Jerry Fives ’89: A Team Mentality

A former basketball player applies the lessons he learned on the court to his Dunkin’ businesses and attributes his success to his entrepreneurial parents and his Jesuit education.

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From a very young age, Jerry Fives was driven by an entrepreneurial spirit.

Still, never for a moment did he think he’d eventually find his niche in the coffee and doughnuts business, let alone the coffee and doughnuts business.

“Very few people have a linear path in life. I’m no exception,” he said.

For nearly 30 years, Fives ’89, and his wife, Sophia, have been highly successful franchisees for Dunkin’ Donuts, or just Dunkin’, as it was recently rebranded. All told, they own or co-own nine Dunkin’ shops throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.

“It’s a passion. It’s our life,” said Fives, 53. “There’s not a day that goes by without someone coming up to me and saying, ‘Here’s what happened at my Dunkin’ today.’ Fortunately, people have a love for this brand, and it’s great to be a part of that. And even though it’s a national brand, people know the franchises are locally owned and that it’s up to us franchisees to take the risk of running the business.”

A Scranton-area native, Fives was a star basketball player at the former Sacred Heart High School in Carbondale before enrolling at what was then Keystone Junior College. After a successful academic year there, he transferred to the University in 1985.

fivesinline.jpgOne day, while shooting baskets in gym class, the 6-foot-6- inch Fives caught the attention of legendary former Royals basketball coach Bob Bessoir. The coach pulled Fives into his office and, in characteristically blunt fashion, declared, “You’re playing on the team.”

A power forward, Fives proved himself a tough defender and rebounder for the Royals and an integral part of the team that finished runner-up in the 1988 NCAA Division III National Championship.

“Bessoir was a good mentor in my career. He taught me a lot of confidence that I took with me later in life,” Fives said. “Bessoir tried to build his team with good players and the right people. A team is only as good as the culture of its people; the coach sets the culture, and this carries through in business.”

Off the Court

Meanwhile, Fives was just as focused off the hardwood. A business administration major, he commuted to campus so he could work at his family’s plumbing and heating supply business in Carbondale.

“I was delivering boilers in the morning and playing basketball at night,” he said with a laugh. “All the while, the idea of owning my own business someday fascinated me. And I got that entrepreneurial spirit from my parents.”

Eventually, he would get his opportunity in 1991, when he and his wife, then newlyweds, decided to take over her Greek immigrant parents’ Dickson City Mister Donut restaurant. Allied Lyons had acquired both Mister Donut and Dunkin’ Donuts in the previous year, and all of its quick-service restaurants eventually became part of Dunkin’ Brands, which is now an independent entity.

“Sophia and I got married in September, and that October we went to franchise school together,” he said. “It was stressful and very challenging in the beginning. Sophia managed the restaurant while I would work all day at my family’s business, then I’d work at the doughnut shop at night when needed.”

Through perseverance, they eventually found success and grew their network to what it is today. Dunkin’ consistently recognizes Fives as one of the most respected operators in the system. In 2010, the couple was named Dunkin’ Brands’ Franchisee of the Year, and in 2015, Regional Operator of the Year. Today, the couple owns a successful network of restaurants in and around the Scranton area.

The Team

Fives has a couple of hundred dedicated employees who are constantly adapting to the chain’s ever-evolving business model, which now encompasses so much more than coffee and doughnuts.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is their business mantra: Quality. Service. Cleanliness.

“Sophia and I are blessed to have some great people working with us,” Fives said. “And, just like in sports, you need good players to make a good team. The same applies to running a business. I always try to credit my employees since they’re the ones who drive the business. We try to get the best possible people, train them the Dunkin’ way and don’t micromanage them.

“I try to handle all of our major complaints personally,” he added. “I take it personally when things go wrong and would like a second chance to make it right.”

Besides leading his network of restaurants, Fives is actively involved in other facets of the Dunkin’ universe. He has been a franchise leader for more than 20 years, a member of Dunkin’ Brands’ national marketing committee and co-chair of his District Advisory Council and Regional Ad Committee. During his tenure, Fives and his team have been influential in helping Dunkin’ test new menu items, equipment and operational systems, all of which benefit the brand.

"A team is only as good as the culture of its people; the coach sets the culture, and this carreis through in business."

Meanwhile, he continues to maintain strong ties to the University, via his involvement on the committee for the annual Carlesimo Golf Tournament & Award Dinner, which has raised significant funds for the athletic program in recent years.

“The Carlesimo family members are great advocates for the University, and we are lucky to have PJ Carlesimo’s support,” he said.

“One thing I love about the University is how committed it is to giving back to the community,” Fives said. “You make lifelong connections through the alumni network there, and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Fives and his wife have done their best to instill that sense of giving back in their three sons, JJ, James and Lukas. In the meantime, Fives’ passion for the Dunkin’ brand, and the Scranton business community as a whole, continues unabated.

“Staying in the Scranton area has been a good decision. Northeastern Pennsylvania is a great place to raise a family and run a business,” he said. “This is home for us.”

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