This week, we’re continuing our series “Living Out Our Values.” We’re talking with general managers from all over the country to hear their stories and tell us how they live our new values in the stores every day.

Autumn Lawrence, a general manager from Dallas, Texas, is a perfect example of a leader at work. She started with Papa John’s in 1996 and, after a brief hiatus in 2001, rejoined the team in 2017. Her love for her store and team members is unmistakable, as is the way she embraces her team members like family and creates a profound sense of belonging!

“I think that the value Everyone Belongs is an important one,” said Autumn. “I think making your team members a family is the most important thing. I think my store has the best family look. A team is such an understated concept. I have workers who are 16-year-olds trying to earn some extra money to help people who have retired from their main job, and everyone does matter.” 

Caring is the true measure of a leader. Like general managers have said repeatedly, it’s the small stuff that counts; it’s seeing your workers as a human that matters. Autumn has branded this in a special way and creates a culture of fun in even the most stressful of times.

“When it’s those rough shifts and everyone’s probably seconds away from a mental break down, you know what we do? We floss,” said Autumn. “You know that little dance? Yeah, we do that. It’s just my way of helping my team members take a breath and have some fun. I also like to play music. I’m big about music. It’s just all about motivation and creating a healthy work environment.”

Autumn strongly believes that having a good environment to come into is crucial for anyone to enjoy what they do, and if they enjoy what they do, they will do it better.

“I have fun. We have fun at my stores,” said Autumn. “I don’t think I have a single team member that just goes ‘ugh’ every time they come into work. I think we’ve made something really special here because it’s not like other stores I’ve worked at before.”

One part of having such a good attitude and team spirit like Autumn does is that it spreads. It spreads through the store, but it also spreads out into the community. Over her years at Papa John’s, Autumn’s had many experiences with that, and she has a fair share of stories to tell.

“A few months ago, a local teenage boy was killed in a car wreck. A lot of people in the community knew him, and it just hit all of us hard,” said Autumn. “I decided to do something about it, so when the vigil and the funeral happened, I sent pizzas down there. There were a lot of teenagers who had been there all day, and I know that something about pizza makes people happy. Being fed makes people happy, and that’s really what our jobs are about. That’s really what Papa John’s is all about.”

The new culture of Papa Johns is beautiful, and something that Autumn takes pride in. She’s proud of the team that’s helped shape her store’s culture with her.

“The culture of my store is just incredible,” said Autumn. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that we are family. Sometimes, if I’m off on Sunday, I’ll see who else is off, and we’ll all go out to lunch. For anyone who missed lunch on Sunday, we’ll go out Monday or Tuesday. It’s how my team is. We really are about everyone belonging. We are all about going through life together. That’s who we are, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Autumn, like many other general managers, is the true voice of Papa John’s. She is an extraordinary leader who takes the time to care about every little thing, every detail and every person. She understands and demonstrates that all of that isn’t just important to survive; it’s important to thrive.

Make sure to stay tuned for more amazing stories like Autumn’s as we continue to hear from general managers and how they’re living our better values for a better tomorrow.