Dan DiZio, CEO, Philly Pretzel Factory

Like the Liberty Bell, Yuengling, Rocky, and cheese steaks, soft pretzels occupy a place at the core of Philadelphia’s culture, heritage, and identity. In fact, born, bred and raised in the city, Dan DiZio has been selling the salty snacks since he was just 11 years old.

June 2015

30 years later, Dan has gone from selling pretzels off a cart on the corner of Southhampton and the Boulevard in the city’s Northeast neighborhood to becoming the CEO of Philly Pretzel Factory, a franchise organization with over 100 stores (and aggressive expansion plans that will bring the chewy treats to over 50 Walmart stores in the next few years).

As many remember, Dan’s not your everyday CEO, as evidenced through his appearance on the popular TV show, “Undercover Boss”. The show gave Dan a touch of celebrity status, but proved to be a major turning point in both his own personal leadership development, and his company’s rapid growth. In one of the show’s most dramatic moments, Dan goes undercover to try and learn why one of their stores is underperforming. In doing so, he discovers that the store’s financial turmoil, and the stress it has placed on the franchise owner, has simply stemmed from a communication breakdown in the system. Much to the chagrin of the producers, Dan breaks character, reveals himself, and steps up for his people, solving the issue in the most immediate fashion.

To those who know Dan, this comes as no surprise. When you talk to Dan about his business, it’s all about the people: the owners, the employees and the customers that are at the center of every conversation. And although, as Dan points out, they never teach you how to be a CEO in school, we think Dan has this whole leadership thing pretty much figured out.

On Hiring the Right People (1:45)
Hiring the right people is very important. The wrong people are wrong. You don't want to be wrong. You want to be right.
On Employees Having the Answers (2:33)
Employees often have the answers to your toughest challenges.
On Loving Your Brand (2:21)
When leaders love the brand, their passion permeates throughout the organization.
On Listening to Employees (3:08)
Listen to your employees. They have valuable insights that you don't.
On Letting Go (1:42)
Control and fear. Two common issues leaders struggle to let go of.
On Caring for Employees (4:15)
Advice for leaders: Let your employees know you care.
On How to be a CEO (1:19)
They don't teach you how to be a CEO in school.