This has been an incredible time in our history. A reawakening, if you would, in many, many senses, from the pandemic to the protests and calls for racial equity. I have experienced many of the things that have come out, and I am also learning to be more open, to share those experiences with others in a way that brings awareness and understanding that there’s work we need to do. We cannot assume that doing nothing means that this will go away.

This is a time when we need leaders trying to understand, putting themselves in other people’s shoes, understanding experiences before they speak in others’ perspectives. It can be such a differentiator for effective leaders.

Never settle when it comes to building your team. Always make sure that you put top talent in your teams. Develop your culture, and don’t forget about the importance that diversity plays in a great culture.

Early in my career, I got to see early examples of people that inspire others, and I have made a point in my life that if you’re going to do something, love what you get to do. The roles that I’ve had, I’ve absolutely loved them. Not liked them—loved them. And in this role here at Papa John’s, it’s one of the roles that I absolutely love.

The best organizations that you see in the restaurant industry, they differentiate themselves for some reason. Innovation has probably been the biggest differentiator. For individuals like myself, we’re constantly having to think about the capabilities that you need in the restaurant industry. Those who are able to differentiate themselves offer a unique value proposition and provide service in a way that makes people love to be there. That continues to be the key part of this work.

One of the lessons I learned early on in my conflict resolution days is the power of using food to bring people that disagree to come together, breaking bread together to be able to talk. And the way that I feel and we feel here at Papa John’s is, when we make pizza for you, we’re providing a part of ourselves to you.

What was your first job?

I was like a front-end person that would take people over to their tables, and then I got the big job, which was the fry person. It taught me a lot of lessons about who I wanted to be and how, when I got the opportunity again to work and someday lead, to do the same.

What is your favorite Papa John’s item?

Right now, my favorite is actually one of our newer items. This year, we launched the Papadia; it’s a handheld-based pizza. We’ve got some great flavor combinations, and my favorite is our meatball version.

What is your favorite cuisine?

I love street food from anywhere in the world. I lived in South America for a number of years and I would go outside and see what the vendors are making. The smells, the spices excited me.

Who inspires you as a leader?

I am so taken by individuals that in light of so much against you, you’re able to stand up for a cause that is greater than you and inspire others to be part of that cause. Leaders such as the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Leaders like General Colin Powell.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m fortunate to be a father of four incredible children. Being a part of their lives, watching them grow, trying to help influence them is probably a key part of my life. Outside of that, I’m a big believer in exercise as the way that allows me to manage my stress.

Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Papa Johns