Editor’s note:  Some things have changed in the more than a year since this was posted.  Thought you might appreciate the update:

Through all the economic chaos, with most business leaders struggling up the tough side of the mountain, it’s good to step back and realize there are some, albeit a diminished number, who are having good years.  One with which I am familiar, having worked with him now for more than 10 years, is succeeding, profiting,  not through luck, but through a consistent application of a strong management system, a diversification of product offerings and tapping into the sage counsel of other CEOs  committed to his success.

Pierre Panos fled the violence of his native South Africa in the early 90s after accomplishing the equivalency of a CPA (and spending five years in management with Coopers and Lybrand there) and gaining experience in several food service ventures.  Not sure where he wanted to migrate, he composed a matrix of all things important to the young couple in a new country – wherever it may be and graded the possibilities, ultimately choosing The United States and Atlanta.

Here, he applied his restaurant background, earning equity as he turned around a marginal mid-price point operation. Next, Panos created a new concept: Stoney River Steakhouse. Panos and his partner ultimately sold the Stoney River concept and their two local stores (and 2 under construction in Chicago) to the O’Charley’s chain. He then bought out his partner in a popular suburban mid-price point restaurant, Brookwood Grill, and began to diversify.

The 46 year old Panos bought several Papa John’s franchise stores, revamped the Brookwood Grill, and ultimately created yet another new dining concept: F2O – Fresh to Order. Papa Johns is at the low end when it comes to the average ticket, F2O is somewhere in the nine to ten dollars range for lunch and restaurants like the Brookwood Grill usually have price points in the mid-20s.

Choosing good people who are screened and tested to ensure alliance with clearly defined values, Panos likely has a layer of management others would see as a cost, and unnecessary expense.  For Pierre it is an investment – a solid core of trusted chiefs who allow him the luxury to work on his businesses, not just in it. The result is that during a down economy, a time when many restaurants are taking it on the chin, some failing to survive, Panos’ company, QSAmerica (www.QSAmerica.com) has enjoyed two good years, very good, despite a dour, downturned economy.

His Papa John’s stores (he is now their third largest franchisee) in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, out-perform the chain’s national average.  His F2O restaurants here in Atlanta, and one in Chattanooga, are in the black and attracting a long line of franchise seekers.   To this point, the numbers cruncher turned restaurateur has opted to keep the majority company-owned while “testing” the franchise possibility with a couple stores. Ask, and the modest South African will tell you that a rigid compliance with Vistage speaker Will Phillips motivational business quote, “The essentials to successful management are good people, roles and rules.”

To which Panos would likely add diversification.

Bud Carter

Senior Chairman Vistage Atlanta

Publisher of Chairman Carter’s Collection of Pithy Quotes (Business quotes designed to improve your bottom line, or, at the least, your disposition). www.Businessquotes.com