Top Players in Franchise Development: Ken Caldwell
Top Players in Franchise Development: Ken Caldwell

Ken Caldwell, Your Pie's Vice President of Development, brings decades of experience to help grow the brand into a nationally-recognized pizza chain.

Ken Caldwell was named the Vice President of Development for Your Pie in 2013 and has decades of franchise development experience under his belt. Raised in Sandy Springs, Atlanta, Caldwell worked at a bank until an opportunity with Heavenly Ham's development team presented itself in 1990. In that role, Caldwell grew the brand from eight units to 230 units until it was sold to its competitor, HoneyBaked Ham.

We recently spoke with Caldwell about his experiences in franchise development, tips to succeeding as an effective leader and what’s on the horizon for Your Pie.

How has your leadership changed throughout the years?

As with anything, experience is the greatest teacher in the world. As a young manager, I pretty much thought that you managed everyone the same. What I found out over the years is that you can’t manage people the same way because people are different. The vision has to be clearly articulated, the direction has to be communicated, the ground rules have to be the same, but you also have to realize that people are motivated in different ways and learn in different ways. You have to give people the flexibility to be who they are and do things their way while still providing a framework of structure.

What is the most important quality in a leader?

I believe in servant leadership – a humble leader, a leader who’s willing to listen. There are times that you have to put your foot down and make a decision, but I do believe the ability to adapt to others and listen is the greatest quality in a leader.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?

Definitely when we sold Heavenly Ham to the HoneyBaked Ham company. They were our direct competitor and we were inspired to build the company to be better than them. When they become our owners and partners, it was a very tough pill for our franchisees to swallow. They weren’t happy. They didn’t like it. Many of them didn’t want the conversion; under no circumstances were they wanting to buy in and convert to the new company. My job with HoneyBaked Ham was to bridge that gap and get franchisees to see a brighter future with this brand. It’s much harder to take down a franchise system than it is to build one.

What are some of the steps that your most successful franchisees have taken to grow their business?

Really connecting with their communities has proven to be a success. Giving the franchisees the ability to have a little bit of local flavor in their restaurants - whether that be in the craft beer selection, menu items or design of the store - helps to maintain the community aspect that we strive to achieve.

Have you hit any milestones this year?

We are on pace to hit 50 franchises sold this year and we just opened our 33rd location.

What is your favorite part of your job at Your Pie?

To me, it all comes down to people and relationships. I enjoy being part of management and building the right team to support our franchisees so our business model is continually improving. Attracting the right franchisees and taking care of them is key. Owners invest a lot of money in the brand and I get a lot of satisfaction in watching our people succeed. I feel that I was really put on this earth to be a coach and teacher.

What goals do you have for the brand?

We don’t believe in growth for growth’s sake. Our mission is to be an admired brand. We want to grow in a fashion where our franchisees are successful and we know that our growth will be sustainable. Our main desire is partnering with folks who are going to represent the brand well in their communities.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The friendships and relationships that I’ve built in my career. It’s a lot more of a relationship than a business entity. We’ve never been sued by a franchisee and they know that we have their best interests at heart, and that’s something I’m proud of. We can have good businesses along the way, but we can have great lives with it.