The end of 2017 is only a few weeks away as the Home Run Inn executive leadership team gathers around the boardroom round table. There are no PowerPoints on the projector, no financial quarterly reviews being passed around in hefty binders, and no earnings reports to digest. Rather, it’s simply a time to reflect on the accomplishments that the restaurant chain and frozen-pizza company has made in the past year.
Like a family gathered around the dinner table, the team shares stories of strides made, such as collaborating on vision statements for divisions throughout the company. They share how they improved the company culture by breaking down siloes, strengthened communication, and how the initiatives they recently launched contributed to the company’s recognition in Thrillist as the best frozen pizza in the nation in 2017. But above all, and what the company and its team members are most proud of, is a company built and maintained on family values.
The company’s origin starts with family, dating back to when its original pizza recipe was created in 1947 by Mary Grittani and Nick Perrino at the company’s earliest tavern in Chicago. In fact, the first time Paul Brill, director of IT, entered the building, he noticed all around the office that there were photos of family members and people who have been with the company for more than twenty-five years lining the walls.
“I’ve been in Fortune 500 companies where you have blank walls or pictures of buildings,” Brill says. “But this is communication that actually speaks to people as you’re walking through the hallways, and you’re showing people our history on the walls.”
Meet Home Run Inn’s Executive Team
President of Frozen Foods
President of Restaurants
VP of Sales and Marketing
SVP of Branding
VP of HR
Director of Culture and
Director of IT
VP of Operations
The executive team sat down with Profile to reflect on the past year and share why it’s a set of strong family values that have made all the difference for the storied company.
Much of the focus this past year has been on the intangible aspects of the company. Why was that a priority for the team?
Mark Carlson: I think a lot of times when you walk into an executive meeting the initial tendency is to break down the finances, look at the numbers, and make decisions based off of the numbers. But when we started meeting on a regular basis earlier this year and figuring out what direction we wanted to take over the next 5–10 years, we actually started with the team itself. We started internally making sure that we had all the right people in the right positions, but also that we were allowing people to be creative in an area that they were passionate about. We spent a lot of time building that trust and vulnerability as a team and understanding each other so that we could work together as a more
Nick Perrino: One of the biggest things for us is communication. It sounds simple, but we know that to take our business to the next level we need to effectively communicate with each other on a daily basis. I think that if we’re all speaking the same language and we’re communicating well, then those are things that will really take us to the next level not just as an organization, but also as a team.
Jeanette Davila: And along with that strong communication comes a lot of diversity of thought that we’ve all brought to the table. I think by embracing those differences, the more the employees get involved in conversations and the more we can benefit from that family environment.
One of those intangibles from the past year was transforming the culture. How did you go about doing that?
Renee Storie: We created a vision statement, which was brand new, and I think everyone was waiting for it. We did one for our entire company, and we also created one for our frozen food division and then one for restaurants. And from there, we pulled together our values. We were excited about it, and now we feel like we have a place to look to not only in ourselves when we are working day-to-day, but also something to present to the employees and show them how we expect everyone to be. We have a very heavy family-like culture here, so we want to keep cultivating that.
Speaking of Home Run Inn’s family tradition, how have you seen those values flourish since the company was founded?
Storie: I did a survey about a year and a half ago, and one thing that I asked everyone was when you think of Home Run Inn, what’s one thing that comes to mind? I’d say about 80 percent of our employees said family. Everyone has their differences but at the end of the day we come together, and we know we’re here for a greater purpose.
Gina Bolger: Because we operate like a family, I think one thing that works really well for us is that we’re able to communicate. When there are tough times and we do have disagreements, we’re learning the best way to communicate and work through those versus having problems develop. It’s been nice to learn that portion, and it also translates into everything else you do in your life.
Have those values then transcended to Home Run Inn’s products?
Carlson: When people buy our product, we want them to realize that it’s more than just another big box company with something on the shelf. There’s a family behind it, and there are people who are committed to it.
Perrino: We want to be part of the communities that we serve, and when we work with our retailer partners that’s one of the things that we always tell them. We want to serve you and serve the community and bring the highest quality product that we can, so that they trust our product, they see the consistency, and they can create their own family memories. I think that’s what we’re all about in that we’re not just about profits, bottom line, or another pizza. We’re about bringing a consistent, quality product to the consumer and to our retail partners.
It sounds like these values, including empathy and transparency, have permeated throughout all the divisions at Home Run Inn.
Mike Kelly: What we want to present to people throughout the company is that we are open with them and willing to work with them. We’re here to work with people and understand they have families and responsibilities outside of work. You have to be vulnerable, you have to be open, you have to communicate, and you have to be honest. And they see that coming top-down and bottom-up.
Out of all the milestones from this past year, is there anything that resonates with you the most?
Fred Fischer: One of the things that I think we’ve accomplished well is the ability to open up decisions that we might have to make in our own department to the rest of the group so that we can get that expertise from others, yet still have the independence and latitude to ultimately make the decision. I think that shows a lot of trust among the group.
Brill: We spent the past year bonding and getting used to the ground rules of how we’re going to be operating as a team, and going into 2018 we’re starting to crystallize the foundation of that and build onto it with specific programs that we’re all championing and that are going to build our company’s future.
Carlson: It’s hard to describe what makes us different, but what you’re not hearing us talk about is what’s going on in the industry or what the market trends are. While we pay attention to those, we believe that if you put the right things in place with the right value system in place, then successes within the marketplace will be a byproduct.