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Leadership: A Potent Combination Of Strategy And Character

Business leadership and the love of a brand with John Nicolakakis, CEO of Roman’s Pizza.

Dirk Coetsee




“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” – General Norman Schwarzkopf

In the context of a large number of businesses and franchises being over managed and under-led I found Roman’s Pizza to be a welcome exception.

As I walked into John Nicolakakis’ (CEO of Roman’s Pizza) office I was met with the confidence of a man whom has been in the trenches, one whom has done the hard work himself and who’s passion for the brand is visible in his demeanour and speech. As he put it: “My father and I love this brand like you would love a child, always nurturing it, and always looking after it.”

Him saying that, I recognised that I was sitting in front of a “cause fuelled” leader, one who finds purpose in what he does and whom derives energy from this purpose, and that increasing profit was definitely not the sole driving force of his success.

So many companies claim to have a clear vision and value system in place, but unfortunately in reality usually a vision and value system only remains theory. True values are lived by and become transparent through especially the leaderships’ behaviour.

Related: How Roman’s Pizza Got A Great Big Slice of Success (Over R1 Billion Of It)


“Best Pizza – Best Value” in the Roman’s Pizza context is definitely not a theoretical “mantra” being chanted in the hallways of their head office. John, realising that those two values forms the chore of the brand, makes all decisions accordingly. Costs are not being cut aggressively purely for the sake of it being prudent business practise but to deliver on the promise that the aforementioned values embody.

John is a clear communicator and no one from the head office team down to every franchisee, or any stakeholder can claim that they do not know what is expected of them. “We shoot from the hip” was the term he used and by how clearly and concisely he answered my questions there was no doubt what Roman’s Pizza stood for and what this brand means to its Leadership. It is also clear that although his communication style is very direct, the support to franchisees is also very direct and aimed at delivering on the values of the company.

Johns’ personal cell phone number is available on the company website and he interacts regularly with Roman’s Pizza customers directly and expects the same from all head office personnel. All of the above forms part of Roman’s Pizzas’ rich culture.

Mastering any aspect of life, business, or leadership, is inherently about the ability to simplify what appears to be complex. John has a simplistic view on the difference between leadership and management and is clear on what that means in relation to his role as CEO.

“Leadership is the future, and management is the here and now.”


To lead by example John has spent a lot of time micro managing certain elements of the business, but is also deliberately freeing up more and more of his time to work on the future vision of this industry leading company and to maintain and build its culture.

Related: 25 Leadership Lessons From Millionaire Business Owners

General Norman Schwarzkopf had the trust of his soldiers as he understood that leadership was about showing the way. As he was a decorated Vietnam veteran he knew what the soldiers under his command went through and had their best interest at heart. As is key to any relationship he had the trust of his soldiers and therefore they were agile in their execution of his orders.

Similarly, Roman’s Pizza is a brand built on the foundation of trust and as a result an agile brand. Leaders are followed and trusted when they consistently behave in a way which is congruent with the company vision and values. In general, Roman’s Pizza franchisees trust their leaders as the company owns several stores and goes through the same challenges as the franchisees.

A learning culture is part of the Roman’s Pizza ethos and learning is in part done through experimentation by head office. When an experiment fails the cost of failure is not passed onto the franchisee but is incurred by head office through a reduction in royalties for a period of time.

John himself reads and learns all the time and encourages all head office staff to do the same. He immediately had a Jim Collins quote handy when I asked him about the Roman’s Pizza approach to change: “Test things with bullets, not with bombs “, alluding to the incremental approach to change that this franchise system has adopted.

In conclusion I believe that most will agree with General “Stormin Norman” Schwarzkopf that Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. After close observation I am impressed enough by this brand to say Roman’s Pizza has both.

Company Posts

A World Of Opportunity Awaits With Peli Peli

Business ownership has always been the entrepreneur’s way of shaping their future. If you’ve always wanted to experience life in the US, this is your chance.

Peli Peli




Global media has been reporting that the chances of non-American citizens being granted access to move to the US are getting slimmer with the new administration. However, there is still one channel of access that allows people the opportunity to relocate that hasn’t been amended by the presidency.

The EB-5 Visa programme was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a programme initially enacted as a pilot in 1992, and regularly re-authorised since then, investors may also qualify for EB-5 classification by investing through regional centres designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

The question most commonly asked by foreign investors is where to start selecting a relatively low-risk company to invest their money into. One such entity that has been granted designation under the EB-5 programme is the restaurant group Peli Peli.

Built-in success

Peli Peli is a South African cuisine restaurant that has gained incredible traction in the competitive American restaurant industry. They currently have six successful branches opened in the Texas area. Peli Peli Vintage park, which opened in 2009, generated revenue of $5,3 million in 2016.

Related: The Pros & Cons Of Owning A Restaurant Franchise

Peli Peli Galleria opened in 2015, and had $5,2 million revenue in 2016. Peli Peli Kitchen, their first fast casual concept, opened in October 2016 and reported revenue of $2 million in 2017. Peli Deli, a downtown fast food casual lunch concept and Peli Peli Cinco Ranch, which opened in February and July 2017, respectively, are both showing incredible growth to match their predecessors.

At least two more locations will be opening in 2018, and as all new Peli Peli locations have historically generated positive cash flow within the first year, the company expects to increase its revenue exponentially.

The power team behind the brand

The restaurant chain has garnered popularity, and won a multitude of awards, including Best Service & Best Atmosphere — Readers’ Choice Award (Houston Press) and 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winner for the Top 100 American Fare Restaurants in the United States (OpenTable). Peli Peli is also rated in the top ten in Houston, Texas (which boasts over 12 000 restaurants) on both Tripadvisor and Yelp.

The Peli Peli trio who own the business are Chef Paul Friedman, Thomas Nguyen and Aiki Tran. These three dynamic businessmen have their own share of accolades to speak of. Chef Paul, who is a born and bred Joburger, has been a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen for multiple episodes on the Food Network. He won the People’s Choice Award and was placed third as a judge in the Gumbo Smackdown 2014. He received the 2013 Chef of Chef Awards in the 9th Annual Houston Wine and Food week, as well as being the 2013 Cadillac Culinary Master. He was also one of 60 Houston Chefs to be listed in the book Best Chefs America.

Thomas Nguyen, who is Chief of Marketing for Peli Peli, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and was a former litigation attorney. He was the Houston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 award recipient in 2015 and an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Gulf Coast finalist in 2016 and 2017. He was Entrepreneur of the Year — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce and is also a freelance writer for the Houston Press.

Peli Peli’s CEO, Aiki Tran, has over 12 years of experience in restaurant technology and won the 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year award — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce. He was responsible for streamlining the technology infrastructure for franchises such as Popeyes and Wings, Pizza N Things. He also became the number one reseller of Aldelo and Dineware POS systems in Texas, with installations in over 200 restaurants.

Related: The Only How-To You’ll Need To Start A Restaurant

Joining their ranks is South African Ryan Stewart. Having owned 16 restaurants throughout the country, he is also the CEO and co-founder of the Mozambik restaurant chain. Ryan has 17 years’ experience in the industry and is being brought on board by Peli Peli to assist in their revenue and store location growth.

Your path to the US

With the combined talent, brainpower and experience of these four businessmen, it’s no wonder Peli Peli is achieving success. The investment required to qualify for an EB-5 Visa through Peli Peli is an amount of $500 000 and is structured as an equity investment at risk. It entitles the foreign investor to permanent residency, and within two years of living in the United States, a green card for the investor and his/her dependents.

For more information on how

You can be a part of the EB-5 Visa programme through Peli Peli.


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4 Ways To Find Your Own Business Style

The only way to develop a business style is step-by-step over time.

Timothy Sykes




Finding a style in finance will define how you react to changes and how you approach new situations. It’s as important in business as it is in stock trading. Developing a business style and developing a stock trading system are extremely similar pursuits.

But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to do. It will take time and you do have to be willing to work at it.

Here are my four ways of finding your own business style.

1. Get rid of your expectations

You can’t force anything to work. It’s necessary for you to be flexible when it comes to finding a business style. Begin by letting go of any expectations you have before trying a new style.

Prior to attempting a new style, you have to be willing to go into it with no expectations. You never know what you’re going to find.

Related: 8 Steps to Building Your Business According to the Lifestyle You Want

2. Track your movements

Some things are going to work and some things aren’t going to work. I always tell my students in the Tim Sykes Millionaire Challenge that they should keep records of the things they’re doing. Keep these records as detailed as possible because attempting trial and error can quickly lead you in circles.

Don’t fall into the trap (as I did in the beginning) of trying the same thing multiple times because you never tracked the results.

I keep large spreadsheets with notes of the various styles and systems I’ve tried in business. Business mistakes can be costly, so you need to do everything you can to avoid making them.

3. Look at what others are doing


I refuse to believe that someone is doing something truly unique. The moment someone makes a breakthrough in business there are a hundred people replicating the same things. And that can be a powerful tool. Consider what others are doing and see whether you can learn something.

It’s why I also advocate finding a mentor to help you out. They’ll be able to help you out and you’ll benefit from their enhanced experiences in business.

Again, track what you’re taking from other people so you know whether something is working.

Related: I Started Saying ‘No’ To These 6 Things. My Life And My Business Got A Lot Better

4. Refine what you do

Rarely will anything in business work the first time. However, your first attempts will give you a good benchmark as to what you need to do next.

You should never be satisfied with what you have, even if it’s working. Always work on improving your business style. I believe this is the most important thing because it also teaches you how to adapt to changing conditions over time.

Last Word – Constantly Growing

There’s no step-by-step guide for how to develop a business style. The only way to do it is to obey the fundamentals and then develop everything over time.

Even though the process is long, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot of lessons and gain from a huge number of experiences over time.

This article was originally posted here on

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6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching

Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.

Nadine Todd



Dr Marshall Goldsmith

Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.

The expert

Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

The method

Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What are you doing well?
  4. Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. So you have suggestions for me?

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