Uncommon Person: Gregg Imamoto

Gregg is Uncommon.

Gregg Imamoto is the CEO of Pieology Pizzeria, a make your own pizza fast casual restaurant chain with over 120 locations around the world. Gregg specializes in business turnarounds and has been doing that successfully for over 20 years. When not working, Gregg enjoys spending time with his family, especially at the beach, coaching his son’s sports teams and taking care of their two rescue Jack Russell Terriers.

We asked Gregg to share some uncommon sense from his life and career.

Bulldog Drummond: What value, phrase or uncommon truth do you live by?  
Gregg Imamoto: When in doubt, lead. 

BD: What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
GI: Being a dad of twins, it’s the greatest gift, responsibility and challenge ever!

BD: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your purpose?  
GI: Problem solving. I enjoy the challenge of figuring things out.


BD: What’s the most useful question you ask often? Why? 
GI: How can I be more helpful? It leads people to engage with you and invites you into their challenges.

BD: What makes you uncommon? 
GI: I’m direct and to the point. I’m not afraid of confrontation.

BD: Can you tell us about an experience that made you who you are?  
GI: My parents both told me when I was 14 years old that I would be terrible in their fields of occupation. My dad was an Engineer, and up until that point in time, I thought I would be one too. My mom was a Nurse and said that I would not be good in the medical field due to the ‘sight of blood’ in the daily dynamic.

BD: What idea have you come across most recently that has changed your thinking? 
GI: I heard a podcast that discussed the notion of having “the right to be offended”, and how quickly people can get upset or feel disrespected versus seeking a better level of empathy or compassion.


BD: What is the most important decision you’ve made in the last twelve months?  
GI: For Pieology, it has been ensuring we have a consistent platform or vehicle for all of our stakeholders to communicate and participate within to stay connected to the brand and one another during these unprecedented times.

BD: What are you working on that you are excited about? 
GI: Re-thinking and re-building our company for the new guest expectations related to off-premise and the digital experience.


BD: What makes your company a unique and different organization? 
GI: Almost 3 years ago we started on a journey of promoting a flex/4D environment for our brand. Flex, in both how we execute all of our brand elements inside and outside the restaurant on a regional or local level, and 4D, bringing the 4 walls or dimensions of the guest experience to life in a manner that is not just memorable, but truly unbelievable.

BD: What positive difference are you trying to make in the world?  
GI: For Pieology, it’s facilitating “serving individuality” and allowing all stakeholders to experience and express themselves within our brand in a manner that adds more personal value every day.


BD: How would you best describe your role as a CEO? 
GI: Learner/Leader – there’s plenty to learn every day and there’s also a tremendous amount of risk when re-building a brand. I go over the hill first when there’s uncertainty or elements of risk that appear daunting and shepherd and coach from the rear, listening and learning from our team.

BD: What makes you a good leader of people?  
GI: I believe in setting clear expectations that are mutually agreed upon. If you can define success with your people, like you would for your business, your team can deliver outsized results.


BD: Considering the current state of the world, what is your biggest observation about humanity/society: 
GI: Pride and greed continue to undermine the better intent and interests of people’s actions. More than ever, we’re living in “me” times and the spirit of generosity and charity is lacking.

BD: How has the industry you work in changed as a result of the pandemic? 
GI: The restaurant industry has been devastated. Over 100k restaurants have closed since March 2020. The competitive marketplace shifted to off-premise and how well your digital strategy was architected.  


BD: What’s the most pressing human issue we face today? 
GI: The lack of compassion and willingness to understand other people’s circumstances.

BD: How has your background and race affected your worldview and life experience? 
GI: Culturally, as a Japanese American, it wasn’t always viewed as proper to speak your mind or challenge authority. Holding back, or saying no, even when you wanted to say yes, or vice versa, was also expected. I’ve adopted a “break the cycle” mantra and strive to teach my kids to be proud and confident and respectfully not let cultural biases hold them back regardless of whether it’s deemed acceptable or not.

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