STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
chairman, president, CEO and COO
NPC International, Inc.
The son of a Pizza Hut executive, Jim Schwartz did not anticipate he would become CEO of the largest Pizza Hut franchisee in the world with more than 1,200 locations in 28 states.
When Schwartz joined NPC International, Inc. in the early 1990s as part of the finance group, the company had a strained relationship with Pizza Hut and no discernible culture.
Just as he was about to leave in 1995, the board asked Schwartz to stay and become the CEO to turn the company around.
Schwartz wanted to create a culture where the people operating the restaurants felt like they owned them. He also focused on finding regional managers who could implement a customer-focused strategy down to the store level.
For Schwartz, micromanaging is detrimental. He looks to provide his team with the latitude to do what is necessary to drive customer metrics, while ultimately holding them accountable for results.
Once problem areas are identified, Schwartz connects his managers with other managers who have successfully faced those same problems. This peer mentoring optimizes performance.
But it was in 2006 that Schwartz was able to really grow NPC under new company owners. He doubled the amount of stores to more than 1,200 in less than six years.
Today, NPC does not just sit back and take direction from the corporate office. It proactively presents market and growth opportunities.
For example, when the recession first hit and pizza sales were dropping, Schwartz saw a company plan for a premium, all-natural ingredient pizza. He suggested the “$10 any way you want it” pizza. With the Pizza Hut marketing department unconvinced, NPC ran the promotion in its own markets to huge success. Pizza Hut immediately pushed the idea throughout the country.
It’s not uncommon for Schwartz and his team to develop and test a strategy that is later rolled out by the corporate offices.
How to reach: NPC International, Inc., www.npcinternational.com