Air Force vet relies on resiliency to grow Marco’s Pizza
“Hire, train, retain and promote the best,” says Marco’s franchisee Stephanie Moseley of training leaders to support growth.
Stephanie Moseley didn’t get into Marco’s Pizza to own just one unit. But the Air Force veteran’s growth plans nearly took a nosedive as she cycled through managers at her first restaurant in Newport News, Virginia, where sales struggled for months and she had to rely on the resiliency ingrained in her since childhood to keep pushing forward.
“It was absolutely horrible,” recalled Moseley of the early weeks and months at the Marco’s store she opened in November 2018. “You have to get a good manager, otherwise they’re not going to hire the right team.”
As dismal as things seemed, Moseley knew she couldn’t just cut her losses and instead drew on a family mantra started by her dad, a Navy veteran: “If you’re coming up to a challenge, just remember, you’re a Moseley, you can do anything,” she said. “It stuck with me my entire life. And I’m 58.
“Failure just wasn’t an option for me,” Moseley continued. “And with a product as good as Marco’s, there’s no reason you should fail.”
She went on the hunt for a manager who knew the pizza business and could embrace her vision for growth. Someone, as she put it, “who would be all in.” She found that person in Jason Gorman, who spent five years operating Pizza Huts under NPC International and was running a Marco’s in Richmond but looking to move to Newport News.
“I was offering $50,000 a year, base salary,” recalled Moseley of recognizing the need to pay more to get what she needed. In the interview, Gorman asked about the store’s weekly sales volume, which was $9,000 at the time. “He said, ‘You can’t afford $50,000.’ He was the only one who was honest and he had the confidence that he could get us there. He was up to $60,000 in six months,” said Moseley of his salary, noting she’s since worked in other benefits such as healthcare and profit sharing to attract and retain employees.
That “miraculous” turnaround since hiring Gorman in October 2019 meant Moseley was able to open a second Marco’s in May, this one in Suffolk, and she recently signed for a third in Yorktown, all under her company, Pisa Pie Inc.
Born in Pisa, Italy, while her dad was stationed there, Moseley and her parents moved back to the United States when she was still a baby but her affinity for Italian culture remained and is what influenced her decision to search for an Italian concept.
Following an intelligence analyst career in the Air Force that had her working on reconnaissance missions from bases in Okinawa and South Korea, Moseley had moved from her last station at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin to Virginia, where she was working as a pharmaceutical drug rep when a wind-waver banner for Marco’s caught her eye. She tried the pizza, loved it and was drawn to Marco’s area representative structure, which she said provides additional guidance and support as her business grows.
Trying a pizza from Marco’s helped convince Stephanie Moseley to become a franchisee.
“I didn’t get into Marco’s to own one unit,” said Moseley. “I want to build leaders, so when I’m ready to open the third and fourth and fifth and sixth and 10th and 12th, that I have people ready to step in.”
With that growth mission in mind, Moseley is creating a career path for her employees which includes promotion opportunities to shift lead, assistant manager and general manager, along with additional training through the franchisor’s Marco’s University. Gorman is now her director of operations, and as Moseley adds stores, she’ll have roles for area supervisors.
“Hire, train, retain and promote the best,” said Moseley. “So, I have to identify those stellar employees who see a future in Marco’s.”
Drawing on her military background, Moseley said her leadership approach is one of leading by example. “If they see me doing my best, they’ll follow,” she noted, and demonstrating that work ethic has served her well as Moseley and her team continue to navigate changes to the business brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The beginning of the pandemic was really frightening. I decided to do what I’d do in the military: identify the enemy, which was the pandemic, and figure out ways to keep our business open and keep employees safely employed,” said Moseley, who like others in the Marco’s system put new cleaning and sanitization procedures in place, along with new ways of providing contactless service.
“You have to outline clear expectations,” she said of managing people through the crisis. “And it’s letting employees know you care about them. Because in my mind, care equals trust.”