Alex Rechichi has been building his foodservice empire since 1997 when he and his brother, Mark, saw a gap in the market for healthy, fresh sandwiches and launched Extreme Pita in Mississauga, Ont. Soon, Sean Black joined the business, which morphed into Extreme Brandz, the parent company of the team’s growing list of concepts — Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito and Purblendz.
Then, this spring — after building the company to include 325 franchised restaurants across North America — it was sold to the Quebec-based MTY Group for $45 million. It’s marked a new beginning as Alex and his executive team are now celebrating the summer launch of their Italian fast-casual street-food concept, Via Cibo, which falls under the reinvented company’s Crave It Restaurant Group. And, the group has joined with Toronto’s Burger’s Priest to expand the cult-favourite across the country. Such passion is why the trio, and the president and CEO, have garnered various accolades such as F&H magazine’s Company of the Year Pinnacle award in December 2011.
What was the best mistake you made in your career?
When starting my first brand, Extreme Pita, I was responsible for everything. I had to learn all aspects of the business, and I was financially and emotionally invested in every decision. My biggest mistake occurred when I started to build a team. I was afraid of not being involved in everything. At the time, it was an obsession to ensure things were done right. I was afraid of someone making a mistake with the business I worked so hard to create.
What did you learn from your mistake?
I was stuck in the ‘doer’ mindset rather than the leader mindset. I was micro-managing tasks that should have been delegated to others inside or even outside the company. I became obsessive with every detail, at times, not hearing what others had to say. This impacted my productivity and the productivity of my small team.
In my fourth year of business I focused on hiring people who had significant experience and worked for larger organizations. Then two individuals in particular offered advice and viewpoints I never considered. It hit me that I was hiring people with talent, so I needed to trust and value their decisions. They brought a fresh perspective to the table, which positively impacted my business. As we worked together and added more members to our team it was important for me to ensure we selected individuals who could fit into the culture of the company and shape its future. Part of this process meant team members were given responsibilities and challenges that made them feel personally invested in their roles.
How has this mistake shaped your future decisions?
I now understand when to do, when to lead and when to get out of the way. I have not lost or forgotten my entrepreneurial ‘doer’ mindset, but I channel the energy differently. I focus more on the team, our strategies and the behaviours that create success for the company and every team member involved.