Pano Christou was 16 years outdated when he when he began working the store flooring at McDonald’s.
It’s there that he “fell in love with hospitality,” he tells Fortune. However on the time, he had no thought his love affair with the trade would propel him from taking Glad Meal orders to main one in every of Britain’s largest sandwich chains, Pret A Manger.
Like most youngsters, Christou simply needed to earn cash “to purchase issues”.
“My mother and father didn’t have plenty of plenty of cash. However what they did have was an outstanding work ethic,” he recollects. His half-Greek, half-Italian father was a mini-cab driver and his Greek-Cypriot mom was a nurse.
“I knew the extra I labored, the extra money I may make,” he says.
Christou wasn’t fallacious. By the age of 18, he had dropped out of faculty and was on observe to have a powerful profession in administration at McDonald’s. He then scaled Pret’s ranks at a powerful tempo to the coveted CEO function, the place final yr he took residence a $490,000 wage plus a $4.5 million share bonus.
Christou now oversees Pret A Manger’s 550-plus shops throughout Britain, Hong Kong, Dubai, and the US, after twenty years and 10 promotions on the firm.
“Clearly at the moment, individuals transfer from job to job much more swiftly than perhaps 10 to twenty years in the past,” he says.
“I’m in a really totally different scenario now—however I don’t overlook that £2.75 ($3.40) an hour was the place to begin of my profession.”
Christou’s résumé just lately went viral on social media as a result of, as one person wrote on X, it’s “so, so uncommon to see” somebody climb the company ladder from the very backside to the very prime.
“I really feel grateful for the alternatives I had alongside the way in which,” Christou tells Fortune—however don’t name him fortunate.
“I believe there’s luck alongside the way in which however total, for those who work laborious and you might be very intentional, you may obtain issues,” he says. “I’m a giant believer in you make your personal luck.“
Say sure—even for those who’re not prepared
On the floor, you would say that Christou’s entryway to administration was all the way down to being in the appropriate place on the proper time.
“Anyone was meant to go on a course to turn out to be a shift supervisor. For some motive, they had been fired,” the 45-year-old London native says—so he took up the empty spot.
A lot to his supervisor’s shock, he handed the take a look at to turn out to be a supervisor at McDonalds and inside every week, he says, he was “rushed” into managing others way more skilled than himself.
“I used to be 16 and rapidly I used to be managing the individual that was coaching me two or three months in the past, who was near 30,” he says.
In Christou’s eyes, his large break all got here all the way down to saying sure to any alternative that got here his approach—even when he didn’t really feel prepared for it but.
“At any time when new, greater alternatives have been given to me I’ve at all times taken them—I’ve by no means mentioned no—even when it actually places me on the market,” he says. “I could haven’t been prepared for some time, however I’d at all times prefer to take it on and provides it my greatest likelihood and it has labored out nicely.”
In the long run, it’s a tactic that has paid off. Nevertheless it wasn’t plain crusing within the early years of his administration profession.
“I positively felt there was a powerful aspect of cynicism, of ‘who’s this younger child that’s making an attempt to handle me?’” he says. “That was actually robust.”
And that was simply the people-management aspect of the demanding function.
“Having the chance to supervise a enterprise at such a young age was fairly daunting,” he provides.
Transfer usually, or be ready to go away
When a McDonald’s coworker left the corporate to hitch Pret, Christou was intrigued.
“I’d by no means heard of it,” he says—however he provides that he was drawn by the chain’s “colourful fridges” and smiley workers.
“I simply thought: this seems like a enjoyable surroundings to work in—so I joined them at 22,” he says. “The remaining is historical past.”
Christou is now on the prime of the quick meals chain’s ladder, having been with the agency for greater than 20 years.
Nevertheless, profession paths like Christou’s—the place a employee regularly turns into extra senior through many years of promotions with the identical employer—are turning into a rarity.
However whereas Millennials and Gen Zers are way more inclined than earlier generations to job hop looking for higher pay and extra seniority, Christou argues it’s not staying loyal to 1 firm that can see your profession hit the breaks—it’s staying in a job you’re bored of.
“If issues didn’t proceed to maneuver, I most likely would have gone and carried out one thing totally different,” he says, including that he caught out the overall supervisor function at Pret for 4 years—he often strikes up the ladder yearly or two—as a result of the shops he was put answerable for stored getting greater.
Understanding whether or not it’s time to maneuver on or keep put at your present firm comes down to 2 questions, in accordance with Christou: Does the model or product nonetheless excite you? And is the enterprise booming?
“Usually for those who’re a part of a rising enterprise, there will likely be extra alternatives,” he says. “And I wouldn’t work for one thing that I wasn’t captivated with.”
Dream large—however not too large
Regardless of having a transparent starvation for fulfillment from a younger age, Christou says he by no means envisioned turning into Pret’s CEO till “a couple of months earlier than” he was provided the function in 2019.
“A couple of months after I grew to become an assistant supervisor, I mentioned, ‘I need to be a basic supervisor,’ after which once I grew to become retailer supervisor, after a few years, I assumed, ‘I need to turn out to be an space supervisor,’ and so forth,” he says.
In the end, wanting ahead together with his ft firmly on the bottom, as an alternative of dreaming too large together with his head within the clouds, is what he feels has set him up for fulfillment.
“I’ve watched individuals which were so fixated on the following function that they actually take their eye off the present job they’re doing,” Christou says. “My philosophy has at all times been for those who do an excellent job, individuals will discover you.”
By specializing in excelling in his present job and being the perfect inside his cohort—with out “shortcutting” his friends or “stabbing them within the again”—the promotions swiftly adopted.
“I used to be typically the youngest individual or the shortest in a job inside my peer group once I bought promoted, more often than not all through my profession,” he tells Fortune. “For those who work laborious and put your head down, issues can occur.”