Mountain Mike’s Pizza is committed to serving “pizza the way it oughta be!®.” Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, Mountain Mike’s is a family-style pizza chain with more than 200 franchised restaurants in California and the West.
Marine veteran John Maddox owns nine of these franchises throughout the Central Valley region of California, the most locations of any franchisee in the system.
He spoke to U.S. Veterans Magazine about his transition from the Marines to business ownership and how his military experience serves him in his current role.
Why did you decide to open your own business?
My father also served in the armed forces and I was an Army brat, so my family moved around a lot. I was born in Oklahoma and lived in multiple cities across the U.S., and even internationally in Germany. We finally settled in Northern California when I was a teenager. Following my high school graduation, I attended college near home at San Jose State and majored in aeronautics. While pursuing my university education, I worked at McDonald’s in a management position, and really fell in love with the industry. I enjoyed interacting with customers and forged lasting relationships with several colleagues who eventually helped guide me in my early days as a franchisee.
I flew helicopters for the Marine Corps and gained a lot of invaluable experience, but as with any military lifestyle, I continued to move quite a bit and didn’t see as much of my family as I would have liked. When my service with the Marine Corps concluded in 1992, I wanted my next step to be something that would keep my family in one place for a while. I decided to pursue a career in an industry in which I had experience, felt comfortable and was passionate about: food service. It was all about establishing roots in a community on both a personal and professional level.
As I began looking at my options, I got in contact with a former colleague who had found success as a franchisee in the pizza industry. I did my research and considered many different types of business opportunities and franchise concepts, ultimately landing on Mountain Mike’s. I was attracted to the brand for many reasons—the first being that my family and I really enjoyed the pizza. In terms of quality and flavor, I don’t think there’s anyone out there that does it better, and I felt very good about that. Also, Mountain Mike’s Pizza had a great reputation in Northern California, with plenty of room for growth, compelling average unit volume, and a history of being an active part of the communities it served. I know I made the right choice, because this continues to be true today. Their established business model and supportive corporate team provided the necessary tools for me and other franchisees to succeed, and I have been lucky to continue growing with the brand as both a franchisee and an area developer.
What lessons did you take from the military that helped you in running your own business?
One of the major things I took from the military is to value the process of training. As a Marine Corps officer, it’s important to train others, and train others how to train others. I also learned the importance of leadership by example. When we first opened, I was in the store from open to close every day for three months straight. It’s important for your employees to know that you’re willing to put the work in and go the extra mile, because they will work hard if you do. Another thing officers in every branch of the military are good at is delegating; hire good people who know how to get the job done, and get out of their way. Lastly, in the military, you learn how to make decisions—hard decisions. You have to be strong enough to tell people “no,” which is an essential skill for any business owner.
What advice would you give other veterans who want to open their own businesses?
I would tell other veterans looking to get into franchising to do their homework. This is something you’ll be doing every single day, so take the time to research your options and choose something you’ll enjoy. It was important to me to work with a concept that offered a high-quality, delicious product, and Mountain Mike’s Pizza has continued to show a commitment to delivering nothing but the best over the past 40 years.
Also, build a business plan and make sure the numbers work before diving in and signing on the dotted line. It could be one of the most successful franchises out there, but as a business owner you have to understand and be comfortable with the financial risk and time commitment involved with building a successful business. Not only did Mountain Mike’s Pizza offer a superior product to similar brands in the industry, they are all about serving and supporting their communities, which was important to my family and me. We continue to uphold this core value by making it a priority to be very active with local schools, community groups, youth clubs and sports leagues, charities and more. We’re committed to putting in the work and investing in our communities because we care about our customers. The benefit is that we’ve built a large and loyal customer base organically.
I went from being an officer in the Marine Corps to making pizzas, and although it was really hard work, it has paid off. Not only do I truly enjoy the restaurant industry and love building relationships with customers, some of whom have become close personal friends, but I’ve also seen a positive return on investment since starting my journey with Mountain Mike’s Pizza. The company is in a growth phase, and I plan to take advantage of the opportunities available to continue growing with the brand.
For more information, visit mountainmikespizza.com.