He was interviewed at Tasty Baking's new corporate headquarters at the Navy Yard. The company's manufacturing plant will move there from Nicetown next year.
Question: I assume you had Tastykakes at home when you were growing up.
Answer: Only after I served my papers, and had enough money to buy a peach pie, at the end of the route. It was a major treat, to have a Tastykake.
Q: Peach pie was your favorite?
A: Usually, when I was growing up, it was peach pie. I have now changed.
Q: To what?
A: Oh, shoot. I can't . . . The best thing about this job is I get to eat the product, free. . . . Yesterday, I just tested a new apple cinnamon Danish. Which I thought was wonderful. But I'm still a pie guy.
Q: You had a 13-year stretch as the head of the chamber. Now, you're in the trenches. How did you find that transition?
A: It is different. But, at the same time, I still use the same skill set I had at the chamber. . . . I manage through a collaborative style. . . . I listen a lot. When you have young, bright, aggressive people working in the company - no matter what levels - everybody wants to be heard. They want to be able to express their ideas.
Q: When you arrived, what did you see as your biggest challenges?
A: I found a company - as one person who I brought into the company said - it was like a great antique you had in your attic that needed to be taken out and really cleaned and buffed. It was a great brand, but it needed to be reengineered, from the inside out. . . . We completely changed the way we've done business.
Q: How so?
A: Well, there was no technology here. We didn't have a supply chain. They didn't think in terms of supply chains. So we had to develop a supply chain. And then a technology platform. . . . We went from nothing to the most advanced technology platform. We had to, behaviorally, produce a new environment, an environment of openness for the employees. . . . We had to expand, geographically. We had to make new products, which hadn't been done. And then, we had to work through efficiencies. The company was in a building that was constructed when Woodrow Wilson was president.
The first thing I did was make sure the building was safe. We went from that to building a state-of-the-art building. . . . But it takes a lot of time. If there was one miscalculation I made, it was the amount of time that it would take to remake a company.
(To guide him, Pizzi relied on wisdom drawn from Good to Great, a book on successful companies by Jim Collins.)
I took this as a lesson book on what we needed to do here. And it's all common sense, by the way.
It's communication. It's providing a vision. As a CEO, pretend you're on a movie screen: Everything you do means a lot. One of the first things I did was build a gym inside the bakery. I wanted to send the signal that this was going to be a different kind of company. . . . When I came here, I didn't know anything about running a public company, running a bakery, running a manufacturing - a consumer packaged-goods company. I had no experience. . . . And the analyst said, "What the hell does this guy know?"
He was absolutely right. So, when I read that, I said, "Now I got it. I'm going to bring people from other great brands to get behind this brand so that we can make sure that a Philadelphia institution remains in Philadelphia for many, many years to come." And that's why my board is made up of all these people from a lot of great consumer packaged-goods companies. And we brought a lot of people in, from Campbell Soup, Pepperidge Farm, Maxwell House Coffee. Which this company never had before. It was an insular type of place.
Q: Your stock is trading lower than when you came on board. Why?
A: Well, in order to remake a company, you have to take several steps back before you can move forward. In order to move from that old facility to this new facility, we had to write off all of the equipment that was in that facility. Which meant your company was going to lose money.
Q: Where do you envision the company being 10 years from now?
A: I would like the company to be a national brand. This is a great brand. You can ask anybody in the consumer package [industry]. The emotion that's tied to our brand is unbelievable. I mean, Jake Tapper, from ABC News - he was reporting from London. He's a Philadelphia guy. So they're talking on the good morning show - Good Morning America - and he said, "And tomorrow afternoon, the president and Mrs. Obama are going to have tea and Krimpets with the queen." And they said: "Don't you mean crumpets?" He said, "Where I come from, they're Krimpets."
Contact staff writer Christopher K. Hepp at 215-854-2208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles P. Pizzi
Education: Undergraduate degree from La Salle University. Master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Past positions: City commerce director; president/chief operating officer of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Board memberships: Brandywine Realty Trust; the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (deputy chairman); Grocery Manufacturers Association; Independence Blue Cross; and Nasdaq OMX.
Family life: Married, with four sons.