“Some people want it to happen, some people wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan
Have you ever looked at a food item in a grocery store and pondered upon the supply chain systems and processes that helped bring it there? If you have, you have something in common with another such observant and curious woman, Jan Risi. Recently named to the restaurant industry’s power list, Jan’s been called “the strongest link in the (foodservice) supply chain” by the Miami Herald.
She’s highly endorsed as a leader, team builder and strategic planner by her colleagues. She’s currently juggling roles as a member on several boards. She’s the founder and CEO of a food cooperative powerhouse that manages billions of dollars and tens of thousands of franchises globally. She’s set trends, reconfigured business models and made a lasting mark on the F&B and hospitality industry.
In this feature, we’re delighted to dive into Jan’s inspiring story, and to present to you invaluable entrepreneurial and leadership lessons from this fascinating visionary.
A Strong Foundation
Aristotle once said, “well begun is half done.” Jan graduated from DePauw university with a double major in English and economics. The best entrepreneurs and leaders believe in getting their hands dirty and working from the ground up, and it was the same with Jan.
She began her career with Ralston Purina (now a part of Nestle), working in a plant where animal feed was manufactured. Tasked with procuring ingredients, Jan worked with and learnt from the cowboys and farmers of Texas. She’s cited this to be “the best training in the world” as it allowed her to understand the supply chain. It’s often easy to overlook the importance of a robust career foundation; Jan invested in one and went on to cement her experience at other restaurants including Burger King, Chef America and Jack in the Box.
Today, she’s rightfully an acclaimed alum and has won notable awards from her university for Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Alumni Achievement.
Lessons in Leadership from Top Women Entrepreneurs
About 24 years ago, Jan founded the Subway ‘Independent Purchasing Cooperative’ (IPC), a Miami-based cooperative along with Subway founder Fred DeLuca. IPC helps more than 30,000 Subway franchise owners and operators globally by managing almost $5 billion in food, packaging and supplies, negotiation costs and helping them improve quality.
What does the leader at the helm of this enterprise cite as the reason of her success? Echoing the words of Steve Jobs, Jan says she’s so successful today because she makes it a point to hire people smarter than her. Ask her senior executives and they’ll say she truly encourages and empowers them to do their best work.
There’s a lot to learn about leadership from Jan, the most inspiring takeaway being the care with which she gets to know her employees’ families, spends time with new recruits and hosts holiday parties to celebrate with her team. An advocate of a well-rounded life, Jan personally gifts her employees’ children, to make them feel like a part of the company’s growth.
We sometimes forget that the reason so many of our employees and colleagues shine at work the way they do is because their children, spouses and parents are supporting them. Jan never forgets!
Visionary, Advisor, Hustler
Executive, entrepreneur, President, CEO… and Jan’s doing much more! She’s advising four boards, empowering them with her vision and experience in foodservice, hospitality and supply chain management.
The first board is Florida House on Capitol Hill, a state embassy that promotes Florida to the world.
The second is Coral Gables Trust Company, a wealth management and financial planning firm, which is the largest privately held trust company in South Florida.
The third is the James Beard Foundation, an organization that celebrates chefs shaping the future of America’s food culture.
Besides these organizations, Jan advises the restaurant chain DogHaus, which has a cult following across America for its signature all-beef ‘Haus Dogs,’ handmade ‘Haus Sausages’ and burgers.
And lastly, Jan sits on Subway’s strategic planning council and has advised the food behemoth in its 5X growth over the past two decades.
So how do we sum up Jan’s enthralling story? Four words. She hustled. She conquered!