Jersey Mike's exec: 6 ways to build a vibrant company culture

| by John Hughes
Jersey Mike's exec: 6 ways to build a vibrant company culture

By John Hughes, brand ambassador, Jersey Mike's Subs

We recently unearthed training materials from the 1990s. It was not a surprise to anyone at Jersey Mike's that the core company culture teachings were nearly identical to those used today. 

That's because the mission — to make a difference in local communities and make the best sub sandwich in the industry — was created by Founder and CEO Peter Cancro when he bought his first sub shop at age 17, and it's still central to the company's success.

Finding the right franchisees that believe in this mission, and helping them share the brand culture with their teams is what has propelled the company to over 1,000 units.  

This strategy can work for any company. Instilling a deep knowledge and appreciation for a company's vision, traditions and values builds a loyal network of franchise owners, who develop strong teams delivering exceptional customer service and sales growth.

Here are six tips to build and sustain a vibrant company culture: 

1. Define your mission 

You may not have a 60-year-old brand, but your company does have a history. Who founded it? What is your founder's mission? This purpose should be front and center with franchisees who then share it throughout their organizations. From local owners to those behind the counter, everyone should be able to enthusiastically explain the company's reason for being — and live it.

2. Recruit those who share common values 

Peter always advises franchisees, "Hire the personality, teach the skills." The right energy is important; you can teach the rest. It's the same when selecting local owners to represent your brand — they must support your mission whether focused on serving superior products or giving back to the community. It's a litmus test – those that don't buy into the idea of, say, giving 100 percent of sales one day a year to charity as Jersey Mike's does, are not a good match for the brand. To make sure the fit is right, our potential franchisees participate in an "in-store experience."

Believe you can teach anyone anything 

3. Every day franchisees and team members make thousands of decisions that determine how customers feel about a brand and whether the business is a success. Culture is at the center of that process and allows an organization to scale. Peter has always said that we are a training company, and that is fueling our growth. That training (hundreds of classes supporting franchisees) includes sharing our story, traditions and culture with everyone who joins. Peter once said, "With the right coaching we hope they become a critical part of our team for years to come."

4. Get to the why

It's important for employees to understand that there is a purpose behind their work. To support franchisees, we conduct leadership and personal development classes for managers, future managers and others. The sessions are about building relationships and getting people to trust so that we can then pass along our story and philosophy. Then these team members can do their best to carry on the tradition of not only making great sandwiches and providing an awesome experience but of developing relationships in and out of the store.

5. Consider different learning styles  

It's important to figure out how best to reach the individual so he or she becomes part of the team. As our President Hoyt Jones says, our classes are organic — they leave time for conversations to take on a life of their own. Stories are one layer of instruction. We use a "Tell, Show, Experience" approach. While some learn just by hearing explanations, others need to go touch, feel and experience. Peter wrote the playbook in the early days and we're still successfully using it. He always says, "Keep moving the chains downfield." To succeed, get that first down and systematically move down the field. That happens by relentlessly focusing on our mission and culture.

6. Deliver on your promises

Part of a strong culture is ensuring your teams see you deliver on your promises. If you say you'll provide opportunities for them to learn and grow, do it. Stick to the schedule when it comes to promised training and reviews. Deliver raises, bonuses and promotions as you outlined upfront. We are in the people business — and we just happen to sell subs. Peter and Hoyt always say that if the people part is in place, profitability will come.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Franchising & Growth, Operations Management, Staffing & Training, Sustainability

Companies: Jersey Mike's Subs

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