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Thirty lessons from 30 years in business


In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that taping television shows at home on VCRs does not violate copyright law, Ma Bell broke up, the USSR boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and Detroit took home its most recent World Series win.

Another 1984 monumental moment was, for us, opening the first Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta.

Thirty years is a reason for both great celebration and reflection. When we look back at our early years, we realize that we are indebted to many. We also realize that there is no substitute for experience. Or, as a British acquaintance put it, “Experience, whilst often painful, is a very good educator.” (He actually said “whilst.”)

Even though I haven’t been with the company 30 years, we have a collective wisdom that reaches far beyond "30 Things in 30 Years." Here’s an edited list, a serving of the hard-won knowledge that’s been proven by the best: our customers, employees and owners.

  1. Our customers come back because of their last slice, so let’s make every slice count.
  2. Customers don’t always know what they want. In fact, sometimes they ask for something they don’t really want. (Hint: we think 5 toppings on a pizza is too many!)
  3. It's easy to sell at a discount (consider "chain pizzas"). In the pizza world, it is harder to ask for full price. Anthony's scratch recipes and hand-made pizzas calls for continuous customer education.
  4. Ask questions, particularly tough questions, frequently. One of our favorite questions we ask ourselves is: “Do we have the right people selling the right product in the right setting at the right price?”
  5. This one's a Bill Gates rip-off: Always assign the laziest person the most difficult project because they will find the easiest way to complete the task.
  6. It’s easy to do something well one time. The hard part is doing it well every time.
  7. Everyone has a bad day now and again. It happens. (We have them too, unfortunately!) Although not an excuse, we are all human.
  8. Customer complaints are a gift; they show us where we can improve.
  9. The customer’s perception is Anthony's reality.
  10. Hire slowly, fire quickly.
  11. Great employees have options. Management’s job is to find great employees and work to keep them around.
  12. Employees generally want to do a good job and take pride in their work. It’s up to us as managers or business owners to train them and give them the right tools to succeed.
  13. It’s easier to manage a process than it is to manage people.
  14. Passionate people are good at what they do.
  15. No one person can do everything alone. Building and sustaining a successful business requires a team effort.
  16. You can delegate responsibility but not accountability.
  17. Goals are dreams ready to go to work.
  18. Have a plan, have a back-up plan, and have the skills to improvise when both plans fail.
  19. The smoothest job is usually the hardest because we’ve planned for everything that might go wrong.
  20. There’s no shame in starting over; sometimes it’s the best decision we can make. Getting it right the first time is our goal, but going back to the drawing board can often lead to amazing results.
  21. When building a team, include players with different skills than yours.
  22. Simplify.
  23. Try to exceed expectations – others’ and your own.
  24. The way we do things each day is what ultimately defines us and our business.
  25. Just do the work – even when you don’t want to, even when it’s hard, even when you’d much rather be doing something, or anything, else. As my dad was fond of saying, “You don’t have to like doing it, you just have to do it!”
  26. It’s harder to see what is not there than it is to see what is in front of you.
  27. Be true to your roots but don’t be afraid to change.
  28. It’s easier to make current customers happy than it is to find new ones. Besides, it’s expensive to find new customers.
  29. Loyal, fanatical customers are our best advertisement
  30. Do you know what Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta and the Fire Department have in common? People smile when we show up! We are proud of our philanthropy. We give back where we can, and we believe in supporting the communities that support us. It’s worth every smile.

This list is, of course, a slice of what we have learned over the past 30 years while building Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta. Every day we learn new and valuable lessons about how to stay in front of a changing and competitive market.

In the midst of continuous change, however, there is one constant: The customer always comes first. As long as we remember and honor this maxim we are confident that the next 30 years will be as remarkable as the first 30.

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Tim Dodge

Tim Dodge is Chief Operating Officer at Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta International. He started his career with Hyatt Hotels and was co-founder of both Healthgrades and Baroness Wines. He graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

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