A Heritage of Leadership

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Pizza Hut U.S. franchisee Luis Veras to share the story of how his heritage and culture have helped shape his business strategy and leadership approach.

Luis Veras was born in the Dominican Republic and lived there until he traveled to the U.S. in 1996 to pursue his MBA. After graduation, he worked for KPMG Consulting in Chicago and later joined Pizza Hut in California. He relocated to Dallas in 2006 and became a Pizza Hut franchisee in 2010. He is now the President of ITL Foods with nearly 60 restaurants located in Dallas and Houston.

Luis is the author of a book on business profitability and has spoken at multiple conferences in the U.S. and Latin America. He has a passion for teaching and is currently an Instructor in the Business Leadership Center at SMU Cox School of Business. Luis invests in the local Hispanic community by supporting Mi Escuelita Preschool, a non-profit that provides early childhood education to low-income at-risk children in the Dallas area, where he has served as Board Chair. He is also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and a board member of the International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association (IPHFHA).

Q: Why is investing in the Latino community important?
A: When we search for excellence, we end up with diversity. The Latino community is an important part of our diverse cultural fabric and embracing its heritage and investing in our communities will only strengthen and enrich the excellence and well-being of our nation.

Q: How did your culture prepare you for entrepreneurship?
A: Growing up in a small country and coming from a family with modest financial resources helped me appreciate the journey and, in some ways, prepare to be a small business owner. The emphasis on working hard and hustling to get ahead was something I saw everywhere and having that up-bringing as a point of reference has been a great foundation. Our culture encourages being positive, flexible and resourceful in a lot of different ways and that has shaped my mindset and optimism when dealing with different business situations.

Q: What was your biggest fear about going into business on your own?
A: There was a natural fear of failure that came with the opportunity to own a business. The uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to provide for my family was present and served as a source of motivation; failure was not an option. Thankfully, my fears were short-lived because we were fortunate and able to quickly grow our sales and profits which gave me confidence about the future.

Q: How have cultural influences impacted the way you manage people? A: We are in the people business more so than in the restaurant business. Our Latin culture values and places a special emphasis on relationships, and that has influenced my leadership style. I aspire to be a servant-leader who follows the golden rule and appreciates the diversity and inclusion of multiple perspectives to make decisions that move our business forward.

Q: Why should more Hispanics think about franchising as a lucrative business to pursue?
A: If you want to own a business, franchising gives you the opportunity to pursue this path while reducing the risks of starting from scratch by having the support of a proven brand and system that works. We have been very blessed with the success of our business. Becoming a franchisee for Pizza Hut and Yum! Brands has been one of the best professional and financial decisions I have made.

Q: What are some of the mistakes you made along the way that taught you the most?
A: Probably too many to count! When leading people, you must always remember that they are looking at you and paying attention to the details of what you say and do whether you realize it or not. I have learned to be aware of this reality and more conscious about working hard to be a servant-leader that people in our organization are proud to be associated with.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for Hispanic men and women trying to achieve their dreams?
A: We ultimately want to be happy…. My journey started with a burning desire to make my loving parents proud. That led me to work hard to learn and get a great education, which opened doors to start a professional career in the U.S., which led to finding great mentors who helped along the way.

I remember reading a quote as a teenager that said, “Nada pasa a menos que primero lo soñemos (nothing happens unless you first dream it),” and dreaming big early on was a source of inspiration. I have learned over the years that dreams don’t come true magically; you must be very focused and determined to work very hard to achieve them. 

The only thing we can control is how we invest our time and how much effort we put into pursuing those dreams that makes us happy…. Enjoy the journey!

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