Next Level Podcast: Leadership Lessons from Blimpie’s Founder Tony Conza

Posted 04.11.2012

As one of the founders of Blimpie Subs, Tony Conza helped build the company from a single sandwich shop in Hoboken, N.J., to a chain of over 2,000 stores nationwide. I recently spoke to him about what he learned on his leadership journey. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  • Overcoming the Passion Plateau:  At around the 200 store mark, Tony says, he lost his passion for the business. Blimpie’s stock was struggling, and although the company had grown significantly, Tony was close to getting out of the business. Instead, he realized he had to recapture his passion for the business and eventually grew the company to 2,000 stores. That wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t refocused his own energy. “Passion inspires others. … It’s contagious. It’s a breeding ground for success.”
  • The Importance of Communication:  Tony began sending regular dispatches  called “Tony’s Take” to tell everyone in the company about business plans and personal news. “I just kind of wanted to make them feel like I was having a personal conversation with them.” Tony also invited people to voluntarily give him weekly progress reports. “Once you have trust along with passion you can get people to do extraordinary things.”
  • Learning to Let Go:  As the company grew, Tony says, he had to learn to let go of certain function and accept that others could in fact handle them better than he could.  “You want to be involved in everything, in all the details, and you’re afraid to put it other people’s hands. I knew that if we were going to become a bigger company that I had to get beyond that and I had to become a leader instead of a manager, and there’s a big difference.”

In the accompanying podcast, Tony has more to share in his own words about what he learned along the way to 2,000 Blimpie stores.