When you walk into the unassuming HQ of Teesside-based business Racz Group, there’s a tangible buzz of energy as soon as the door opens.
A friendly welcome, a make-yourself-at-home kind of a vibe from an engaging team who are busy running one of the largest owners of franchised businesses in the UK.
Had a coffee from Costa lately? It is likely to have come from a Racz-franchised store. Tucked into a delicious Domino’s pizza? Ditto.
Racz runs 28 Domino’s franchises, 15 Costa and 15 Anytime Fitness gyms as well as holding business interests in Hartlepool’s Black Olive bar and Middlesbrough digital multimedia company Viral Effect, with a turnover in excess of £30m.
The scale of the company is impressive – it employs more than 1,000 – but it has people at its heart. And the Racz management team, who are based in offices at Wynyard, are testament to that.
Many of them started out making the coffees and baking the pizzas, just like company owner Mike Racz. But the firm’s drive and its values, coupled with a sky’s-the-limit career progression, has resulted in promotion through the ranks.
It is not without hard work, of course, but no two days are the same at Racz and that’s what makes it an exciting place to be.
Just ask Shirley Moss, operations manager of the Costa business, and Becky Norman, who is executive assistant to chief operating officer Laura Tarran.
Shirley, 29, who hails from South Africa, and Hartlepool-born and bred Becky, 24, both started out on the shop floor, so to speak, Shirley as a Costa barista and Becky as a delivery driver at the Hartlepool branch of Domino’s.
Neither knew just how far their careers would take them but they both agree that’s the exciting thing about Racz – the opportunities are there if you want to take them.
“There are lots of things I enjoy about the job, the relationship our teams have with each other and the friendships that develop,” says Shirley, who is responsible for managing the team of area managers who in turn each have five store managers reporting to them.
“The other thing is you just don’t know where the job is going to take you. The Costa brand is growing rapidly and six months ago the company was different to how it is now. It’s getting bigger and better all the time.
“One of the most valuable things about the Racz Group, though, is that the people higher up have been there and done that – they know the job from the very bottom.”
“There’s a real buzz about the company and that’s the thing, the energy here is tremendous. That’s were Racz Group is second to none.
“I like people, it’s how I work. Show someone respect and you get that back and then some, you can’t go on a training course to learn that. If I’m out in our stores I’ll speak to the team as I would anyone else. Talking to people is one of my biggest roles in the company, I’ll always ask where they are, how they are, what their ambitions are, where they see their progression path.
“When I was on deliveries I didn’t think where I’d be able to go with it, now I make sure staff know what Racz Group can do for them.”
Their passion for the company is plain to see. And even though they spend their working lives managing high-pressure situations, they are easy to talk to and very approachable – a key Racz Group trait.
Shirley came to the UK with her family and ended up staying. She initially wanted to work in healthcare but someone took her to Costa and, she says, she just fell in love with the brand. She started work as a barista and moved around a few of the stores, climbing up the career ladder as she went.
Becky started her delivery job at Domino’s for some extra cash while she was at uni. She eventually went to work at Hartlepool Borough Council in a public health role but felt she’d gone as far as she could with her job there. She knew Laura and started working with her for a few hours a week – which eventually turned into a full-time job.
Day to day life at Racz is very varied, they say. No two days are the same and that’s how they like it. Owner Mike is always changing the goalposts too – and although that throws up more hard work, the challenge is something they thrive on.
Outside of work Becky is a talented footballer, she’s just got back into playing regularly for Hartlepool Youth Ladies. Shirley jokes she sleeps when she’s not at work – but she has a talent of her own too. She is an accomplished ballroom and Latin dancer.
Despite bulging inboxes and busy days, they still find the time to get out into the Costa and Domino’s stores. The art of making a good pizza or a pretty decent cup of coffee never leaves you, says Shirley, and it is important that it doesn’t.
In fact, there is always something of a competitive edge to it whenever they find themselves out in the field.
“We actually have a bit of competitive streak in us when it comes to making a really good flat white.
“Generally, over who can make the most perfect pattern on the top of the coffee – Shirley is a pro but Becky, coming from the Domino’s side, is pretty good at it.”
Both ladies wholeheartedly embrace the Racz Group spirit but also display their impressive charity efforts – this year alone completing a team Three Peaks challenge, a skydive, a poppy appeal and food bank collections. They are a credit to the endless exciting opportunities available to them through the franchise world.