Wow, where did the last year go? As I sit in my hotel room tonight and reflect on the past 365 days, I realize how much has happened since I made a major career path change and joined the Donatos Pizza family on February 25, 2014.
After 20 years in the college sports information world, I made the jump to the marketing department of a strong and growing regional pizza company with zero experience in the restaurant industry aside from that as a consumer. The folks at Donatos saw things in me that they liked and felt like they could teach me what I didn’t know, so they gave me a chance to prove myself.
I will say that after that first day on the job I was extremely overwhelmed and wondered more than a little bit what I had gotten myself into as I had an entirely different set of jargon to learn as well as new policies and procedures. However, thanks to some sage advice from a close friend to be patient and give myself time to learn the ropes and the guidance of a truly great boss in Tom Santor every day brought me a little more confidence and belief that I had made a great choice.
I am really blessed to work with some very talented people in the Marketing Department at Donatos who have patiently helped me learn the ropes. In addition to Tom, I have really appreciated all the help that Natalie, Ann, Katie, Staci, Carolyn, and our interns have given me to help me succeed in what I’m doing. It’s truly a team effort, but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some serious all stars. And our strong senior leadership team and the rest of the home office associates have all been a pleasure to work with and get to know.
I’m really happy to report that Donatos had one of its best years in 2014 and it was fun to be a part of that. I work primarily with franchise-owned stores out of state, and it was a pleasure to get to know some great people who believe in our brand so much that they’ve invested their life savings in it to be a part of us. I can honestly say that I’ve learned something from each of the partners that I work with and I’m thankful for their patience in allowing me to get through my rookie season.
Traveling for work has provided some great opportunities to meet new people. I’ve been able to connect with different members in each community and I’m starting to feel like each market is a small home away from home. Our guests are passionate about our pizza and it’s always great to hear their stories. One example happened just today as I was at our store in Ashland, Ky. where a group of ladies (pictured below) who worked together for 35 years meet EVERY Tuesday for lunch at our store. It’s fun to be part of something that means so much to so many people.
I’m also proud of the fact that we as a company give back so much to each of our local communities. Whether it is partnering with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Stefanie Spielman Fund for breast cancer research, or each local store supporting local causes, Donatos is committed to being a contributing member of each community we serve.
One other aspect of my new job that I wasn’t sure about when I took it was how I would fit in all of my running since I have an hour commute each way. What is amazing is that I was actually able to run my highest mileage total ever during the past 365 days as I logged 2,623 miles and completed three marathons while also securing my first trip to the Boston Marathon with my best time ever back in September with a 3:10:25 at the Erie Marathon. I’ve also managed to run in each of the states that I’ve visited for work and have even made running friends in some of the cities including Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Alana Hadley in Charlotte.
So, as I put a wrap on this first 365 days at Donatos, I am excited to see what all awaits as we as a company have endless opportunities. My first day of Year #2 should get started with a bang tomorrow when I get the privilege of recognizing one of our associates who went above and beyond at our Somerset Ky. store during a recent winter storm as well as presenting $500 to a 19-year-old college student sweepstakes winner at the same store. And more than that, it’s just fun to see and hear the great moments that happen in peoples’ lives centered around our great pizza and other products.