Talking shop with Wendell Miller

Monday, July 13, 2009
Wendell Miller of Cape Girardeau has been working for Dominoes Pizza for 20 years. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Pizza remains a staple food of many Americans, and there's nothing like the convenience of having it delivered to your door. One friendly face greeting customers of Domino's Pizza is Wendell Miller, who was recently named the company's delivery expert of the year. He works at Credit Bureau Services in Cape Girardeau and part time at Domino's. Southeast Missourian business

reporter Brian Blackwell visited with Miller last week to learn more about his secret to success.

Q: What is the most interesting delivery you've ever done?

A: I once delivered pizza to this amazing treehouse in someone's backyard. The parent had set it up and when I got up to the treehouse the family got a big kick out of it. It was a big deal to them and neat for me. I've always tried to make things fun. Having a positive attitude and working hard go a long way.

Q: I've heard stories of those making pizza deliveries getting robbed. Has that ever happened to you?

A: No. I always try to keep a proactive approach. You have to know where you're going ahead of time and watching out for your surroundings. If a place is all dark that's an indication that we might not want to deliver a pizza there. I usually will call someone on their cell phone first, which has actually helped out a lot on pranks and robbery attempts. It helps us verify at times that the person who called on the cell phone is the person who ordered the pizza. Cell phones actually helped prevent a robbery once. The stairwell of an apartment was dark and to be careful we called the person who ordered the pizza. That person didn't know anything about it and it turns out there was a person who was waiting to rob us on the second floor. If we had not used a cell phone we might have been robbed that day.

Q: What have been some of the biggest changes since you started delivering pizzas?

A: Technology is one of the biggest changes. When I began we used all paper. Now we have cell phones and computers which help us out so much, as I mentioned previously, with security measures. We've also expanded from one store to multiple ones now. Our delivery area is a six-mile radius, which includes the subdivisions out in the county.

Q: How do you think the economy has affected the restaurant industry?

A: With the economy the way it is, people are trying to fight for their lives. Having a good attitude goes a long way. You have to pick things up and keep going.

Q: What was it like winning the award as delivery expert of the year?

A: It was an amazing feeling. When my name was called to accept the award I sprinted out there to accept it. I was told that had never been done before. I even did a 360 when I got to the stage. It showed my hustle and represents who I am on the job. For someone from Cape Girardeau to win the award is pretty amazing. Most of the time those who win the award are from bigger cities and not from a small town like ours. One of the neatest things is seeing all of the people from different coutnries there at the convention in Las Vegas. I was able to meet so many interesting faces that represented the company on a larger scale.

Q: Did anything early in your life help prepare you for delivering pizzas?

A: When I was 6 years old my dad, Earl, became a minister. He became a traveling preacher. That led me to visit 48 states and live in 13 of them. Whenever we traveled I was the one who was the navigator. I read the maps, which influenced my interest in being on the road. I learned how to draw up the maps, which I use in my job today. I eventually had a newspaper route, which contributed to my skills of being fast on the job. I also became an athlete, where I ran track as early as the first grade while living in Oklahoma. All of that has helped make me who I am today on the job. For years I've drawn maps to assist me in locating those places that aren't on a regular map, such as PO boxes and apartments. Some of the other guys who work here have used them.

Q: How did you come to move to Cape Girardeau? And tell us about your life in the few years following the move.

A: I was living in Marion, Ill., and in 1981 moved to Cape Girardeau to work at the Korner Deli inside the mall. At the time my wife was a registered nurse at Southeast Missouri Hospital. In 1984 my wife was in a bad traffic accident and almost died. So I became the main caregiver for her and and the kids overnight. That's when I soon started working for Domino's. I'd work for Southeast Missouri Hospital from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., then would work for Domino's from 5 to 9 p.m. and would sweep floors at Southeast Missouri State University from midnight to 4 a.m. I'd then go home and crash for a few hours until getting up and doing it all over again. When I got my divorce I kept the job at Domino's to support my four kids, who have all graduated from college.

Q: What lessons have you learned?

A: I've held 10 different jobs here, including other ones such as a 7-11 manager and life insurance salesman. I've always taught my ids to have fun and be a hard worker. It pays off, such as when I won this award from Domino's. I've noticed that over time the younger generation doesn't want to work as hard. I try to teach the younger generation at Domino's to hustle and work hard. At Domino's we try to challenge each other constantly and the younger people are impressed that an older guy like me can outperform them. When I leave a house, apartment or office after delivering a pizza they'll see me sprinting out to my car to race off for my next order. And that personal contact with the customer has been important. Whenever I go to a house I like to call my customers by their first name and compliment them on something in their home because people are proud of what they have. I just bring the personal touch into my job.

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