It's that vision thing, again
By By Buddy Bynum / editor
August 24, 2003
Frank Meeks has to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country these days and he got there by following through on a vision.
Meeks, a Gulfport native, and I first met when we were both young staffers in the Washington office of then-U.S. Rep. Trent Lott. Always personable, a tireless worker and ambitious in the best sense of the word, Meeks had an idea for how he could make money and build a career.
He had gotten a taste (no pun intended) of what could be while he worked at a fairly new business at the time a Domino's Pizza store on the Mississippi Coast in the early days of home pizza delivery, that is to say back when some otherwise sane people thought he was nuts.
But Frank persisted.
He associated himself with a company whose Mississippi Coast franchisees had been turned down by five Mississippi banks when they went for a start-up loan. They finally found money from a more friendly bank in, if I'm not mistaken, Ohio.
He learned every phase of the business, from ordering the ingredients and cooking the pizza pies to taking phone-in orders and making delivery runs, and eventually managing the money and hiring staff and finding new efficiencies.
While he worked in Washington, Meeks convinced a small number of friends to help finance his first Domino's Pizza store as the Northern Virginia franchisee.
He put his managers some of whom were reportedly making as much as $150,000 a year, buying houses and BMWs as early as ages 20 and 21 through a rigorous training program and a physical fitness regimen.
Fit workers work harder and smarter, he found. And they all worked hard.
Today, millions of people have hot, fresh pizza delivered to their homes and Frank Meeks was in that pioneering bunch at Domino's Pizza who made and built a new market that has paid rich dividends in terms of product quality and customer service.
Meeks now owns 60 Domino's Pizza stores in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. He recently completed rebuilding his home in Northern Virginia overlooking the Potomac River, just a gorgeous spot to live. He is a motivational speaker with a great personal story to tell young people who wonder whether they should pursue their dreams. He is active in Virginia politics and still keeps up with the home folks, too.
The world needs more people like Frank Meeks.
I am reminded of Frank's story whenever I hear people putting down public education or public universities in Mississippi. Frank attended public schools on the Mississippi Coast and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the idea of hot, freshly-baked home-delivered pizza, especially in 30 minutes or less, was a radical departure from the norm. I am reminded that ideas don't succeed just because they are good ideas. It takes dedicated, hard-working, energetic, innovative people like Frank Meeks with the brains and persistence to achieve a dream, build a career and, in turn, provide good employment opportunities for others who are like-minded.
So, as Mississippi's education system undergoes something of a radical change with new emphasis on test scores and something that may pass for accountability, maybe it's time to re-focus on the successes, not the failures.
Maybe it's time to build a radical new system that identifies people like Frank Meeks among a body of students who deserve the very best Mississippi has to offer, help them achieve and then tell their stories, too.