Peter Cancro, founder and chief executive of Jersey Mike’s “Overnight success takes decades,” according to Peter Cancro, founder and chief executive of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems. And Cancro should know. He has spent his entire career at the same company, beginning at the original Mike’s Subs in Point Pleasant, N.J., in 1971, and purchasing it from its owners in 1975 when he was just 17.

Cancro spent a dozen years refining the restaurant before changing the name to Jersey Mike’s and beginning to sell franchises in 1987.

It took another 11 years before Jersey Mike’s hit the 100-unit mark, but by the end of 2012 the sub shop chain had nearly 600 units and generated $334 million in sales — a figure that’s projected to hit $396 million from 700 units by the end of 2013.