December 7, 2023

From Pizza Delivery Boy To Successful Entrepreneur With Joe Jaros

By: Gary Schoeniger
TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur


In this episode, Gary sits down with Joe Jaros, a remarkable entrepreneur who turned a pizza delivery job into a thriving career. Joe’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of an entrepreneurial mindset, even in franchise ownership. Hailing from a working-class background in Cleveland, Ohio, Joe’s story mirrors the essence of entrepreneurship: solving problems to empower oneself. They delve into crucial aspects of the mindset, from the significance of having a vision and reliability to continuous improvement. Joe emphasizes understanding the needs of both customers and employees. Tune in for a wealth of wisdom applicable to your job, life, or career. Join the conversation with Joe Jaros on this insightful episode!

Listen to the podcast here


From Pizza Delivery Boy To Successful Entrepreneur With Joe Jaros

Joe, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Gary. I appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Full disclosure, your dad’s become a good friend of mine and that’s how we connected. I want to bring our audience into the conversation, but the conversations that you and I have had helped shift my mindset about how an entrepreneurial mindset fits together with a franchisee. I’m looking forward to digging into that. I’ve always assumed that a franchisee is a just guy who’s following a formula.

I understand. I think a lot of people see that as well, but that’s clearly not the case. I’ve seen a lot of franchisees and a lot of businesses that fail because I don’t think they’re truly passionate about what they’re doing. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it’s not work. Me coming to work is not working at all. I enjoy what I do. I love every minute of it.

I love rolling up my sleeves and getting into a store and running in rush with the general manager and a team. I also love the fact that I can go to my office, lead a leadership team that leads that team, and be able to find the right people. I have this vision of what I want for my company and I need to sell that vision to my leadership team. If I can sell it to them and they can sell it to their general managers and their general managers can sell it to the teams, my vision can continue to grow and prosper.

It becomes a point where I’m no longer needed in the organization or the organization continue to run if I wasn’t there. I find it important. Every day, I think about it like, “I need to develop my organization to be running as if I’m not here.” It’s because I have 120 employees and I need this organization to prosper whether I’m around or not. If something happens to me tomorrow, the company needs to still be able to move on. I’ve been good at delegating my responsibilities down to my leadership team and the leadership team then trains and develops each store, each general manager, and the shift managers. They develop their teams. It becomes to where my job is almost non-existent, and I think that’s important.

You’re saying a lot that I want to unpack this stuff, Joe. It’s so good. You’re talking about like true leadership as far as I’m concerned. There’s something you said and we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. We’ll go back to the beginning. We’ll start in the middle and then we’ll work outward. I hear this again and again from entrepreneurs and you said it, Joe, with no prompting from me. You use the V word, “I have a Vision.” I hear that again and again. I’ll tell you who said that to me.

I interviewed the guy that started a franchise. Brian Scudamore started 1-800-GOT-JUNK and he said the same thing. The way he put it to me Joe was he was stuck. He had this little struggling company that wasn’t going anywhere. He went off with a legal pad and sat down on the edge of a pond. He started writing about what this could be to create the vision. He said almost verbatim what you said. He said, “I brought the vision back to my team not as a blueprint because the vision doesn’t tell you the how. It’s what we’re heading for.”

An important factor that distinguishes an entrepreneurial person from a non-entrepreneurial person is the vision. It’s because if you don’t have a vision, then what the heck is going on? You’re going to work every day. There’s a Biblical quote something to the effect of, “If there is no vision, the people perish.” It’s so important. I don’t want to let you gloss over that.

I completely know what you mean, Gary. When I first started with this business, I was so passionate about the business. I loved everything about it. I love the company. I love the product, but what I wanted to do is I wanted to be the best at what I did. I saw my competition. I saw the job that the current owners at that time were doing. I said, “What can I do better? Can I deliver a better experience for the customer and the employees? Can I build a team that is going to hit my vision?” My vision was to become the best run-Marco’s franchise in the system. That was my true vision show.

Joe, I want to get back to why pizza. Why is that your passion and how did you find it? We have met before and talked about some of the stuff. When I talk to you Joe, I get the feeling that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You could be selling ball bearings. You could be selling bags of mulch. If it wasn’t pizza, you’d be bringing that to whatever it is you’re doing.

I tend to agree with that. I enjoy the business. What I liked about the business is that I operate best when I’m in in extreme rush, and the pizza business gives me the best of both worlds. Maybe in the morning it’s not quite as busy, but we’re building up for this rush. There’s this anticipation of a dinner rush. You’re preparing to for success for that dinner rush and then you get pounded for dinner.

At the end of dinner when things are lying down, you can reflect on how you the rush was handled. You can talk to the individual team members and coach them on what we did right but also what we could do better. We always try to give a positive with every negative. I never go to an employee and tell them what they did wrong without at least trying to find something that they did right first. The conversation is generally like, “You did a great job on this, but I do see some opportunities where you can improve.”

Always try to give a positive with every negative. Share on X

Now, they feel a part of team. They feel great about that and now they’re more willing to want to improve on their weaknesses now that you gave them that positive reinforcement. That’s important. I saw that type of business that we had where there is anticipation of this busy dinner, having this busy dinner in this rush period, and then the winding down and reflecting on that dinner and how we can improve things and make it better.

What drove me to this business is that rush but then that downside, too, so I had time to reflect on it and time to coach the team. It was the first food business I had ever been in. I didn’t have that many jobs. I worked in a couple factories and I had a paper out when I was younger, but every job I had, I was always thinking about, “What would it be like to own this place? What would I do differently? How will I become better?”

We talked about that at lunch, breakfast, or whatever we did a couple of months ago. I want to go back to the paper route for a second because your dad had something to do with that.

My dad was a cop. There were no real entrepreneurs in my family, but my dad has entrepreneurial traits. That was passed on to me at a young age. I had my paper route when I was fourteen. At fourteen, my dad is helping me run my paper out as if it’s a business. He’s helping me make bills for the customer and I’m giving each individual address the exact time that I’m going to be around to collect because we had to collect a monthly fee at that time. I was able to say like, “I will be at your house at 7:15 on this date.” On another bill, it would be like, “I’ll be at your house at 7:20 on this date.” It’s pretty much spot on.

He taught you to take that paper route, which a lot of fourteen year olds would maybe have a little bit more of a flippant attitude. He taught you to take it seriously as if you were owning a business and you were doing something of value. He’s teaching you to be reliable, show up, and do what you say you’re going to do. Those things are easy to overlook.

It was also about giving the customer an experience too. If you tell a customer you’re going to be at their house at this time and you show up at that time, that’s an experience. They may not even realize it, but they’re going to think like, “He told me he’s going to be here at this time and he was here at this time.” My dad was pretty analytical about all that stuff. We had it down pretty good.

We were always on time on Sunday morning. We’d be up together stuffing Sunday morning papers. That route would be a driving route where I’d ride my bike and he’d pass the paper outside the window of the car. I’d ride by and grab the paper and deliver the paper. Sunday was the only day he helps me because the papers were so big and heavy and that was the only way to get it done efficiently. However, on all of the other days, I rode my bike and just did my thing.

If the customer wanted a paper delivered under a rock on their front porch, that paper was delivered under a rock on the front porch. Whatever the customer wanted, they were given the experience that they wanted and expected. Everything was on time and the promises were met. I’ve built the foundation of what it drove me into understanding business and what it took. That way, when I went to my next job, I noticed, “If the boss did this a little differently, I’d be happier. If I was happier, I think I’d be doing a better job for him, which is going to make him more money.” It’s always along those lines of, “What would I do differently in this business to make it better?”

Are you saying that as a kid, you have a job that you would not only analyzing what the owner could do to make the business better, but you are also analyzing what the owner could do to make you happier and therefore more productive?

That, too, but it started when I was old enough to have a job.  I started in a machine shop when I was fifteen. I was running machines by sixteen. I know I shouldn’t have been, but they trusted me. I was a good worker. I remember some of the owners coming in and saying, “If I could just have more kids like you, I would love it. It would be great. You’re a hard worker. You always show up on time,” but I would realize like, “What would I do differently?”

I took that and used it in my business now. Even now, I’m more than just a pizza shop owner. To these people, we’re life coaches. We’re marriage counselors. We’re helping people understand their finances better. We’re life coaches, especially in the business element because I’m dealing with a much lower end of the workforce was the type of employee that we employ. They need that extra coaching. They don’t have the resources or the education sometimes.

Even the support in their family. There’s so much to unpack there Joe, but I want to try to get you back to the beginning here. You got this paper route. Were you a good student in school? Did you go to college?

I was a terrible student. Part of that is where I was leaning toward this vision. For an entrepreneur, our minds work in such a way that we’re able to concentrate on what we’re interested in and we block everything else out. It transpires into everything. Even into sports and anything with life and stuff, my mind is stuck on entrepreneurial things.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: Entrepreneurs’ minds work in such a way that we’re able to really concentrate on what we’re really interested in and block everything else out.


It’s a very narrow focus. Let me use that opportunity to make a point, Joe. Vision is part of that. If you don’t have a vision, you can be scrolling and distracted by anything that comes into your purview. To my understanding, that vision is the thing that distinguishes people.

Part of that is because we’re so focused in our vision, that’s all we think about. We think about that vision so much that our brain figures out how to get us there, and that’s important.

There’s something to what you said, Joe. The vision isn’t the how. The how comes later, but what’s happening cognitively, and that the people need to understand. I give talks all over the world and I often say to audiences, “Do you have a compelling goal? Do you have something you’re striving to make happen, something that’s within your control? If not, why not?”

What happens in the brain, to make this simple, is the vision allows you to break from the past because otherwise, your memory is driving the whole thing. You wake up now and you do now what you did yesterday. You are retrieving from memory. There’s a whole body of psychological literature around this. It’s fascinating. When you have a vision, you’re reaching into something into the future. You’re using your imagination and your brain figures out the how. It gives you access to the problem solving abilities that you don’t have access to otherwise.

Correct. That’s important. If I didn’t have a vision, I’m going to employ people that also don’t understand my vision. They have their own visions.

Let’s say that your vision is to make money for yourself. You don’t care about people. You want to get as much profit as you can out of every person. That’s a different vision and it’s going to have a different impact on people.

Now, you’re then going to build as a house of cards that’s going to eventually collapse. I would rather make a little less profitability on each one of my stores to take care of my people because I’m in this for the long haul. I’m building a company that many years from now is going to be still healthy and making me money. If I was planning on closing up shop in three months, maybe my vision would change. My goals would change. Maybe it is all about making as much money as possible now, but that’s not me.

I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way. My goal is to build a healthy, sustainable, and highly respected business within the community where people choose to do business with me because they like our organization. They may not know me, but they like what organization does. We’re involved in the community. We’re involved with the schools. All those things are important because the customer doesn’t necessarily know me anymore.

They used to know me because I was a general manager of a store for twelve years, so people got to know me and they knew who I was. However, as I grew, as I have multiple stores, the customer doesn’t know Joe Jaros anymore. They know the organization. They’re supporting my business because my organization is living this vision that I had.

There’s a lot to unpack in that one also, Joe. The desire to like to contribute is a powerful need that’s in all human beings. Psychologists have a fancy word for it. It’s autonomy competency. They call it relatedness but purpose is better. Purpose is a basic psychological need that we all have, and that’s what you’re articulating. It might not land in your brain like, “I need purpose in my life,” but that’s what you’re doing. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but getting to know you and talking to you, you probably get as much satisfaction out of seeing one of your employees grow as a human being as you do with a profitable month or whatever.

Absolutely. When I first got into this business, my goal was to create generational wealth for my family. I thought that was my calling. I thought that was a purpose. When I got to that point, I could say that I’ve created generational wealth for my family. That’s not my purpose anymore. My purpose is I want to grow generational wealth for my employees now. I can’t help every employee the way I would love to because it’s not the type of business that offers the bottom line that is going to allow me to do that.

There are a lot of lower labored people that work for me and they’re totally fine with that. However, if I can help out people, that’s why I have an apprenticeship program. I take the best of employees and I’ll put them on a path that’ll eventually create and make them into owners. I’ve already done that with a couple of people to where I brought them in and made them a shareholder of a store.

They manage that store and they become an equal shareholder partner once the store is paid off. To be honest with you, I have one store in Florida that I haven’t stepped foot in in six years and I worked there one week. I make more money out of that store not even working there than I do a store that I own by myself. Why? It’s because it’s being run by an owner-operator that cares, drives the business, and lives my vision every day.

She’s got her own vision, but she shares in my vision. If she didn’t, I would never have partnered with her. She would have never become an apprentice of mine as she didn’t understand the vision of what made me successful and want to take that recipe and go out there and do it on her own. She does it in her way and she does a fantastic job. Now, my new purpose is helping other people get to that point to where they’re able to realize their dreams.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: My new purpose is really helping other people get to that point where they’re able to realize their dreams.


It’s because somebody believed in me and I guess I want to pay it forward. I never forgot the opportunity. It was awarded to me to buy into a store and I believe there’s more people out there like me that maybe don’t have the money to go and open a store. It costs $500,000 to open these things now. Most people don’t have $500,000 to open a store, but what they do have is they have good work ethic. They’ll work hard. They share in my vision and they’ll go out there and make things happen. If this store is 1,000 miles away, I can’t run that store. I can’t manage that store, but if I have an operating partner that can, then I can correct exponentially.

You said something else that I hear fairly often from entrepreneurs. I’m thinking of this guy I interviewed some years ago in Seattle. He started a carpet cleaning company. He got out of the Army, had $4,000, and he bought a carpet cleaning machine. His first job was for $35. Someone hired him to clean a UPS store carpeting. When they closed, they locked him in there overnight. He didn’t know how to work the machine yet. He had to have his friend come and help him.

It was a disaster. He had to give half the money to his friend. Now, he employs 150 people. He’s cleaning Northrop Grumman facilities all over in thirteen states. He said, “In the beginning, I wanted to be a millionaire. I wanted the house, the clothes, the cars, and the look.” He said that, “At some point, I just forgot about that.”

It’s funny that he say that. It’s exactly how I feel. I always wanted to be a millionaire and then you get to that point and you go beyond that. You’re like, “That’s not important anymore.” I thought it was my purpose, but it never was. My purpose was to was to help people realize their dreams as I realized mine because there’s a lot of people out there like me that don’t have the money to do it on their own. To be honest you, when I got in this business, I didn’t have the cash to do it on my own, but I was going to get it done. I knew I would get it done.

You’re channeling Brian Scudamore, the 1-800-GOT-JUNK guy because he said almost exactly those words. He said to me, “I wanted to be $100 million company. I had no idea how, but I knew I was going to do it. I had no idea how I was going to get there,” when he was at $1 million in revenue. He said almost those exact words. Let me back you up, Joe. You’re not a great student in school and you didn’t go to college. Do I have that correct?

Yes. I didn’t go to college. I had no interest in it.

I hear that a lot. You’re out in the world. You’re working in machine shops. You’re having these typical jobs of somebody with a high school diploma. You are young man now out in the world. Every job you got, you’re saying to yourself, “If this was mine, here’s how I might do this better.” This is interesting because you’re analyzing. That analytical thing is happening in your brain. How did the pizza thing happen for you? When did the piece of light bulb go on? How did that all happen?

I was still in high school that time when I started. I was sitting in Trigonometry in my senior high school.

You are ready to blow your brains out.

I hated it. I was terrible in Trigonometry. My buddy reached over and said, “Can you come and deliver pizza at Marco’s?” I was like, “Deliver a pizza? I’m making $8.50 an hour at a machine shop.” This was in 1998. $8.50 for high school kid is okay. It’s not bad. He’s like, “So what? You’ll make $18 an hour delivering pizza.” I’m like, “Really?” At that time, I was like, “What the heck? It doesn’t sound like a hard job. I’m going to learn something new.”

I went in there and I did interview that day. I got the job. I started delivering and I fell in love with the business almost right away. Going back to what I was saying, it was that rush that I felt. I loved that dinner rush, the extreme rush, but then coming down and being able to analyze and being able to reflect the work because I love to reflect. We have to reflect on what went wrong, what we can do better, and how we can improve.

I would analyze that. Even as a delivery driver, I would do that. Eventually, I sat down with the owner. I became good friends with the owner. I said, “I don’t plan on going to college, but I don’t want to work for you either. I want to own one of these. I can see myself owning a store.” He’s like, “Why don’t you manage some shifts? We’ll see how you do and we’ll go from there.”

I started managing shifts and eventually, I became the general manager. First, I was the shift manager and then I went to assistant manager. Eventually, I became the general manager. I ran the store for good year and a half or so. I did a good job. I completely eliminated him to where he didn’t even need to come in the store anymore. I went to him and I said, “Dan, I’m going to give you my six-month notice.” He said, “Six-month notice? What are you doing?” I said, “I want to open my own store. I think if I put a six-month notice in with you, I’ll know that I’m going to be out of a job in six months.” It’s going to hold me accountable to doing something here. I’m going to stick to it and, in six months, I’m going to be out of a job. I need to get moving.

He called my bluff at first. He thought, “This guy is not going to do anything.” I never talked to him about if I had any money. I had no some money. It was probably a year and a half out of high school at that point and I probably have close to $100,000 saved up. It was not a crazy amount of money, but I was a good saver. I invested in some stocks. It still wasn’t enough money that Marco’s would have even accepted me as a franchisee, but when you want something bad enough and you concentrate on the prize, your brain will figure out how to get you there.

When you want something bad enough and you concentrate on the prize, your brain will figure out how to get you there. Share on X

I said, “I’m going to do this. No matter what it takes, I’m going to get it done.” I started taking every Thursday off and I’m driving around to towns in Ohio that don’t have a Marco’s. I’m checking out competition. I was trying to find a place to open a store. Eventually, Dan comes to me. He says, “Let’s sit down and talk.” He say, “I don’t want to lose you as a manager. You’re awesome.” He’s like, “Why don’t you buy into the store that you’re currently running? I’ll sell you a third of the store with another partner. We’ll be three equal partners and then we’ll open more stores together.”

It sounded like a great opportunity so I said, “Okay.” We shook hands and I bought into that company. After a couple years of that, he decided to do something else and sold us his shares. I went off on my own and started opening additional stories eventually after I got some more experience running that store. That’s how the pizza thing happened. I love Marco’s and the company. It didn’t quite have the systems in place that we have now. It was more of a mom-and-pop at the time. We were figuring things out back then. Once we got the systems in place, it became a lot easier to grow.

You bring a manager in and you teach them the systems. They’re following a system and it’s fairly easy. That’s where the franchise end of it helps out. If a franchise has those systems in place, we have the name. It’s a lot easier for me to take somebody and develop somebody into a general manager than a full service restaurant because when you have a full service restaurant, you don’t have the systems in place so it takes a long time to develop a manager to run it your way. Whereas in this, we have a systems in place. I come in and teach them those systems. Very quickly, I can develop a general manager from start to finish in 6 to 8 weeks to properly have them to where they’re running a store well. It could be sooner, but to running to my standards, that is typically what it would take.

There’s still something here, Joe that I can’t quite put my finger on. I try to excavate these assumptions. I’m assuming that you’re operating on assumptions of which you may or may not be aware. I’m coming into this completely ignorant of franchises in general. If somebody buys a Marco’s franchise, the average person who said, “I hate my job. I’m going to buy a Marco’s. I’m going to open a Marco’s franchise down the road.” Do some people come into this thinking, “All I’ve got to do is follow the formula and it’ll all take care of themselves?” There’s some underlying nuances in your attitude that make the difference.

I’ve seen a wide range of people. I talk to franchisees that failed and are no longer in the system. Generally, those are people that bought it because they didn’t realize they’re buying a job. When you’re buying one of these stores, you are buying yourself a job at least for the first store. It’s because you’re going to go in there. You’re going to be the general manager for a while until you can develop a general manager.

There was one guy that failed who literally told me, “I thought my main job was getting the store open and once it’s open, I’m done. That’s it. I’m like, ‘It’s now time to get to work.’” I remember when I opened one of my stores. I opened my fifth or sixth store in the office where I’m sitting in now. I have a store in this office and I told my wife, “You may not see me for the next 3 or 4 months.” She’s like, “What do you mean?”

I said, “We just spent $500,000 on a new store. You got to understand that my plan A is to have a general manager I have trained, developed, and ready to go. He’s going to run that store, but if he doesn’t work out and I got to step up to the plate and be the general manager, I’m going to do it.” It’s because that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take me working day in and day out for 2 to 3 months straight. I may not have a day off. I might work 7 days a week and 12 hours a day until I have a crew trained and develop that I trust to run that business without me there.

I said, “You may not see me for a little while.” She said, “Okay. Do what you got to do. I trust you. I understand your vision and how you are. I get it.” After about 4 or 5 days, I was like, “Everything’s cool. I think this guy’s going to work out. He’s a ringer. He’s awesome. He’s taking a full accountability of the restaurant.” I was here if he needed help and whatever, but that caliber of a manager will typically push you out real quick.

That caliber of a manager is like, “I have this. Let me do my thing.” That’s what he was. You have to have that mindset that when you open a business, stop thinking it’s a job. It’s not a 9:00 to 5:00. It doesn’t work like that. If you want a 9:00 to 5:00 job, do not open a business because it’s not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. There are going to be weeks where you’re working 60, 70, to 80 hours a week, but then once you develop it, once you get it going, you may not have to work at all.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: When you open a business, stop thinking it’s a job. It’s not a nine-to-five. If you want a nine-to-five job, do not open a business.


I’m at the point where I’m like, “I don’t need to work. I don’t need to be here. I do it because I love it. I do it because I enjoy being available to other franchisees if they have questions or if they need advice. I want to talk to my leadership team and coach him up. I want to be at the office and be here if my employees need someone to talk to. My office is open. They know I’m here. If you see my car and my office is open, come on over. We’ll have a discussion.” That’s why I do what I do.

Joe, I’m not quite getting it yet. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but in a lot of your dialogue and your perspective, you are focused on developing other people and delivering value to a community. It seems like you’re not just thinking of, “How can I squeeze every drop out of this lemon?”

I don’t. The way I look at things is there are two ways to manage a business. You can manage a business through topline revenues or you can manage a business by squeezing every drop out of the can, the bottom line profit. I’ve known operators both ways. I’m a top line guy. I go out there and get the revenues because I truly believe that if you get top line revenues, the bottom line will chase the top line.

If you go after the bottom line, you’re limiting the business from growing because you’re laser-focused on your profitability. If you’re laser-focused just on profitability, it’s hard to grow the top line. I grow the top line first. When I buy a store, I typically like to buy low and sell high. I bought stores for the price of a car and if I sold them now, I’d sell them for close to $1 million. That’s how much value you can create in these businesses. I don’t even consider worrying about the profitability of that location for a good couple of years. I don’t want to lose money. My goal is not lose money right out of the gate.

“I don’t want to lose money. Let’s find a way to breakeven.” Once I’m to that point, let’s reinvest 100% of the profits. Let’s keep reinvesting that to building the company up. Once I get that that store to where I maximize the potential the store, I now start focusing on the profitability. Generally, that might take 2 or 3 years. In one example, I bought a store that literally on paper, the franchisee is losing $8,000 a month. Nobody wanted to touch this store.

I take a look and my question is, “Why are you losing money? Let’s dissect that.” I figured out that he wasn’t losing money at all. It was a mismanaged money. He was bouncing checks because he mismanaged the money so he’s paying extra bank fees. He’s catching the landlord up on back rent. He’s paying double rent. He’s got a bank note on there.

If you added all this expenses, that was the $8,000. I bought the store from him. I said, “Let me stop your bleeding. Let me buy the store.” I paid the price of a car for this store. On month one, I limited that $8,000. We were losing money. We made money a month two. On month one, we broke even ad on month two, we made money. It was that quickly. We had to dissect, “Why is this guy losing money? Let’s take a look at his books. Let’s take a look at his P&Ls and figure out why he is losing money so we can stop the bleeding and make it a profitable company.”

Now, that store is doing extremely well and makes good money. That’s all it took. It’s going in there and putting the right leader in place, and coaching that leader on what they can’t control and control. I’ll take care of the operating expenses. I’ll dissect that, but you need to control your food and your labor. I’m going to teach you how to do that, but you need to control that. The store does fine.

What I want to come back to is something about your attitude towards employees. You hear a lot of employers, particularly people who employ people that don’t have college education, let’s say, that the labor force. People are constantly complaining about, “I can’t find good help.” Whenever I hear people say that, I always scratch my head and wander. How are you responsible for the fact that you can’t find good help?

I agree and I truly believe that has 100% to do with the culture of your business. Good people want to work with good people and bad people want to work with bad people. If you tell me that you’re having trouble finding good help, to me, that means that good people are avoiding your organization, or if a good person does come in, they see a culture that they don’t fit in and they leave quickly. Maybe you found good help but they didn’t stick around. They work for a 1 day or 2 and say, “This isn’t for me.”

Good people want to work with good people, and bad people want to work with bad people. Share on X

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re familiar with The Ice House book. Clifton told me that Uncle Cleve treated the Ice House like a little university. Clifton wasn’t the only guy that worked there and he told me he could point to 3, 4, or 5 other people from this poor cotton community in the 1950s that all became doctors, lawyers, engineers, retired military, or entrepreneurs. It’s because Uncle Cleve brought them into the Ice House. He taught them some basic things about how to conduct yourself. He then said, “Get the heck out of here. There’s no future here for you.” This is 1958 Mississippi Delta. It’s a different story, but it sounds to me that you’re doing the same thing.

To an extent. There are certain people that work for me that don’t have the ability to go out and be a doctor, a lawyer, or anything like that. They’re very limited and they are happy. I like to say that we don’t pay people minimum wage. We’re above minimum wage without a doubt. Can we pay everybody a livable wage in the pizza business? If I did that, your pizza would be $20 a pizza, and that’s not realistic either. There’s a fine line with that. I do have some lower paid employees and those people are fine working in that type of job. They’re okay with it. These are jobs and this is a fun thing to do on the side. For some of them, that’s the case too.

What I’m hearing from you Joe is that when someone shows up, a regular a delivery person, you’ll try to coach and develop that person and help them realize that they’re capable of more if they’re receptive to it. It’s almost like they accepted a job in a pizza store but they also stepped into an organization that’s almost like a family that will help develop and nurture them.

That’s the culture we want to live by. We want to be that family that’s not a dysfunctional family. A lot of these people are coming from dysfunctional families, but I want them to come to work and feel like, “I want to go to work. I enjoy going to work because I know that that’s my second family. My second family doesn’t put me down. My second family doesn’t fight. I can go there and I can trust that I can have a good conversation with my coworkers and they’re not going to look down on me for the conversations we have.”

I want them to know that they can step into my office and tell me what’s bothering them. I can coach them out of what their issue is. Most the time, when they’re coming to me, it’s because they’re in trouble financially and need some advice. “What do I do here?” “Show me your debts. Let’s figure out what you pay down first. Let’s create a budget here.” It’s because a lot of these people, at that point, they don’t understand.

Pay your priorities first. You got to put a roof over your head. You got to pay your gas and electric. Buy your necessities first because going out and getting a tattoo or going out and buying cigarettes or $5 coffees aren’t priorities. You got to pay your priorities first, you figure out what your budget is, and then you figure out what your monthly expenses are that you can go out and whether you have about $300 a month to use on nine other priorities.

I want to try to tie something together here if I can, but it seems like part of what makes this work for you and you said this before. You slipped it in. You’re a frugal guy. That’s an important piece of the puzzle that you saved $100,000 by the time you got out of high school. That’s not a small thing. That’s an important part of the Joe Jaros story that people need to understand. Clifton said the same thing. He learned from Uncle Cleve. He’s like, “You can’t be spending every dollar you earn.”

I was always very good saver. I was saving as much money as I could. In my life, I’ve never bought a brand new car. I’ve always buy used cars. I drive a nice vehicle, don’t get me wrong, but I always buy used cars. I’m not somebody that has to go out and buy a new car every two years. It’s more like every 8 to 10 years I’ll buy a car. I’m a frugal guy and simple. I’m not a flashy guy. I don’t enjoy going out. I don’t have a boat. That stuff does not interest me. I don’t wear jewelry or anything like that.

That’s an important point that can’t be overlooked, Joe. I heard Warren Buffett say this once. He called it an inner scorecard and outer scorecard. He said, “You’re better off if you can get away with the inner scorecard,” and I love that. People screw themselves up so badly by focusing on that outer scorecard. “I need the Rolex. I need the new car. I need the expensive jeans,” and all that.

What interests me is reinvesting that money that’s going to make more money. That’s important to me. You go buy jewelry or a new car. That stuff doesn’t do anything for you. All it does is make you want more. You go out and buy something. Now you got to have something better. Just like people I get tattoos. They get one and now, they got to have another one and then another and another. It never stops.

They buy a new car and a few years later, they want another new car. That stuff doesn’t interest me. I would rather I would rather take a good portion of my income and make it work for me. Get it going and get it to work because if it can make additional money for me, that interests me more than any anything that I can purchase.

The way I think about that is are you spending or are you investing? What’s the underlying logic between each? I think it comes back to the vision. If you feel like you’re striving towards something meaningful, you’re much more likely to invest and not just your money but your time and your thoughts. All of your resources all of your faculties in making that compelling thing happen but again, it’s the absence of that and now, we’re spending.

People just look forward to vacations and holidays. “I’m going to buy a new TV. I’m going to buy a new thing.” A lot of people wind up drowning in debt because they don’t have a vision though. It’s because they’re not striving to make something happen and I want to tie this back to something. We talked a little bit about the importance of you’re creating this nurturing environment where a minimum wage type employee can come into the Joe Jaros Marco’s family or realm and feel like they’re part of something. They feel like they’re being supported and developed as human beings.

When we give our interviews, we pretty much tell almost every employee about the entrepreneurship program. If they know that this opportunity is there, they know that it’s not just a dead end job. If you give me your all and you give me your best, I can put you on a path that’ll get you to make an unbelievably amount of money even to the six figures. Let’s put it that way.

We can get them on a path to do that, but I can’t do it for them. We tell them, first, if you’re delivery driver, be the best driver and then you become a manager. Be the best shift manager. If you’re a closer, do great closes. Be the best. Work your way up to an assistant manager and become the best assistant manager and the best GM. Once you’re once you’re a great GM, then we start training them how to run the four walls of the restaurant without needing our support at all.

Once they get to that point, once the director of apps or supervisor, “This manager is now fully functioning this restaurant with zero support from me. I don’t have to tell them to do anything. Their numbers are great. They run a clean store. They’re taking care of everything at the restaurant. This person is interested in the apprenticeship program.” They then turn them over to me and now, I teach them the back end of the business. I’m teaching them how to be an entrepreneur.

Being an entrepreneur, you’re wearing all hats. Running a Marco’s, you might have to do A, B, and C but an owner has to do A, B, C, D and E but I don’t teach a general manager how to do D and E. They got to learn that on their own. I can guide them. I can show them what else there is to do but there is more to the job than just A, B, and C which is what they do day in and day out. We’re wearing all hats.

When I was a general manager, I didn’t have the budget at that time to have a professional company coming and cleaning my ovens for me. It costs me $1,000 to have my ovens professionally cleaned, but I used to do that on my own. I could still do it on my own now if I wanted to. I could train general managers how to do it on their own but they don’t tend to want to do that. That’s one of those things where it’s like you may not have the budget to have a professional company come in and clean your ovens.

That’s something that you’re going to want to learn how to do because if you don’t have the budget to bring somebody into do it, you’re going to have to do it on your own. When I say we’re wearing all hats, we are. If the three-bay sink starts to leak or something and I need to replace the plumbing underneath it, I’m going to get on my plumber’s hat and I’m going to replace the plumbing.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: If you don’t have the budget to bring somebody in to do it, you’re going to have to do it on your own.


I know how to do all that. Maybe I didn’t know how to do it, but you can YouTube anything now. You can figure out how to do anything. I put on a plumber’s hat and I did the plumbing. If it’s a small electrical, I’ll do. If it’s something big, I call somebody in to do that. You’re wearing all hats. If I have to step in and be a delivery driver because we’re slow on drivers, I do that. If I have to be a dishwasher, I’ll wash dishes. Whatever needs to be done, I will do it. As an entrepreneur, you got to be willing to do that.

There’s still something here, Joe. There’s this formula. You can document everything you can do to run a successful Marco’s franchise. You could try to document that in a whole stack of three-ring binders, “What to do when you need to stove cleaned,” and so on. However, I feel like that wouldn’t capture Joe Jaros. There’s an underlying ethos, there’s a heart to what you’re saying, or a human component to what you’re saying.

Let me give you another example, Gary. Here’s an example and this is t a true story of what happened to my store. When I was a delivery driver when I first started, I was doing things for customers. There was one customer that would call me up and we had the old phone number of Continental Cable. We had some elderly people that would call up and say that their cable’s not working and they need me to help get it fixed.

I usually said, “This is Marco’s Pizza. We have their number,” and that would be it. There was this one older lady that was adamant about having me help her with her cable. I said, “Ma’am, this is Marcus Pizza. This isn’t the cable company anymore.” She did not understand that. She was totally disregarding everything I said and kept demanding I fix her cable. I finally said, “Ma’am, this is Marco’s Pizza, but I’ll tell you what, if you order a pizza and have it delivered I will be more than happy to look at your TV and try to figure it out.”

She happened to be my delivery area. We delivered her pizza and I figured out was just the batteries in her remote. That was what wrong. The batteries were dead on remote. We changed out the batteries and she gave me a hug. She became a regular customer after that. There were a couple other instances to where I would deliver a pizza and elderly customer and maybe their walkways full of snow. “I already gave them their pizza. It’s time to leave.” I get the shovel out of the back of my trunk and I’m shoveling off their walkway. They come out and they’re like, “Why are you doing that?” I’m like, “I’m just trying to help you out.”

That’s what I’m trying to get to. I don’t know how to bottle that. I don’t even know how to articulate it but what I hear over and over and over from what I call every day entrepreneurs just like you is they take an ordinary thing. You didn’t invent anything new. It doesn’t matter what the business is but it’s that attitude. It’s showing up and delivering a little bit more than a reasonable person would expect. You can’t help but succeed.

You’re generating luck and that’s what people don’t get. There’s an element to this story that’s about understanding the deeper social and emotional dimension of human needs. Clayton Christensen, the great Harvard business professor talked about this. You got a functional need up here. People need a pizza. You could just say, “I just deliver pizza.” That’s it. “My pizza is $0.50 cheaper than the next one,” or whatever. However, if you understand the deeper social and emotional dimension of human needs, that’s where the opportunity lies.

I used to call it creating a moment of magic for somebody and you only need to do that once. If you can give somebody an experience one time that you went above and beyond, they are going to be a customer for life. That customer that I shoveled their walkway, it only took 2 or 3 minutes, but that customer is going to feel obligated to order for me from now on. They’re going to feel like, “I have to order from these guys. Nobody would do that.”

If you can give somebody an experience one time that you went above and beyond, they are going to be a customer for life. Share on X

Just to build on that and I like to say that their culture is carried over because then many years later after I’m already done running this particular store, that was when I was a driver and then I became a general manager of that store. I like to say that I instill that type of culture of taking care of the customer no matter what. Anytime you see an opportunity to go above and beyond, do it. Even if it costs the company a little bit of money, but you’re giving somebody an experience to earn that customer for life, do it.

Whatever you can do, take those moments to create an experience. There’s this elderly customer that fell and she needed an ambulance. They took her to the hospital and upon release they said, “You have to call a family or a friend to come pick you up.” She doesn’t drive. This lady is 80 years old. She doesn’t have family or friends. She’s like, “I’m here alone.”

She ends up calling the only number she remembers and that is Marco’s Pizza. That was my store. I met her on the lake where I had built this culture and taking care of people. She called that that number and she asked to speak to the manager. The manager gets in and she tells the story about how she needs to be picked up. She doesn’t know what to do. We’re the only number she knows because she calls in for a pizza every week. She’s wondering if somebody can help her out.

The general manager doesn’t call me and say, “What can we do to help this lady?” She calls an off-duty employee and that off-duty employee goes to the hospital, picks her up, and takes her home. That story made me so proud of my organization that they took it upon themselves to give. Whether it costs the company money or not, it doesn’t matter. They took it upon themselves to do the right thing. It was absolutely the right thing to do and I’m so proud that they took it upon themselves to do that. They didn’t call me and say, “What do you think we should do,” or, “We’re just a pizza place. Call us when you want pizza.” They took it upon themselves and I’m so proud of that.

That’s a beautiful story, Joe. That gets at the heart of what I’m saying. I’m taking a guess here, but I get the feeling you’re the person that would do that even if you knew that person was never going to buy another piece as long as they lived, you’ll still shovel the walk.

Yes. Absolutely.

What I love about that story also, Joe is you’re giving someone, a young person who doesn’t have a college degree, and can’t find their direction in life. Maybe they don’t have a super supportive family structure around them. You’re allowing that person to come to work at what somebody might look and say is a crappy job. You’re allowing them to feel some sense of pride and dignity in this basic job. They can go home at the end of the day going, “I did something good for somebody.” You can’t put a price tag on that.

It makes the employees feel good about themselves. It makes them proud of the organization they work. If people are proud of the organization they work for, they’re going to do a better job. I think there’s a key component to that. I was going back to finding the right people. You have to find the right people because if you have the wrong person working in your organization, they’re not going to like an organization that does things like that. They’re a person that’s out for themselves. They don’t care. They’re not willing to help other people. Those aren’t the type of people that I want working for me anyway.

When you have this type of organization, you’re driving those people away and attracting the right people that do want to be a part of the community and want to do what’s right. I think that’s a key component to success and making these things ultra-successful because I believe that I can make any store a high volume store. However, what makes them extreme volumes is by doing all the right things. That’s another key is to always do the right thing. It’s not about selling pizza always even if it costs the company a little bit of money. I’m not worried about that. Let’s always do the right things and good things come to good people. When you do good things, good things come.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: It’s not about selling pizza, it’s just always doing the right thing.


When people come to work in your store, maybe you don’t initially know if they’re the right fit or they’re not. Do you have examples of where you saw people flip? They go from being like, “Maybe I’m more of a negative person,” to where they changed their tune.

That happens all the time. A lot of people have always told me that I have this persona around me that whenever I walk in the room, I have a high energy around me. They can feel that energy and that energy rubs off on them. I like my general managers to have that energy surrounding them because if you have that positive energy and that high energy type personality, it rubs off on the entire team. Now, everybody has that high energy. It also rubs off on the customers and makes them feel good.

They may not know why. They walk into a lively business with high energy-type people. They go in there and they instantly feel good. Even if they’re having a bad day or if they’re feeling negative, if you go around positive people, it lifts up your energy. I want people to feel good when they walk into my restaurant. I want people to feel like, “I’ve had a bad day, but I walk Marco’s and I feel like my energy is lifted.” They may not know why. It’s because energy is contagious. I want you to have those energy. Usually, if somebody has a negative energy and they walk in, we can lift them up. We can turn them more positive. However, if they if they remain negative, they’re somebody that’s eventually got to go.

The rest of this team will spit them out and reject them.

Those type of people fire themselves. People who have lived in negativity feel very uncomfortable in positive environments just like positive people are uncomfortable in negative environments. It’s the same thing. If you’re a negative person, you’re only comfortable in negative environment. You go in a positive environment and it makes you feel worse. That’s just how they are. They fire themselves. I do think that our cultures in all our restaurants are right. I have problems just like every other restaurants. Sometimes my culture slip, but it’s how quickly you fix them before it gets to be a problem.

Maybe you have a couple bad eggs. You need to get rid of those bad eggs before the good people leave because good people don’t want to work around bad people. I remember in around 2020-ish, there was a period of time where it seemed like every worker that came in was like a light bulb went off. All the good workers were non-existent. Everybody we’re bringing in was awful. You notice that the good people were leaving because they didn’t want to be around these negative people.

We had to get that fixed. Right around that time, I saw an opportunity to bring in a second supervisor because I wanted my Director of Ops to really concentrate on staffing of the stores. As I said, I can’t have my general managers in these stores focused in finding people. That needs to come to the office. We need to do that job. We need to be on Indeed. We use Indeed a lot. We need to be recruiting people and we need to be setting up these interviews for the GMs because if we have our GM focused on that, they’re not focused on the restaurant.

We need them to focus on their restaurants and we’ll focus on bringing in people. It’s because we were so focused on that, the stores weren’t getting the support they needed and that’s why I brought in a second supervisor to assist him in watching the stores and keeping the train on the tracks there and giving them the proper support. He was able to do that. We got at it so quick. We never once during 2020 ever closed a store early or ever went down for a delivery. Our stores were fully staffed the whole time. When restaurants were cleaning and they couldn’t find workers, we were fully staffed the entire time. We never skipped the beat. We never closed early.

That makes my point about the culture. People start bitching about the fact that they can’t find good help. I’ve always thought that’s a reflection of the culture you’ve created. There was a guy. His name is Deming. He was management guru back in the day. He said that every system is perfectly designed to create the outcomes it creates. What I love about your example is you’re creating luck. It’s like a snowball effect. You’re attracting good people and it makes your whole thing go.

We just did an interview. I don’t know if the guy’s going to work out but he came to us. We didn’t seek him out. He seek us out. We said, “What interests you about Marco’s Pizza?” He goes, “I order from you every Friday and every Friday, I see this positive environment. I see a well oil machine and a professional company. The employees are having fun. I want to work in that environment. I will do whatever it takes to get in an environment that I want to work in.”

We we’re going to bring him in and give him a shot but I think that’s a perfect example. These people, the good people are just like everyone else. They’re going out and they’re eating food. They are finding where they want to be or where they fit in. Good workers are going to go where the culture fits the way they are.

As I said, negative and bad workers are going to where the culture fits there or where they’re comfortable or the environments they’re comfortable in. That’s why some restaurants you walk into in the culture is messed up. Those owners are saying, “Blame it on the workforce.” It’s not the workforce. It’s your culture. You need to fix your culture.

My wife Karen gets mad at me because we walk into a restaurant and I’m like, “We got to get out of here.” She mad at me. I don’t know how I can even tell sometimes but you walk in and there are four tables. They’re empty but there are still dirty dishes all over. There’s nobody in the dining room. It’s like, “Let’s get out of here right now. Let’s go.”

Also, these restaurants that are claiming, “We don’t have any servers so we’re only taking five tables at a time,” and you got a lobby full of people that are waiting to sit down. It’s like, “How can you tell me that you can’t find servers?” If you can’t find employees, it’s on you time. As I said, I got 140 employees as of now. The stores are fully staffed. Yes, I’m always looking for good people. If I’m fully staffed in a store and a good person walks through that door, I’m going to hire them. I’ll find a spot for you. If you’re good to my organization, I’m going to hire you whether I need you or not.

That’s where I want to flip the script because we’ve talked about creating an environment that will not allow an average person to perform above average. That’s what you’re talking about, essentially. I won’t boring with the lessons of social psychology, but that’s essentially what this is. You create the environment, you get the behavior. Have you heard of the Stanford prison experiments?


Back in the ‘70s, this Psychology professor named Philip Zimbardo with Stanford came up with this experiment where he got 24 random college kids to sign up. He went into the basement of the psychology building at Stanford made some of the rooms into prison cells. He had the doors taken off and he had bars. Half of the students were recruited randomly to become guards and half of them become prisoners to see how this would unfold.

It was supposed to be two-week long experiment. He had to stop it in five days because the students who were randomly selected to become guards became so sadistic to the ones that had randomly selected that he had to stop the experiment. There’s a whole body of psychological research that shows that if you create the environments you can get good people to do bad things.

Yes, that’s true.

However, the opposite is also true. That very same guy Zimbardo has now created this body of research called the banality of heroism. This is essentially the opposite of if you create conditions, you can get average people to act in heroic ways. That’s what you’re talking about. That’s what Marco’s Pizza has become. You’ve created an environment where average people can do above average. They’ll perform in an above average way. Whether you know it or not, that’s what you’ve done.

Let me flip the script, Joe. I honestly struggle with this. For young people, if you show up with a Joe Jaros attitude, you’re going to find an opportunity. Take the Marco’s environment out of it. If somehow we could get younger people understand, “Your job is to make yourself as useful as possible to as many as possible in whatever your situation is.” It’s only a matter of time before a Joe Jaros taps you on his shoulder and offers you an opportunity.

There are tons of people that are willing to do the things that I do.

That’s what I’m saying. You’re not that far out of the norm in terms of an employer.

I wholeheartedly agree. My most valuable asset is my employees. I used to refer to my stores and I learned this when I was in the store on a closed holiday. I went in on Easter. I look around and I’m like, “All this is a pile of stainless steel junk.” That’s all the store is, but then then I bring in the people. I bring in the employees and then the phone starts to ring. Now, I have a vibrant business. A business that’s making money for me. I realized how important it was for the employees as people. My biggest asset is the people and not the equipment or the pizza.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: My biggest asset is the people, not the equipment.


It’s not even the pizza recipe. I’m sure Marco’s is a great recipe. It’s good pizza.

If you don’t have good people, that pizza isn’t going to come out very good. I have good people. Yes, it’s a fantastic recipe but we got to make it with care. We have to help the customer get an experience that makes them want to do business with us because if I don’t do that, if I can’t like deliver a pizza in a timely manner to show that I care, I think showing customers how much you care is more important than anything.

I learned this when I was a GM. When I was a GM, a few times I fell behind and a customer had to wait for a while for that pizza. I apologized. I said, “I’m so sorry you had to wait.” They said, “You do such a good job and you care so much, I don’t care. I’ll always do business with you.” It’s because I cared and that was a big difference. If you were on time all the time, but you don’t care, I don’t feel like you’re giving the experience. You’re giving experience when you show the customers you care.

That’s that goes back to my snow shovel example, Joe. I say this to people and sometimes, they look at me curiously. The purpose of a business isn’t to make money. The purpose of a business is to create useful things. If you do that well, the money just happens.

That’s exactly the way I look at my businesses now. I don’t even have to pay attention to it. The businesses make money just because we’re doing all the right things.

Now we’re getting to the heart of Joe Jaros. There’s this concept called obliquity. You can’t get to your target directly. If you try to put a spaceship on Mars, and I got the numbers all wrong here. Mars is 2 million miles away, let’s say. If you tried to hit it with a direct shot, you’d miss. You got to take the 8 million mile route.

You got to circle around it a couple of times and then hit it. That’s obliquity. You can’t just go in a straight linear line. That’s what I think is the essence of Joe Jaros. That’s what makes that thing work for you. As you said earlier, I’m a top line guy. I put it together and maybe, you don’t even understand fully yourself is you’re investing in a human experience. It’s taken care of itself. You are saying it like, “Yes.”

It’s because I talk to operators all the time and they’re always analyzing their statements and their bottom lines I’m like, “What are you doing to raise your top line?” You’re so concerned about your bottom line but what do you what can you do to make yourself more profitable? What if you focus your energy on your top line? Let’s say you drive all your energy into getting new customers and driving the business that way. Stop worrying about the bottom line just for a little bit. Just focus on the top line.

The bottom line chases the top line all the time. When you have a low volume store, it’s hard for manager to run your labor. It’s something you got to watch all the time, but I have stores that do nearly $2 million a year in sales and these are carry on delivery spots. That store do that kind of volume. The manager doesn’t even have to pay attention to labor at that point. The labor runs itself. You just make sure that people are efficient and you don’t even have to look at your labor. However, at the end of the day, your labor is great.

What you’re saying to the average person is like, “You’re not going to get ahead by clipping coupons.” It’s important to do that. You should control your costs, but if you’re not also trying to figure out how to grow your thing, it’s never going to lead to anything. Saving for rainy day is vacuous. It’s a platitude if you don’t talk about it in the context of a bigger vision and growing something.

Joe, there’s something to be said. When someone is only focusing on bottom line. They are managing their costs and they’re not managing their top line, that’s indicative of what you can control and what you can’t like. You’re telling me you’re focusing on what you think you have control over which is your costs but by you’re not focusing on the top line, that’s also revealing about your mindset. There’s nothing you can do about that.

The thing is like if you’re focused on your bottom line, you’re very limited on how much profitability you can squeeze out of a restaurant. If you focus on your top line, the potentials unlimited. The sky’s the limit. There is no limit. You can continue to grow and grow. There’s no limit. I’ve proven that. I’ve had low-volume stores that I turn them into extreme volume stores. People are like, “How much do you think you can grow this thing?”

If you're focused on your bottom line, you're very limited on how much profitability you can squeeze out of a restaurant. If you focus on your top line, the potential is unlimited. Share on X

I’m like, “I can continue to grow my restaurant sales until everybody in my trade area is ordering their pizza from me. If one customer is ordering pizza from another restaurant, I have room to grow.” I say that but the truth is I don’t want to put my competitors out of business. I believe in a free enterprise country and I don’t want to put my competitors out of business. People say, “Why wouldn’t you want to put your competitors out of business?” I said because if I do put them out of business, there’s always going to be somebody else that’s going to want to come in. Now, you have another empty pizza shop ready for somebody else to come in that maybe has deeper pockets and maybe it’s going to do a better job.

What I want to do is I want to cripple my competition to the point where they can’t afford to have a good manager. They can’t afford to advertise, but they can just survive enough to put food on their table. That’s what I want to do to my competition. It’s a selfish thing to say, but you got to be ruthless and I’m ruthless in this business.

One of the things with growing your top line, my favorite my favorite day of the week when I was a general manager or new owner, this is back when I was in my early twenties. I used to run a couple of miles every day after work. We closed at midnight and I would run 2 miles after work. My favorite day to run was on garbage day because at that time we had these recycle bins and they were little bins at the end of the street. People put their pizza boxes in those bins. I would be running and I would see a pizza box and now I knew that if that was not a Marco’s customer, that’s a house I got to focus on. I would remember that house. I would either write down the address and I would send a free coupon for a free pizza to that house and earn that as a new customer.

That was my favorite day to run. One of the things that would happen is my goal was when I first started running is maybe 1 in 10 recycle bins had a Marco’s Pizza box  and the rest were Papa John’s or these other companies. Over time, I started seeing more and more recycle bins with Marco’s boxes and less and less of competitors.

I started noticing that as my business was growing, I’m not seeing any car toppers. It’s what we put on top of our cars that displays your pizza company. When I first delivering for Marcos, you would see everybody else’s car toppers, but you wouldn’t see many Marco’s car toppers. As we grew the business, we started seeing more and more car toppers and Marco’s and less and less of my competition.

I remember I was talking to a cop and men were on the lake where my home store was. He said to me, “You guys are like taxi cabs in New York City. I see more Marco’s car toppers than anything. They’re everywhere.” There are time times where you have 5 or 6 Marco’s cars in a road driving down the road all going to deliveries. This guy’s going this way and this guy’s going that way. They’re all driving down their own simultaneously together because they’re all heading out on deliveries.

I think what happens is eventually you get to a point where you get that snowball effect to where you have so many customers and so many people doing business with you that everybody else starts to wonder, “Why is everybody doing business with Marco’s? Why is everybody else going there? I guess I have to too.” That’s what happens. You have that snowball effect. I like to say that that but we reach a certain sales point that you start to have that snowball effect. I love to say that when you hit when a manager had said snowball effect, then it’s all downhill from there. It’s great. You are growing exponentially at that point.

That’s what I was going to ask you, Joe. Let’s say you take over a new store and what you said is proven out in sociological experiments. That’s exactly what happens. When people see their neighbors are doing it, they go, “I got to do it.” They need the social proof and then they start to catch on. It’s a nerdy thing to talk about but I read this study written in the 1930s about the adoption of hybrid corn season in two Iowa communities. They went to these farmers and they said, “Try this hybrid corn seed. It’ll yield 20% higher yield.”

They don’t want to adopt it. They don’t have to buy any new equipment. There’s nothing that they have to change. They just have to buy this different seed and they don’t want to do it. It was almost the perfect experiment because they required nothing else. They didn’t have to buy and learn anything. The barrier to adopting was just it’s a different seed.

It wasn’t until a drought came and people lost their crops. They were like, “Let me try this new seed.” It’s funny how human beings adopt ideas whether they do or whether they don’t. What I want to ask you Joe is you take over a low performing store. You’re buying a store for the price of a car. I’m sure you’ve done some demographic. There’s enough population in the area to support a store. You’re not buying the store out in the middle of a cornfield somewhere.

The first thing I want to do when I’m looking at a new store is I want to make sure that the opportunity is there. Are people buying pizza? It’s because certain demographics may not buy a lot of pizza. Sometimes you get into a beach town where people are worried about their beach bodies and they’re eating super ultra-healthy. They’re not eating as much pizza. If the competition isn’t doing any business, there’s not much for me to take.

I’m not going to grow the business that much because the opportunity isn’t there. That’s the first thing I want to know. Are the competitors doing business? I want to look at the sales history of that store. How did it open up? What was the record week of that store and why did that store fail? I want to do a little research on the ownership and the management. Why did that store not do well? If the rooftops are there and their pizza eating customers were generally they are.

I want to service at least 16,000 to 18,000 homes at minimum. Twenty-five thousand homes doesn’t interest me as much. Why? It’s because if you get more and more homes, you’re going to have more competition. If you have more rooftops, it’s going to cost you more money to advertise. I like that sweet spot of 16,000 to 18,000 homes where I’m not having a ton of competition, but it’s manageable now.

There’s enough rooftops where I can effectively advertise it the way I want to advertise it cost effectively. That’s my sweet spot. I like an average income of somewhere between the $40,000 and $80,000 range per home because those are pizza-eating people. People that make an income of $40,000 to $50,000, they might need pizza twice a week. If you get people that make $150,000 a year, those homes might order pizza once a month. There’s a big difference there. I like a lot of rooftops that’s closed together, ideally. I want to be in a neighborhood. They say a lot of our business comes within a one mile radius.

Did you figure this criteria out yourself or did the company?

The company supplies us with a lot of those facts of but through experience. It’s because we have franchisees that are extremely successful in communities where they’re the only competitor and there’s 1,500 homes. That’s it. You have 1,500 homes. That doesn’t interest me. That’s not my thing. I’m more of a guy that I get what I’m looking for. My certain demographics, my certain household counts, and the certain trade area size. I’m looking for that.

When I find that type of store and I see that it wasn’t a low volume store in the entire time. Maybe it opened up strong but it was mismanaged. I know I can fix that. I’ve already done it. I’ve proven that I can fix it. It might take a little bit of time. What I never advertise is new ownership. People ask me why you wouldn’t want to advertise this new ownership.

It’s because if I want to earn their trust slowly because if I was to offer new ownership right away. You come out and try me and you don’t get the great experience that you think you’re going to get, you may not give me another shot. If you try me 3 or 4 times and the experience is getting slightly better each time and then you hear from somebody else that it’s under new ownership, it’s different. Now it’s like, “I have noticed.”

You’ve got the time to change up the team and put things in place. You’re not putting a flag in the ground saying, “We’re all new.”

Another thing is if I take over a low volume restaurant, it’s not like I can throw $70,000-caliber manager in there. You still can’t afford to pay a $70,000-caliber manager. I usually start off lower and I keep growing. I’ll help that manager out and teach them. Maybe they’re a $45,000-caliber manager and I teach them. How can I make you a $50,000-caliber manager? Let’s grow together. Eventually, it gets the point where that manager, as much as they’re going to grow the restaurant, if they stay and I can continue to work with them, it’s fine, but usually it’s not the case.

Managers have an expiration date. They eventually leave. I don’t go out and get another $45,000-caliber manager. I go out there and get somebody better. I see managers leaving as an opportunity to go out and find somebody better. Maybe I hired that $45,000-caliber manager. I built them up to a $55,000-caliber manager and they leave. I’m not going back down to a $45,000-caliber manager. I’m going to go out and get a $60,000-caliber manager and teach them.

They’re going to be a better manager that’s going to be able to handle the growth and take it to the next level. I then just keep raising the bar. If I can get up to where I’m having a $70,000, $80,000 or $90,000 managers, that’s great. I would love that. That’s usually not the case. We don’t get to that point. Eventually, they leave or they take the opportunity where they want to become a supervisor. They advanced on to doing something else.

I don’t want to be a dead end job. I want to develop somebody. I look at it like, “If you work for me for a couple years and you don’t take my apprenticeship program or you don’t move on to supervisor or whatever, maybe it’s time for you to look for something else not because I want you to leave but because you’re done growing.” I want you to go out make something at yourself. I want you to be ultra-successful.

Some people are limited and I do have managers that stay with me forever and they don’t ever leave. They’ll probably be here for a career and that’s fine. If that’s what they want, it’s fine. I just don’t encourage it. I don’t want them to feel like you’re locked here. You have to stay. I want them to grow with us, and that’s why we offer the apprenticeship program. It’s there if they want to try to take that opportunity.

Joe, winding down here, have taken any business courses? How the hell did you figure all this out?

Honestly, just through experience. Reading books helps too. Your book Who Owns the Ice House? was one of those books. I read it two days. It was like one of those books where you couldn’t put it down. It was like I was reading my own story but it had a lot of a-ha moments in that where you’re like, “A-ha. That makes sense. That’s exactly the way I think.” I encourage anybody to read that book. It was through experience.

You didn’t go to a community college and take business courses. You’re learning on the job. You’re learning from other franchisees. You’re reading books.

I learned more from best employees. There’s a few key employees that I can think of in my past history that truly made me the way I am. You come to these realizations through experience. It’s between reading books and through experiences. I didn’t take any business classes or anything but experiences is 100% the best way to learn. It is by doing it. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s the failures in life that we pick up and Learn from the most.

The best way to learn is by doing it. Yes, you're going to make mistakes. It's the failures in life that we pick up and learn from the most. Share on X

I learned more from my failures than the good things that I’ve done. You learn you and you quickly adapt. You learn from those failures and make sure that you don’t continue to make those same mistakes. The biggest lesson that I’ve ever had to learn is letting a culture slit too far to where it took too long to fix now. As soon as a culture starts to slip now, I’m laser-focused on the fixing that culture very fast. It’s like, “All hands on deck. Let’s get this culture fixed immediately before it starts to get bad,” because I did let a culture slip and it took me a good year and a half to fix that store. It took a long time.

Never again will I ever allow that to happen. All that was is we had a manager that wasn’t accountable and wasn’t doing the job. He’s started drinking and became an alcoholic. He wasn’t a good leader to his team. The culture slipped. It fell apart. We didn’t react quickly enough and we allowed things to get out of control. We didn’t you know didn’t fix the problem. Now as soon as you’re having a problem, you coach them out of that problem. If they can’t get it together quickly, you got to make a change.

I’m interpreting for you here Joe, but what you’re saying is you also learn from your mistakes. You’re going to make more mistakes and they’re painful. They’re expensive and you learn not to do that again.

There’s been many little things, experiences, and mistakes. We are having conversations with other business owners and stuff where you learn, “That happened to you.”

It’s a note to self.

I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to me.

There’s something else here, Joe. When you’re in control of your vision or when you have a vision, that’s something you’re striving to make happen, which assumes that you have control over it. I think about this a lot. Our brains are thinking all the time. How do I advance down the field? How do I improve? How do I move the ball 1 inch, 1 foot, 1 yard, or whatever?

If you just go to a job every day and you don’t have control over your circumstances you don’t engage in that way. Your brain just goes out the window and thinking about your next party or you’re going to watch a football game. You are thinking about other things. I think people don’t get that these are ordinary people doing extraordinary things because of the compelling goal. It’s like you’re learning all the time.

Here’s a guy I’m talking to. He is self-admittedly a horrible student and hated school who employs 140 people. Part of my question or the head scratch is like so many of these entrepreneurs that I interviewed, Joe are people just like you. They are people for whom the education system basically just ignored. “You’re a C student. Get out of here. Go get a job in a factory. See you later.”

I think the average person thinks they want to trade money for time and I can’t see that.

I don’t think they want to. I don’t think they see an alternative.

I would 100% agree with that but I think that’s what college instills in people. College does not explain to people or teach people that there are a multiple ways to make money. Either you inherit your wealth, your money makes you money, you own a business, or you trade your time for money. That quadrant is what I want to stay away from. I don’t want to trade my time for money. Absolutely not. I don’t do that at all. I’m never on the clock.

I certainly don’t come from a wealthy family so I can’t expect the inheritances, but I can do I can employ people that make me money. I can do that. I can lead a team. I can use some of my wealth to create income. I use those two quadrants is what’s making me money. I think college does not introduce those two quadrants to people. I think they’re teaching people to trade their time for money.

I talk about that a lot. Almost a moment you set foot in school at whatever age, it’s assumed that you’re going to work in an established company where the useful thing that that company produces has already been figured out. You don’t need useful thing figuring out skills. The discovery skills are ignored and that’s what your journey is about, Joe. It’s discovering how to do this well.

The discovery part is you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. I don’t know that I got to the essence of Joe Jaros yet. Maybe we’ll have to schedule a second episode but there’s this underlying theme in our conversation that you’re assuming like, “I’ve got to figure it out. I got to figure out a way. I got to find a way.” Even when you were a kid looking at somebody else’s business. I’m like, “How is this not being optimized?” I think the message people could take away from this show is to put this inward. I have to deliver something useful to the world. You figured out how to do that well.

What I would tell anybody that believes that maybe they have that an entrepreneurial attitude is to first find something that you’re passionate about. I would never encourage somebody to not go to college but let’s say this much. Why don’t you find somebody that is living the life that you want to live? You go to that person and say, “If you let me shadow you for 90 days, I’ll work for free. I’ll do it for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, if I’m not absolutely somebody that you want to have around you or if I’m not somebody that you want to employ, you can just fire me. All I’m asking for a return is the knowledge of how do I get to the point where you’re at. Teach me your business teach me how you got here. I want to learn from you.”

Wouldn’t that be more important than a full college education and it would be free? It wouldn’t cost you anything. I’m thinking that you go out you spend $200,000 on a college education and most of the time, you don’t even end up doing what you studied. You don’t even do it. You do something else. Yet, you’re stuck with this $200,000 in debt. What are your interests? Find your interests and then go to that boss or whatever. Do whatever it takes. The only reason I’m saying offer to work for free is because you want to be, “I don’t want to just work for you. I want to work side by side with you. The only reason you’re going to let me work side by side with you is that I’m not having to pay you.” If somebody said to me, “Let me shadow you, Joe. Let me hang out with you every day for 90 days.”

“I will get your coffee. I’ll get a trash,” or whatever.

I will teach you everything about my business in 90 days. You’re going to have to go work for my stores eventually and you’re going to have to learn the business. You’re going to have to learn to be a GM, but I will teach you what I do and what drives me to succeed. I will teach him everything I know. Let’s say after 30 days they’re like, “This this isn’t for me. I thought this is what want to do. This isn’t what I want to do.”

You just saved yourself a lot of college education because you don’t need to do it. You don’t need the college education to own a business. I’d say it would be helpful. It definitely would have helped me if I would have taken some maybe accounting courses and stuff. It would help me read statements, but at this point, no. I would not change a thing.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: You don’t need a college education to own a business.


You can find that stuff online. That’s the point.

You’re hiring an accountant. In my point is I have an accountant that that handles all my statement. The bookkeeper funnels everything into the statements that are set to my format so it’s readable to me. My accountant signs off on it. I have an attorney that handles anything legal that comes up. I have professionals doing all these things for me so I don’t have to worry about those things. I’m just saying that it would have it would have led me to success faster if I had it but I don’t think it’s necessary.

I love that idea, Joe. I hope people don’t start showing up on your door saying, “I want to shadow you.”

It wouldn’t matter to me because one of my true passions is helping other franchisees. I love when a franchisee calls me and says, “I need to pick your brain. I want to know what I can do to fix what I need fixed. I love to reflect on.” “Tell me your situation. Open up everything. Tell me everything.” I give him some advice or whatever on how I think I’d handle the problem.

It’s different with employees. I like to say we like to coach our employees to be able to think for themselves. I don’t want to make it so that they always are dependent on my advice. “What do I do?” “I think you have the answer. How do you think you should handle this situation,” and let them tell you. “It sounds like it’s very doable. Go get it done. Let me know how it goes.” I want them to go through that experience to just handle it. We can then talk about what you could have done differently.

You learn by doing you. You can’t keep going to Joe for the answers. I see this in entrepreneurship education all over the place. I spoke at a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I was sitting on this guy’s session from the UK and he was bragging about his entrepreneurship program. First, I teach him accounting and then I teach him this, marketing and so on.

I said to the guy afterwards, “The more you keep telling people what to do, you’re undermining their ability to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. You’re creating this dependence on you for all the answers. That’s not how it works.” It’s like, “Go out in the world and try something on a small scale.” You can’t die if it goes wrong.

Whether you want to start an HVAC business or you want to start this 1-800-GOT-JUNK-type business or whatever, your best thing would be to go work for somebody that’s already living the life that you want to live. Shadow that person. Figure out and learn that business first because if you get into something and this is the difference between the type of entrepreneur that you felt were entrepreneurs and the way I see entrepreneurs. I wouldn’t even say it like that.

I’m saying to go out and try something. Also, figure out what you can do differently. I don’t want to compete with this guy, but what can I do differently? What can I take from this guy or learn from this guy? What can I do to improve? Whether I’m going to learn his business inside out and I’m going to improve what I think needs improvement. I’m going to take that as my I own experience.

I want to I want to take your idea and run with it. Starting as a senior in high school, kids should be shadowing people for free just like running around and getting their coffee, or whatever. Just getting inside look at how a business right is ran. That could be a valuable experience for young people to push them out in a world.

It would at least teach them the way and entrepreneur thinks. It would lead them into understanding that what truly drives a successful entrepreneur is they are extremely passionate about what they do. They believe in what they do and they love what they do. It’s not like it’s work. If I had to work 80 hours in a work week, it wouldn’t feel like I worked 80 hours. I would not be burned out. I almost could not burn out of this business because I enjoy what I do.

Let’s close on that comment right there, Joe. I said this to your dad this morning. If everybody could experience that in life, we’re learning and work is fun. It’s something I look forward to. I’m saying, “Thank God, it’s Monday,” and not, “Thank God, it’s Friday.” That’s what it’s supposed to be like. If you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, that’s how learning and work has been for most of the time we’ve occupied this Earth for hunter-gatherers. It’s supposed to be fun.

You’re not supposed to come home exhausted and like, “I need a glass of wine.” That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I look at this Gallup data. Eighty-seven percent of workers worldwide are not engaged in their work. I’m like, “What the heck? The vast majority of humanity is phoning it in.” When you look at entrepreneurial people like yourself, they’re the exact opposite.

If you think about it, the entire foundation of this country was built upon entrepreneurs. It’s because we had a free country and we were allowed to do whatever we wanted to do. We had the freedom to go do whatever we wanted to do. You had this this industrialized time were entrepreneurs came in this country and they the freedom to chase their dreams. They did what they’re passionate about. We were able to cultivate great things because of having the freedom to be able to chase your vision and your dream here.

TEMP 2 | Successful Entrepreneur

Successful Entrepreneur: The entire foundation of this country was built upon entrepreneurs.


I’ll put it to you this way, Joe. I was talking a friend of mine in Omaha about this. I define entrepreneurship as this self-directed pursuit of opportunity to create value for others. By creating values for others, you can empower yourself. A person’s ability to create value for others is a source of power that’s available to anyone. You don’t need money. You don’t need to be a genius inventor. You don’t need a Stanford MBA. You got to figure out how to make yourself useful to other humans.

That’s how I think about this. It’s an alternative but it’s not about empowering people economically. That’s not to be overlooked but I think the bigger empowerment, the more important conversation is about living fully and accessing human potential. Also, looking forward to work and going home at the end of the day. I did something. I made a contribution to my community. That’s the bigger idea in my mind about entrepreneurship.

I would agree with that.

It’s not even about making money. People freak out when I say this. It’s not even about business. It’s about human capital. It’s about using your faculties and abilities to create value for people around you.

If an entrepreneur opens a business thinking about that their vision is to make money, I think those are the entrepreneurs that are going to fail first. It’s because for me, I wanted to be a millionaire. I always did but I never once looked at my bottom line as being so important. It was always that top line. Drive the top line. Keep driving the top line.

Eventually, the bottom line is going to chase the top line and that’s absolutely what happened. I can’t say that enough. I talked to so many entrepreneurs in the past where they were trying to drive their bottom line. I was like, “Stop focusing on your bottom line. Focus on your top line. All your energy should be focused on that top line. If you do that, if you drive the top line up, the bottom line will follow.” It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen because revenue fixes all mistakes.

We’ll end there, but I think what you’re saying if I’m understanding you properly, by saying focus on the top line, you’re saying focus on creating value and the bottom line will take care of itself. The profit will come out.

In my business when I say, “Go after your top line,” it’s creating more customers not necessarily sales. I was one of the first franchisees that talked to a vice president at Marco’s. I remember this conversation. This was years ago. I said, “All you guys talk about is sales over sales, but nobody ever seems to talk about orders over orders.” If I increase my sales slightly every year, let’s increase my sales by 4% a year and my sales are up by 3% that year, I lost customers. That’s not a healthy business. If I’m losing customers, my businesses is not healthy.

I said, “Stop worrying about sales. Let’s not talk about sales. Let’s talk about order accounts.” In my business, I’m talking about order accounts. In other businesses, it’s not the same thing. It might be sales and in other businesses, it could be leads and how many of those leads are transferred over into sales. It could be that. Every business is slightly different but in mine, it is order accounts.

Every year, I want my order account to be over last year’s order account. If that happens, I know my sales are going to be up. That’s inevitable. That’s going to happen but orders is more important than sales even. I think that’s what I was trying to drive at is focusing on that top line, which is sales but focus on those order accounts. Get your order accounts up. I want you to be up in order accounts every year.

I don’t ever want to be losing customers. If I’m losing customers, five years from now, I might be in serious trouble. Let’s say I’m losing 10% of my customers a year and in five years, my business is not sustainable. I’ll be out of business. I got to be increasing my customer accounts every year. That’s my focus.

Joe, let me ask you one final question. What is it about Joe Jaros that makes this work? What came on the hard drive with you? You’re frugal guy. You’ve got that going on.

Gary, this goes back to that vision and I hate to keep bringing that up but I have this this vision that I keep thinking about. I think about driving that that vision and I have to sell that vision to my leadership team. They need to sell that to the people below them and they need to sell that to their teams. It’s like a pyramid. The guy at the top has to have that vision. If I lose focus of that vision, then the two people below me and that pyramid are going off in their own directions.

If you could picture a giant rock and we’re all pushing that rock on opposite directions, the rock doesn’t go anywhere but if we all get on one side of the rock and we’re all pushing that rock together in one direction, we’re moving that rock. As an organization, you have to create a vision and you have to sell that vision. My job is selling that vision to the team and keep them laser focus in on that vision. Make sure everybody’s pushing the rock in the same direction because if we’re all pushing in opposite directions, the organization doesn’t move. The organization needs to move forward. That means we ought to get on the one side of the rock and we all have to push forward.

You have to create a vision and you have to sell that vision. Share on X

Joe, this is a fantastic conversation.

We have we have a lot of tremendous people and organization. I like to say that I’m a highly respected franchisee and organization, but I could pick up the phone and talk to any one of them or anybody in the organization that I want. There’s a franchisee that it’s in multiple businesses and he’s a near billionaire. If I pick up the phone right now, he will pick up phone and talk to me. I love that about the Marco’s community is we are close. If I need advice from anybody, I could just pick up the phone. I got everybody’s number. I can have a conversation with anyone.

I can call Marco’s executive. I can call the CEO now and he’ll pick up the phone and talk to me. That’s what I do love about this organization. I think I’m a respected franchisee, but we have a lot of tremendous franchisees in the organization as I’m sure every organization has a lot of great people working for them. What drives our success is those great people.

It’s a great story, Joe. It’s awesome.

Thank you, Gary. I appreciate this time. It’s been fun.

Thank you.

Again, I look forward to your new book coming on. I’ll be one of the first ones to get it ordered and read it up.

Thanks, Joe. That’s awesome.


Important Links