Rich Mannella, General Manager
at the Pilot Travel Center in Lebanon, Tenn.
Rich Mannella is the General Manager at the Pilot Travel Center in Lebanon, Tenn. Having worked for Pilot Flying J for more than seven years, Rich discusses how the federal investigation has impacted his employees and his store, what he likes best about being a General Manager and what motivates him day-to-day.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you worked for the company? How long have you been a General Manager (GM)? Why did you choose Pilot Flying J?
I have worked for Pilot Flying J for more than seven years, and I’ve been GM since I first started. I chose Pilot Flying J because it is a financially stable company and has a proven track record of growth.
What does your job entail as a GM at Pilot Flying J?
First and foremost, as GM, I ensure the satisfaction of every customer that walks through my doors. Because I talk to professional drivers every day, I understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. My store is fast, friendly and clean - that is job number one. It’s my duty to make sure every Pilot Flying J experience is a great one. I also oversee the development of store employees. It’s a great feeling to watch them as they grow and succeed.
How many employees do you have at your location?
We have 61 employees, including our restaurants, at our store here in Lebanon, Tenn.
Has the federal investigation had any impact on your Travel Center?
No, the federal investigation has had little, if any, impact on our business.
What questions have you received from employees about the federal investigation? How do you answer their questions?
At the onset of the investigation, there were employees who were concerned about the future of Pilot Flying J based on the reports and stories in the news. My employees were comforted when we had a visit from Mr. Haslam, and he ensured us that we would be a better and stronger company following the investigation. I have complete confidence in our leadership and that this issue will be resolved as quickly as possible.
As a GM of a Travel Center, I'm sure you talk to a lot of people throughout the day. Tell us about the most interesting customer.
As GM, I talk to many drivers each day. One interaction that sticks out is a driver named Rick. He is an independent driver who has been driving most of his life. He has been married to his high school sweetheart for 35 years and they have 18 children, ranging from two to mid-twenties. He loves his job and being on the road.
If you were convincing a friend to apply for your job, what might you tell them?
If a friend were to apply for my job, I would tell them they would be working for the industry leader. I would also say that they would be working with a company that will continue to be a success. At the store level, I would tell them that we always try to have a good time. We work hard and make sure our customers come first. I would also tell them about our great benefits package, and that we even offer benefits to part-time employees. This is amazing company to work for. There is plenty of potential for growth for the driven individual.
What motivates you? Beyond a paycheck, what keeps you coming back to work?
From developing employees to providing excellent customer service to helping professional and civilian drivers, I am motivated by the unique challenges we face daily. Every day there seems to be a new and exciting experience. There is potential for growth within the company and that motivates me as well.
What's the best part of being a GM at Pilot Flying J?
Having the autonomy to run a business and having the support I need to do it effectively is the best part about being GM. I also gain tremendous satisfaction from watching my trainees develop into managers who make a positive impact on our company.
What are some of the most interesting situations, good and bad, with which you have dealt?
With such close proximity to Nashville, I’ve had a few country music singers come into the store and it really tickles our staff. We also have NASCAR drivers who come into the store frequently, and it is always exciting to have interactions with them.
How would you characterize being a GM as a career?
I have to say, this career is not for everybody. It takes patience, dedication and effort to be an effective GM. You have to manage many different personalities- both customers and employees- on a daily basis. However, there are a lot of rewards for an individual who is up for that challenge. I am blessed to be the GM in Lebanon.
Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven't covered?
I am really proud to be a part of the Pilot Flying J organization and I look forward to continued growth in the future.