year trips are organized for our kitchen staff to check out other industry leaders.
Customer Service: In all of our businesses we have established a deep connection with our customers. Our promotional pieces speak directly to the customer in a genuine, positive, and heartfelt voice. Our staff is required to attend our customer service class twice per year. The class is taught be several of our staff who have shown themselves to be excellent customer service providers. The content of the class is updated yearly, partially based on feedback from our Secret Shopper program. We also have developed several metrics to measure our customer service performance. These metrics are a huge help to us in setting customer service goals at all levels of the organization. We are constantly showing and expressing our appreciation for each other, our vendors, and our customers. Staff in each of our businesses is trained to ask for the names of frequent customers. We support our communities by providing good jobs in a healthy work environment. We sponsor community scholarships and fundraisers and we have longstanding relationships with several charities. One of our businesses has even started a community garden which has earned lots of praise from our customers.
Hiring and Training: Today we are recognized by several publications for our hiring practices and our training. The Chief Vision Guy conducts a company-wide class several times per year just on interviewing and hiring. The results of this class are evident throughout our businesses. Our staff is intelligent, curious, upbeat, and motivated. Managers are confident in their interview skills. Our training process is recognized as one of the best in the industry. Our trainers are thorough, clear, and knowledgeable. Our staff is clear on their expectations and performance. The staff loves our training methods because they are concise and fun! Our trainers are not only selected for their excellent communication skills but also for their ability to make the training process enjoyable.
Conservation: One of our proudest achievements to date is the work we have done to make Ian’s United an environmentally friendly entity. Each of our businesses is a model in the industry in terms of energy use, conservation, and waste reduction. Every two years our businesses draw up plans specifically addressing the reduction of our carbon footprint. We also have created a class on energy conservation. The class covers recycling, composting, eco- friendly paper products, and small efforts that make a big difference, such as unplugging equipment not in use. In addition to energy-efficient vehicles, we try to make sure all of our equipment is energy-efficient. Our restaurants are equipped with light sensors, water efficient toilets, and super energy-efficient light bulbs. The Board backs our efforts by providing grants to encourage conservation innovation. Our success is this area has resulted in national recognition and currently we are debating the creation of a new position: Energy Czar.