Get to Know Jim Mizes, Former CEO of Blaze Pizza

Check out the behind-the-scenes of Jim Mizes' entrepreneurial journey expanding Blaze Pizza!

Grant Anderson
October 11, 2021

Jim Mizes is no stranger to the food industry; he served as president of Freebirds World Burrito and vice president of operations and innovation at Jamba Juice before becoming CEO of Blaze Pizza from 2017 to 2019. Nowadays, he consults young entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry to help them develop their business ideas. 

The Intrepid recently talked to Mizes to learn a little more about his past career and work ethic.

Q & A with Jim Mizes

Q: How did you get your start in Blaze Pizza?

A: Well, it's really a lesson in connections, right? And we, we all have learned how important it is to network and build a network of people that your prior experience and your connections can help you in the future. And the reality is two people I'd worked with, in prior relationships, prior brands, went over to Blaze first. One was the director of development, and one was the real estate VP. 

One of them called me and just wanted to tell me that they were at Blaze Pizza, and they got off the phone. They said to the other person, “Hey, I just talked to Jim Mizes.” 

And she said, “Jim” ... “that's the best boss I ever had”. 

And the CEO and founder of the company, Rick Wetzel said, “Whoa, Ed, Ed, did you like him too?” And had said, “Absolutely.” He said, “Well, maybe we should bring him to Blaze to lead the company.”

Blaze Pizza at Arroyo Grande, CA

And literally, I got off the phone with Ed and 15 minutes later, Rick Wetzel called me up – and I was up here in the Bay Area — and said, “Would you have an interest in joining this little company? You know, you've already got two friends here. Let me tell you about who we are.” 

And after an hour of Rick telling me about how the company had a bright future, he said, “Why don't you come on down and take a look?” So, I literally flew down two or three days later. And four weeks later started.

Q: What would you say was one of the challenges you faced when Blaze Pizza was growing? 

A: Well, you know, growth has its challenges at various benchmarks. In the beginning, it was about establishing who we were, right? And what were the non-negotiables … we had to build and define our culture and our values and our mission and purpose. We had to rally the whole team around it. And then most importantly, in the very beginning, you have to build the training systems and support systems that can enable fast growth. 

And then, once you get going, you have to create the feedback solutions …. how do we know that restaurant that opened up in Columbus, Ohio was operating well, and so the social, you know platforms — whether it's Yelp or Google — can let you do that. But you have to be able to aggregate all that and hire the outside group to do all that, or find the software platform that can do that so that you had feedback. 

We had to bring onboard food safety so that you can assure that you weren't going to hurt anyone. You had to develop “mystery shoppers,” to get another sense of how the restaurants are doing. 

So, you have to put all this in place from the very beginning because if you don't get it right, you really don't get a second chance, you know, customers don't give you second chances, there are too many other options for you to go get food. 

Exceptional quality at lightning fast speed: Blaze Pizza

Last piece – you gotta find the right people; the right people internally in terms of your team members and externally in terms of the franchise partners you bring on board who understand how important it is to run the “play.” 

In other words, run what is the way the “Blaze Way” or any other brand’s “way” and who understand that their role is to provide feedback and to run the “play.” And putting that all together, as well as with an economic model that works for the franchisee is critical to all kinds of growth.

Q: Working as a leader in general, what part of your work do you find the most fulfilling?

A: I've always thought of myself as a coach. And I've always had coaches help me. And I think no matter your age, or your area of expertise, there's always a coach to help someone, right? And so early on, I found that my greatest joy came from helping others be their very best. And, you know, that's really about caring about someone wanting to make a difference, a real genuine difference in their life, listening to what they have to say, providing feedback, but also understanding that when they have an area of expertise, or something they're really good at, let them go and encourage them to do all they can do. 

Jim Mizes: Former CEO of Blaze Pizza

And, you know, I'm proud of over a 40 year career, there are a number of coaches I still hold on to, that literally helped to develop me when I was at your age. And, you know, that's 40-something-years-later, and they're still in my life. 

And there's also people that I coached way back in 2004 or 2005, who I still stay in contact with, and I enjoy hearing what they're up to. And today, I'm now spending all my retirement work time helping young entrepreneurs grow and helping them avoid some of the mistakes or pitfalls that are common for young startups and young leaders and it gives me great joy to do that. That's how I want to pay it forward.

Although Jim Mizes is now retired, he still seeks to improve himself and others daily. In his words: 

“The day you stop working and learning, — you probably die,” Mizes said. “I’ve always got a lifelong curiosity for things, and for people, and for trying to make a difference in their life.”

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