Episode 143 – Featuring Alan Robertson (Pittsburgh Business Times) & Varol Ablak (Vocelli Pizza)

How the Print Industry Has Adapted To Changes In the Marketplace, Plus a Conversation With A Master Franchisor About the Latest Franchise Under His Belt
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This week, “The Raja Show” returns live to the studio, as Raja talks with a pair of Western Pennsylvania business leaders who are finding new and innovative ways to excel in their respective fields.

First, Raja talks with Alan Robertson, Publisher of the Pittsburgh Business Times.  Since 1990, Alan has been at the helm of the Western Pennsylvania region’s premier source for business news and information.   And Pittsburgh is not the only market under his domain.   As a Group Publisher with the PBT’s parent company, American City Business Journals, Alan is also responsible for similar business publications in markets such as Dayton, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and others.

In addition to the day-to-day challenges facing the operation of these papers on a daily basis, Alan also faces the three word mantra that has come to define pretty much the entire industry: Print Is Dead.

With the ongoing rapid advances in technology and how, exactly, people are receiving their news in 2016, both in terms of methodology and volume, the experience of sitting down, physically opening up a newspaper, getting your fingers dirty from the print, and reading about the issues affecting your region in long form is rapidly dwindling.  While many of the PBT’s brethren in the print arena have circled the wagons and significantly reduced, if not outright shut down their operations, others, like the PBT, have adapted their practices to improve their ability to produce their content in real time (no need to wait for tomorrow morning to read about today’s news)  in a consumable, user-friendly manner over tech platforms.

Such transitions have not been easy for many in the “old school” print industry, but given the changes in how we get our news, they have been necessary to keep these media outlets afloat.   Alan will talk with Raja about the changing face of media, and what newspapers like the ones under Alan’s purview are doing to keep up.

-In addition to his conversation with Alan Robertson, Raja will also talk with Varol Ablak, the founder and CEO of Vocelli Pizza, about the highly successful, constantly evolving, growth of his chain, and what he’s doing next.

In 1988, Varol Ablak, along with his family, opened the first Vocelli Pizza location (then known as “Pizza Outlet”).  More locations quickly followed in the months and years to come.  Currently, the chain boasts about 90 locations, encompassing seven states throughout the country.

While words like “growth” and “expansion” would seem like great news for any business owner, for dedicated entrepreneurs like Varol, they come with a whole new set of questions and issues.   For each location, Varol finds himself wondering whether or not the management of that location will have that same drive and passion for success as Varol did back in 1988 when he opened that first location.  To that end, he has implemented an exhaustive, hands-on training program for prospective franchisees to ensure that operations run smoothly across the board.

As he transitions from mere “business owner” to “franchisor”, Varol finds new successes in enabling fellow aspiring enterprising CEO’s to have the same level of success that he, himself had.

But for Varol, JUST enjoying this success in the pizza industry isn’t enough.   Since growing and expanding the Vocelli franchise, he has since branched out to starting and growing OTHER franchise models including V3 Pizza (a casual, flatbread pizza served in a sit-down, dine-in atmosphere), Zing Basket (a grocery delivery service), Rock’n'Joe (a music-themed coffee bar), and his most recent acquisition, the successful Sincerely Yogurt franchise, which he acquired in January of 2016.

How does Varol manage this vast array of franchises?  For him, the answer lies in one word:  people.  By being mindful that the true success of a company lies in its people, Varol understands the importance of finding top-shelf people to run his locations, and holding up his end of the bargain by providing the same resources to succeed that he had when opened his first location.

Here, Varol talks with Raja about what drives him to succeed, the importance of family to his success, and the qualities he thinks a successful entrepreneur most possess in order to grow and succeed as an entrepreneur.
This show is a must-listen for anybody who wants to hear what it takes to be successful, and to hear what a successful leader must do to STAY successful in an ever-changing industry.

Episode 143