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Sarah E Lockyer

Coaching for success

Editor's Letter

For college basketball fans, early March typically yields the best games as teams heat up for conference championships and try to solidify standings ahead of the national tournament. As this issue went to press, fans were treated to some heavyweight battles, like Duke vs. Miami, Syracuse vs. Louisville and Michigan (my alma mater) vs. Michigan State. It was great basketball.

Beyond the play, my favorite part of watching these games is seeing the clips of head coaches motivating their teams pregame, at halftime, or after a victory or loss. The leadership they exude, the passion they display for the sport and the connections they hold to their teams are unique to college sports. Everyone knows the leadership qualities of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski or Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. And while not this past weekend, college hoops fans have witnessed this year Tubby Smith, head coach at the University of Minnesota, doing the Harlem Shake — a YouTube dance sensation — after his team’s win over Wisconsin. 

While I typically try to avoid the dreaded sports-to-business analogies, in this case I think it fits. Leaders in business, just like those in sports, often can mean the difference between victories or losses. It is with that thinking that Nation’s Restaurant News introduces a new online video series, The Leading Edge. We look at top executives running some of the largest and most exciting restaurant companies out there, from Domino’s Pizza to Ignite Restaurant Group. Hearing these companies’ strategies surrounding menu development, pricing and health care straight from their chief executives highlights the level of access and insights only NRN can provide.

To watch the new series, scan our QR code on page 12 or visit

It doesn’t take a national stage in sports or a splashy media interview to provide leadership, however. As NRN breaks down the latest unionization efforts surrounding the service sector, and the restaurant industry in particular, I couldn’t help but be struck by the quiet leadership displayed by Mike Mulligan, co-owner of MikLin Enterprises Inc. The 11-unit Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches franchisee in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area was hit hard with a very public union organizing effort.

I had heard Mike’s story, in his own words, last year, and am happy NRN’s Paul Frumkin could bring it to a national stage. However you feel about union organizing efforts, this battle at Jimmy John’s was pretty ugly. It was played out publicly and got personal quickly, targeting Mike and his family as well as his company, which by all accounts was run fairly and with a focus on team members’ well-being and success. Mike’s steadiness through it all was admirable, and his outlook on how to run a business that counts on people hasn’t changed.

“If employees like you and like working for you, … you should not have anything to fear,” he says.                 

Sounds like a head coach to me.

Contact Sarah E. Lockyer at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN.

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