Joey chain CEO builds meritocracy

Today's Vancouver Sun featured a piece on how Jeff Fuller is building the leadership team at JOEY Restaurant Group. Joey Restaurant CEO building the management ranks.

By Denise Deveau

Jeff Fuller has been grooming top management talent since he founded Joey Restaurant Group in 1992. With 25 restaurants in his portfolio and counting, he is a firm believer that a deep management team is essential to growth.

When he started, he spent a lot of time living out of a suitcase and travelling between locations, he says. As the business grew, he soon realized the importance of being ``well stocked'' with management talent.

``When you have big growth, it's hard to catch your breath,'' he says. ``But if you don't get caught up, that's a kiss of death. I believe in the old cliche, don't outgrow your people. I knew we had to get focused on producing a management team ahead of opening new restaurants.''

The management recruitment continues.

``It's an enabler for everything else,'' he says. ``I'm really big on meritocracy and creating an infrastructure that isolates top management potential as employees progress through the system.''

Fuller's approach has won accolades from a number of quarters. The company's entire management team is hired almost exclusively from within its ranks. In fact, every restaurant manager began as a chef or server.

``As they progress they get more responsibility and challenges. And as they get deeper into the process, some move faster than others,'' he explains. Managers that reach a certain level can also take part in the company's share purchase plan.

Fuller's hiring philosophy might be unusual but it works, he says. ``I tell managers to hire someone who can eventually replace you. That will put pressure on you to move up because they're that good.''

While Fuller plans to stick around for awhile, he's also proud to say: ``I can think of three or four executives that are already capable of filling my shoes.''

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