If you visit the Pizza Hut in Charlevoix, Michigan, make sure you order a pie with ham and pineapple – that’s Restaurant General Manager (RGM), Carrie Will’s favorite. Carrie is also a big fan of Pizza Hut’s Life Unboxed educational partnership with Excelsior College, where she recently graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business and Management.
It’s immediately apparent that with her 16 years of experience at Pizza Hut, Carrie runs a tight ship. She can instantly tell you what her store’s sales were on this day last year and what the average guest check amount was during the past four weeks. She can tell you, at any given time, who is on her team, what they should be doing and if they should be offering more breadsticks to customers. She’s also impressively fluent in regional pizza preferences (Charlevoix prefers BBQ Chicken and Original Pan® Pizzas while residents of Gladwin, Michigan, go for Meat Lover’s® Pizza and Supreme Pizzas, in case you were wondering).
Even more impressive, given her encyclopedic restaurant industry knowledge, is that Ms. Will never considered herself a “business-minded” person before earning her degree. With her associate degree in biology, Carrie was on track to finish her training as a veterinary technician while working at Pizza Hut. However, a meeting with Ted Freiburger, Regional VP of The Daland Corporation, a franchise organization of Pizza Hut, prompted her to change course after Carrie asked about his own educational path. Freiburger recommended she pursue her bachelor’s degree through Pizza Hut’s partnership with Excelsior College. “He told me about the partnership and between the degree I had, and Pizza Hut’s Learning Zone training (on-the-job internal training), I could actually get the bachelor’s degree done in half the time,” Carrie remembers. This advice sealed the deal and with two weeks remaining in her vet tech training, she left to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Excelsior, a move that left many people in her life surprised. Carrie adds, “They didn’t understand why I would just drop everything and get a bachelor’s [degree] in business, but I said that if my career with Pizza Hut is going to go on further, I might as well do something with that – so I just went with it!”
Combining her Pizza Hut professional development training credits, and credit from her associate degree meant Carrie was able to complete her bachelor’s degree in two years. Going to school online while working full time required discipline and sacrifice, but her family and team at Pizza Hut encouraged her along the way with frequent check-ins on her progress. “Ted [Freiburger], when I would see him, would ask me ‘how much time do you have?’ or ‘how are you doing?’ He encouraged me a lot and I think that’s what helped. Dan Rich, my district manager, did the same thing. There were days when I would take my laptop to the store and I would show him what I was doing.”
The time was well spent as Ms. Will became the first RGM in her region to earn her bachelor’s degree through the partnership program. Being an RGM means that she must combine analytical and problem-solving skills with a keen ability to manage and motivate people. Recently, Carrie was asked to support nearby Pizza Hut stores – in no small part due to her knack for motivating staff and the team leadership skills she honed while attaining her degree at Excelsior College. Her education hasn’t stopped with her degree. Carrie adds, “I’m still learning stuff every day. Eventually, I want to move up and do something more with corporate.” In five years, she’d like to be district manager and she has a long-term goal of owning her own store.
With her professional star on the rise, there’s no question that whatever Carrie Will’s goals are, she’ll find a way to reach them. In the meantime, Will and her team will be working hard in Charlevoix and waiting to take your order. She’ll make sure to offer you some breadsticks to start!