Marco’s Pizza President Bryon Stephens on the path to success

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Marco’s Pizza’s new apprenticeship program builds on our culture of recognizing and rewarding hard work

Working a shift in one of our pizza stores recently and taking in all the energy and hard work of the young, ambitious employees got me thinking about my own work life at their age.

It is said that success sometimes starts with being in the right place at the right time, and I couldn’t agree more. I remember very clearly that for me the “right place” was the Holiday Inn in Logansport, Indiana, when I was 21, and the “right time” was in the middle of a work shift in a noisy, hot restaurant dish room. That was where opportunity literally knocked, and became the first step on my journey from dishwasher, to restaurant manager, to where I am today, heading up the fastest-growing pizza franchise in the country.

I try never to forget the way I used to see the world back then. My life consisted of days at a local factory and nights working in the bar or the dish room at the Holiday Inn. I wanted success. So I watched, I learned, and I worked hard, trying to get ahead. To say the path from there to the top wasn’t all that clear is an understatement! Then one day, one of the owners, Ted Hrysak, came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and asked what I would think about becoming a manager for him.

And that very moment, that tap on the shoulder, was the start of my career and the beginning of my love affair with the franchise world.

Anybody who thinks hard work doesn’t pay off has never met the Hrysak family. They owned multiple Holiday Inn properties in northern Indiana and the whole family was involved in every little detail of the business. And they never stepped away from those details because they believed it’s what kept them successful.

Multi-unit franchisee Desiree Holcomb and Marco’s Pizza President Bryon Stephens at our annual awards ceremony.
Multi-unit franchisee Desiree Holcomb and Marco’s Pizza President Bryon Stephens at our annual awards ceremony.

One of those details that set them apart was the continual search for employees who showed promise. Why? Because Ted and his wife believed in the power of hard work, sacrifice, and discipline. Those were the secret ingredients to their success, and they were eager to mentor others on the same path. I was lucky enough to be one of the employees they recognized and mentored.

I have been lucky throughout my career in that way—mentors were there for me at important moments, believing in me, helping me, even pushing me to take the next step. Their actions impressed on me to act likewise and as I advanced through the corporate ranks, I made sure I nurtured a culture that helps other hard workers realize their dreams.

From Desiree Holcomb, a young woman who started off managing a small training store and now owns two stores in Michigan, to Mike Jaynes, a multi-store owner who was mentored by Marco’s founder himself, to Mike’s second-generation protégé, Stevie Cole, recently rewarded with his second store in two years’ time, I can point to a dozen Marco’s employees who earned opportunities that led to their success as multi-store franchisees. Now grown adults, they are all living their idea of the American dream.

Until recently, mentoring has been an organic byproduct of Marco’s Pizza. But I saw it as more than that, I saw it as a chance to do things that matter. And that’s how our formal apprenticeship program was born. Though in it’s infancy, I have high hopes for this program. I don’t want to ever lose sight of the lessons Ted and his wife taught me about seeing promise in employees. I want to ensure that “the taps on the shoulder” continue, and that helping people attain their dreams becomes a permanent part of Marco’s DNA.

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