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Adding A Slice Of Fun And Authenticity To Your Business with Nick Sarillo | Ep. 175

BDD 175 | Authenticity


Instilling authenticity in a service business is one thing; adding fun to it is another. Incorporating this culture in a business is crucial to its success and growth. Nick Sarillo introduced both values to his restaurant, and no wonder it has become one of the top ten busiest independent pizza restaurants in the United States. Nick is the Founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza and Pub. He’s also the bestselling author of Slice of Pie. Nick imparts how he made “fun” a part of their culture and showed transparency on a daily metric with his people. Learn more about his passion for teaching and the most important tool in his business toolbox.

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Adding A Slice Of Fun And Authenticity To Your Business with Nick Sarillo

BDD 175 | Authenticity
A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business

Our guest is Nick Sarillo, the Founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub. Nick’s is one of the top ten busiest independent pizza restaurants in the United States. In 2012, Nick became a bestselling author with his book A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business. Now, he is speaking all over the country and teaching with the Trust and Track Leadership Institute. We’re about to get an MBA on the show with a leader who is in the trenches and making a difference every day. Nick, welcome to the show.

I’m grateful to be here, Jesse. I appreciate it.

I reached out to you almost right after you wrote the book. I was fascinated by your story. You were going to be the first ever guest on my show and then we went through the huge challenges coming to Savannah, but finally you’re here. I’m blown away by your story and the culture you’ve built. Can you, for the audience, give some of the contexts you shared in A Slice of the Pie?

I wrote that book because I wanted to share. I read a lot of books myself. It wasn’t about being a consultant talking about theory and the way things should work. I wanted to share my experience of how as entrepreneurs we have an opportunity to build those big little businesses. They could have a huge impact on people’s lives, on business and the way we do business, but it doesn’t have to be Google or Southwest Airlines. The everyday main street business could do what I did in a pizza restaurant and the processes I share. I share those processes through the real stories of real people in our restaurants. It’s a great opportunity. You and I are both connected with customers first, fans first. We call them guests. We don’t even call them customers either.

How we are taking care of our team and making them front and center is the reverse model of a hierarchy. I’m in service of the team and being clear about our culture by creating a purpose through the team. We have a collective purpose and a collective set of values that we’re intentional and clear about our culture allows us to create the culture we want in the organization. Instead of letting the culture happen, which typically happens in organizations and all the things that support that. It’s been good for me. It’s the big reason why we have less than 25% turnover in an industry that has a 150% turnover, higher profit margins than most full-service restaurants like ours. All these cool things happen as a result but the people are the first thing.

It’s fascinating because many restaurants fail. Many restaurants have a huge turnover because they don’t know what business they’re in. I always say we’re not in the baseball business. We’re in the entertainment and experience business. That’s what we do every day. You’ve said, “We’re not in the pizza business. We’re in the experience business.” I am excited to get into the culture of what you did. Share the story of how it got tested in the beginning and you made sure the community, your people, and everyone were on board.

I’ve been in business long enough. It’s been many years. For a business that is long enough, we’re going to get tested. There’s going to be something that happens. It’s a cycle of life. We went through a time. The great recession for everyone was hard. At the beginning of that recession, I was on track to open a third restaurant and we had to pull back. The bank pulled out of that at the last minute, which was fine. It sucked all of our cash reserves out. We were surviving the two restaurants. We made a payment on the third restaurant for a little while even though we didn’t have it. We did that and we were in at the beginning of the recession where sales went down and all these other things happened. One of the keys to that is that we’re transparent about our numbers. We have open books. The team’s involved with our financials every Friday. We’re doing all these things that I thought were the right thing to do. That was a good foundation. I didn’t realize at the time because I thought it was the right thing to do but it ended up being in a way its own insurance plan because then we got into 2011. Here we are in one of our restaurants in Elgin in 2011, we learned they’re going to open a building with this huge Sam’s Club and Walmart center right across the street from the restaurant, which we were excited about. We said, “This is awesome. We’re going to have all this traffic and more cars. It will be right across the street from all that.”

The downside we didn’t consider as much. We knew that there’d be road construction and some stuff that would hurt our business for a little while, but I didn’t realize it. They tore up the street that we were on. It was a two-lane street and they made it six lanes. The county said our driveway and our parking lot was too close to the corner. They paid for it, but they took our driveway and they moved it into the subdivision. People had to go into the subdivision to the side of our parking lot. You can imagine the confusion that happened, all the barricades, all the construction and nobody getting Nick’s. Nick’s Pizza & Pub in the Elgin restaurant was bad. Our sales dropped over 50% that whole summer. Summer was our busiest time of the year in 2011. It was tough. It was a tail in the recession so things weren’t great. I know it was going to happen. We started sucking all the cash-out. You’d know too probably. We went through a phase where all of a sudden now I’m doing a projected cashflow model. I never did that before, but I got to figure out what that is. I got to get ahead of the cashflow. I got to look at what’s happening over the next month. I always do not cashflow saving, but projected cashflow model. I highly recommend that for any business. By the time we got to the end of summer, they were going to open in a month and the construction was finishing.

I said, “We’ve got to get the word out that people come in.” We did this big event and a construction promotion. It was a good event, but it didn’t turn things around as much as we needed it to. I woke up that Saturday morning after that week and I said, “Our cashflow isn’t much better. We’re not going to make it.” The writing was on the wall. I opened up my computer to look at the numbers and I started writing a letter to our guests. We had at that time bought 16,000 people on our frequent diner guest plan. We had 16,000 emails. I wanted to send a letter to them thanking them for all the years of business and letting them know we’re going to go out of business. I wanted them also to know that it wasn’t the fault of my managers or my team. I was being honest and put it all out there.

Similar to you, I have this optimism thing that seeds inside of me. It doesn’t go away. By the time I finished this, it was a page. By the end of the page, I said, “Come by. Say goodbye to us. I’d love to see you.” Maybe if we get enough people, we may get through this. You can come in and say goodbye or help us get through whatever it is. Honestly, I had tears. I thought this was the end. Before I sent it out to them, I brought it to my team. We do pre-shifts before the shift in the restaurants. I said, “Take a look at this. I’m going to send this out. What do you think? I want everybody to see it in our team before I do it.” The team said, “This is what we should do. This is our values. One of our values is open and honest communication. We’re on board.”

That was Sunday morning. I thought, “Before I send it out, I should at least send it to sale.” I have a PR friend of mine that I used years ago. I sent it to them and I said, “Can you take a look at this? You’re professionals. What do you think before I send it out?” I sent it to a consultant I had. I also sent it to the bank. I told the bank president because I was totally transparent to him. Anyhow, the PR lady came back and she said, “There’s no way. You can’t do this. You think you’re in trouble. You think you have a crisis. You’re going to have a way worse crisis. You’re way too honest. You are way too transparent.” I said, “Really?” She goes, “I advise you don’t do this. We could write something for you,” which they did. She said, “Wait until Monday.” I did. What she wrote was much like a PR company. It was sanitized. I was like, “I can’t send this out. This is not me.” By that time in Monday morning, the bank president called back and he said, “You can’t do this. You’re going to have a mutiny, your funders will do COD only and all these things.”

I went back to my team and I told them, “Here’s what the professionals are telling us. We shouldn’t do this.” The team was like, “Maybe not social media, maybe not Facebook.” They agreed there are a lot of crazy people on Facebook, but for our frequent guests, we think we should still do this. As you could imagine, I did it anyhow. I did it for our team. That was a scary moment. I’ll never forget it, pressing the send button on that email. The craziest thing happened. I sent it out to the 16,000 guests and within twenty minutes we had people coming in. A guy came in and said, “Nick, I’m here.” He came in quickly. I don’t even know how fast they got that email, they came right over. He came in the door and he said, “Nick, I’m here to support you.” The phone started ringing like crazy off the hook. We had our local high school team, a football coach, a baseball coach calling in and saying, “We’re bringing the whole team over. Will you be open this Friday? Can we go with the team?” I was like, “We’ll still be here for a week. No problem.” All that stuff started happening.

[bctt tweet=”We have to have personal values integrated and sewn in the fabric of everything we do.” username=””]

We had a line outside the door, two-hour waits. We didn’t post it on social media, but our guests took the letter, posted it on social media and that went viral, hundreds and hundreds of shares all over the place. The crazy thing is the bank, our local vendor, the vegetable vendor delivered a whole week’s of produce on the house. The small guy, he probably had the hardest time before and not the big national food guy. I had a voicemail that evening because we were slammed. I couldn’t answer my phone from the bank president. He had said, “I guess you went ahead and sent that letter even though I told you not to. As a result, our employees here at the bank are asking what we were going to do to help Nick’s and our customers are asking what we need to do to help Nick’s. My board president, my board, is asking what we are going to do help Nick’s. We are going to have to figure out how to restructure your loan and help you out.” We had a 110% increase in sales for the next few weeks. That was before Kickstarter or anything. That was my first experience of crowdfunding before crowdfunding.

I know you’ve shared that story thousands of times, but it says much. Back when you did that, authenticity, transparency wasn’t even a word that was used in business. People were scared and you did it. You took that risk. What it did is it built your culture even better on who you are because you were standing for your people, your community. You’re being honest. What happened from that point on was not only for the business but for the culture?

The most amazing and blessed experiences I had during that time was these guests that would come in. A little lady crying in my arms, the things the guests were sharing were not about me. This is the gift. They don’t come in talking about their server Lisa or Laura. The little boy with his dad, they come in every Saturday night. The dad pulls me aside and saying, “I’m here because of Laura. I’m here because of Lisa.” The little lady I was saying and the carryout. She comes in for carry out pizza every Thursday. We have sixteen-year-olds that everybody writes off as teenagers. The teenager’s name is Shanda. She said, “I was telling Shanda what I come in here for every Thursday. I know Shanda. She knows my order. I love her. This is why I come here.” I was telling Shanda about that this story is like that Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Shanda has no clue what that movie is because she’s too young. She starts crying and gives me a big hug, but it’s all those stories about the impact my team was having with our guests.

That was above and beyond any expectation I had all because of focusing on delivering on Nick’s experience, our purpose. That’s the experience. It reinforced our values and how important are values are. I’m sure there are a lot of business owners where you started to go through a testing point in your business. I started asking questions of myself. I suck. I was like, “I should be selling steak. Maybe I should be selling spaghetti. What am I doing?” All these questions of how did I screw up? By the time I got done with this I go, “What we’re doing is the right thing. What I need to do is scream it more from the rooftops. I need to get out there and say who we are is the most important part of our business starting there.” That was a big lesson for me.

Stories are everything. I believe all companies may have their core values. They have stories that back them up. I’ve started to realize over the last few years the role of the leader, the owner or the CEO, is to share those stories every single day because it builds, it reinforces what you are. People were coming in and talking about our people, our employees. Everyone needs recognition and it goes even further when it’s not necessarily from the leader when it’s their customers. With your people, you’re sharing those stories over and over again. In building these values, I’m fascinated. What are some of the other unique things you do to build who you are so you can share even more stories?

It’s been such good work. The training and the things that we do at Nick’s turned into another business for me. I got done doing this with a company out in California. The important thing is our whole marketing department has got good ideas. This is not a marketing department initiative. This is a human initiative. What’s important is it’s not top down either. My purpose is not Nick telling everybody what my purpose was, it was a collective from our team and that’s a missed opportunity. What I found to be valuable in the companies I worked with and what we did next is we took a real slice team of the organization. We took entry-level positions. It was our busboy, dishwasher and a cook, it didn’t matter. We had them be part of the process. We also had middle-level managers as part of the process. We had men, women, young, old, different ethnicities. We want to give every group a voice.

What does that mean part of the process? How is their voice utilized?

Part of that process is we have a structure around creating a purpose and creating values. The structure around creating that process is to go offsite, spend some time together and find out about these individuals. What their individual passions are? What do they care about? Why are you working here? What brought you? We typically pick the high performer, the ones who are enjoying work and doing a good job. That process, that questioning all of a sudden you find we have all these similarities. I love teaching. Look at all the people that love teaching. One of our values is I’m going learning and development. I love kids. We all love family and kids. Part of our purposes is our dedicated family. That process of finding out these individuals, how we came together and what’s important to them. That’s the nucleus of our collective purpose.

You built this purpose, the pub values. You put it right on your website, which is great. Many websites, many companies don’t put who they are and what they stand for. You have it on there. I want to talk a little bit about a few of those. First of all, experiential learning and orientation. Can you share a little bit? What is unique about your orientation? How do you do it because everyone is onboarding, but it’s how do they do it unique to get people excited?

The opportunity for us in business especially, we have more of that opportunity in everyday businesses like ours to create meaning at work. Work doesn’t have to be these separate things in life that we drive. I have always been attuned at creating a meaningful life for the people that worked in the organization. That’s what purpose does and values do. I did that work myself. A few years after I was in business, I didn’t start out that way. I was like, “We have to have person values integrated and sewn in the fabric of everything we do.” That’s why orientation starts out with sharing, “Here are our values. Let’s have people get off the charts and start writing and share stories.” They start sharing short stories with each other about how this value might show up in your life. Here we are at work. We are talking about orientation when we would go back as a team and started asking those questions about life and then how they feel. We’re creating that connection to each value and the purpose. They get a real heartfelt experience. That’s what I mean by experiential learning. It’s not a teacher. It’s not a computer, a two-way thing.

It’s putting it into their life. It’s interesting because for us, our core beliefs, our Fans First way is always caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry. We share a lot of the stories that happen here, but it’s also like, “Let’s talk about your life. What have been the most caring things that have happened to you in your life? What are the most enthusiastic people or what have you done that are enthusiastic?” Get them to feel it. Is that what you’re saying?

It’s got to be more than an intellectual exercise. It’s got to be more than our values, write down some questions. It’s got to be in the heart and soul experience so we can feel it. We can feel the warmth around it.

BDD 175 | Authenticity
Authenticity: Getting out there and saying who we are is the most important part of a business.


I want to go through a few more values. We’re going to play some games because I told you out here it’s a circus. Our players do choreograph dances. We have a senior citizen dance team. It’s wild. We’ll get to some games a little bit. On that, one of your pub values is we have fun. I would love some examples of how you teach that because here’s the reality. People say, “It’s easy at the ballpark to have fun. You guys are constantly doing skits, music videos, dancing and whatever.” How do you make fun a part of your culture?

Rush hours can be stressful. A Friday night or Saturday night and a school bus unloaded. It’s always been important to be lighthearted, have a smile. That’s where the value came out of. The unique thing I learned is that fun is different for each of us. What I had to learn was there’s also a difference between fun and goofing off is how we separate someone doing something they think is fun. A kid throwing a dough ball right in the heart of the house has happened. He was throwing a dough ball at somebody else. That might be fun for the kid throwing the dough ball, but the other kid who gets hit with it, that’s not fun for them. That is not team respect. That is not the rest of our values. Some of the things we do for fun is we ask, “What is fun for you?” The team will create games. At the beginning of our pre-shift, they’ll create a game to do a contest, a game, a question or do things like that.

Can you give me an example of a game?

I’m not that good at it. Here’s the funny part. We do these 360 surveys and I do it around myself. How am I as a leader? I’m honest here with you, transparency. I get scored the lowest on having fun at work. Here’s why. I learned this. This is funny. I’m like, “What do you mean I got scored low? I have fun. I’m having so much fun.” They’re like, “Nick, you are always learning.” I’m like, “That’s fun for me. Learning is fun. That’s where I get excited about.” The host did a game where it’s improv. They do improv because we have microphones. We don’t give our guests a buzzer or a number. We give our hosts a microphone. We’re at the ballpark and they’re doing improv skits with the other host because we’ll have three hosts and four hosts on a Friday night when there’s an hour to wait. They have the names of the guests. They have a game where they have to create more than a word, a whole improve. “Smith party, the party of four. Come on up, Cubs fans.” They noticed they had a Cubs shirt on or something. They’re creating a whole little skit. They hand them off to the other hosts and they will do something with them about, “Who is your favorite player? We’re going to go over here.” I’m not doing it justice. It’s a lot more fun at the moment. That is one example.

The hosts are like hosting a show. That’s interacting and making it fun. What about at the back of the room? Is there anything on the back of the kitchen?

Our restaurants have a heart of the house. We don’t have a kitchen. The kitchens aren’t the back of anything. I don’t get the back of the house. They’ll have a contest. In a way it’s good because it supports productivity, but they’ll do like, “How many pizzas could somebody get done in five minutes contest?” There’s always somebody at the end of the line checking pizzas to make sure they don’t get sloppy. They’ll have little contests like that. They also have singing games. We have a couple of kids that are in performing arts. They’ll create a song for different pizzas. For this pizza, we will sing this song. For that pizza, we will all sing that song. They’ve also created songs. I remembered another one they created. At Christmas time, every night a guest has to sing one of the songs for Christmas, like the Twelve Days of Christmas and they gave a free appetizer.

It’s important Nick. We always talk about growing and learning. I’m with you. We have a better book club for our people that we pay our people to read. We are into that, but the fun is something that’s not talked about in business much. We have 150 game day, part-time staff that works doing concessions work, selling beer or doing all that. I’m intrigued by making it fun. Singing songs, how can they make it where it’s not the same old thing over and over again? I’m intrigued by that. On that note, we are going to play our first game. It is called our sing-off. We do it at our stadium. It’s 2,000 fans in one grandstand versus 2,000 fans in another grandstand. We play a song. When it stops, you have to finish that song lyric. We’re doing it with you. There’s no competition, but the song fits what you are about and what you’ve gone through a little bit. When it stops, finish that song lyric. “We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love. We’ll give it a shot.”

“Halfway there. Playing in the air or something like that.”

Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi. Living on a Prayer because we’ve got each other, you’re talking about your group. You’ve got each other that culture and you were living on a prayer when you sent out that email. That was strategic on why I put that out. I’ll give you a second place on that one. We talked a little about having fun, but I’m intrigued a little bit. You talk about growth and the things that you’re teaching as far as leadership. What is your specialty, your expertise because you built this culture? What do you get passionate about teaching?

It’s amazing how many CEOs and owners are worried about being vulnerable. I suck at the lyrics of a song. My girlfriend and her son, they make fun of me all the time. Here I am in front of my team. I’ll say the wrong words and I’ll be vulnerable. That’s okay. Let’s have some fun with that. That’s one of the things that is important in this day and age, transparency and being real as a leader. It’s hard. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s important. What I did with that letter, it’s super important. I have 200 and something team members and 70% of them are under the age of 25. What I’ve learned with this younger generation is they’re awesome. They’re great. I’ve got tons of stories about high performance and how they go above and beyond. The entitlement things are a rare thing I come across in our culture.

The difference to my point is that this generation doesn’t have a lot of trust in authority and why should they? Look what they’ve been brought up with. In the news every day, there are all kinds of teachers, presidents and priests, all the bad news with authority in our society. This generation is questioning leaders and saying, “Do you live the values? Why should I trust you to be in charge of my career and my future? I don’t know that you’re going to do something.” That’s innate in them. Leadership now, it’s important we have to be transparent. We have to own where we make mistakes. Failures are making a mistake. That failure is a great thing as long as we can take away, “Here’s what I learned from it.”

You showed that unbelievably with your customers and your guests. How do you show transparency on a daily metric with your people?

[bctt tweet=”Transparency and being real as a leader is important.” username=””]

We have a feedback loop. We have three different types of feedback that we teach as well in the other business and at the restaurants. We’re integrating purpose and values in training, orientation and in everything we do. We are also teaching our team how to be coaches. We’re not just saying be a coach. Part of coaching is what we call coaching at the moment. We’ll ask, “What’s one thing I did well now?” We’ll have a dialogue at the end. If we could replay this show and start it over, what is one thing I could do to enhance my performance?

Is it every day that the leaders do it?

We do it in the first ten days of training every day. Once they’re certified in what they were hired for, then we do it randomly. We might do at the end of a Friday night or at the end of Saturday night. In intense and busy times we’ll do it for sure. We might do it one-on-one or we might do it with a group or somebody’s getting certified to the next level. Another thing is we’ll make feedback loops to certify them in that next level. It’s a great way for us. It’s also a great way to get to know this new team member and have them feel accepted, supported and successful. Those are three important things.

The feedback loop, is there anything else? You mentioned three things.

The first one is a feedback loop. The second one is performance feedback, one-half of that feedback loop. It’s not as much time. It might be in the middle of the game, the middle of the shift, “One thing I notice you do well is you ask great questions and I’d like to see you smile more.” That’s performance feedback. The third one is direct feedback. Direct feedback is five words or less. With direct feedback, one could be recognized as something positive or course correction, but it’s five words or less, quick and right to it.

It’s transparency and culture every day. You also have open-book management. Does everyone know the numbers?

I don’t know what level everybody knows the numbers. The numbers are open. We have P&Ls posted, profit and loss statements posted. We do fiscal huddles on Fridays before the shift, before our shift, our game starts. There’s so much correlation between getting ready for a game. Getting ready for a Friday or a Saturday night is like game time. We talk about that all the time. It’s huddle up. What are we going to focus on? How are we going to go out there and be the best? People have choices down the street. They can go to ten other restaurants.

You are always on the stage. It’s a performance. Many restaurants don’t perform or thank people when they come in, thank people when they leave. It’s doesn’t happen and it sounds like you’ve built that into your culture.

One example is we have moments of magic. One of our moments of magic is entry and exit. That means anytime someone’s walking in the door, we say hello. Anytime someone is walking out, we say hello, goodbye or whatever. Another moment of magic is anytime someone is within five steps, we say hello to them. We acknowledge anybody within five steps. Another moment of magic is we answer the phone within three rings.

It’s simple things that not many people do.

I have a better one I think you’ll like. It’s the grandma test is a way we create more magic. This works well for the young hosts we have before they come to work, before they put on that little bit too short of a skirt. Would you wear that in front of your grandma? Would you serve that for our team, the server that’s going to serve it? Would they serve that to your grandma? If not, you send it back. If you wouldn’t wear that in front of your grandma, send it back. Wear something else. If you wouldn’t say that in front of your grandma, don’t say it. It’s all those don’t say it, don’t wear, don’t do it. Some grandmas are trendy, but for the most part. When that comes up, we’ve got to think of your grandma’s grandma.

We keep it simple. We’re actually a team grandma this year. It will be in the dugout and take care of the guys. How they’re going to respect the grandma. Will the grandma bake them cookies when they go on the road? One big thing is we believe you love your customers more than you love your product. Love your employees and your team more than you love your customers. We spread the love. That’s huge in what we do. I’m going to flip the script and then we’ll finish with some rapid fire. Flip the script. I’ve been grilling you with some questions. I even made you sing. Now you are the host of the show. You can ask me one question.

BDD 175 | Authenticity
Authenticity: Failure is actually a great thing as long as you can take away what you learned from it.


What’s your purpose?

We keep it simple here. The name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. Our mission is fans first, entertain always. In every decision we make, is it fans first? The secret and my people know is that our biggest fans are our own people. They’re the ones that wear the merchandise. They call their parents when something great happens and they are proud of. We put them first over everything else. Our purpose, we want to be the most fans first company in the world. That’s what’s driving us every day. It’s a deep question, your why. I know you’ve read Simon Sinek, we’ve both. It’s deep. I’ve thought about it, we want to make people happy. If people are happy, it’s a better world. That’s why being fans first will deliver that.

Not only the fans but also the players and your employees, making them happy through this platform of baseball, which is such a great all-American sport.

We have to be different. There are hundreds of pizza restaurants. Baseball to many, it’s family. The attendance is down. We make baseball fun. We’re not a baseball company and entertainment company. You’re not a pizza business. How would you identify you guys?

It is our purpose. Our dedicated family provides this community, unforgettable place to connect with your family and friends. They have fun and they feel at home. There’s nothing in there that says anything about pizza. I didn’t even say a restaurant, let alone pizza.

What business are you in? When your people understand that they’re not just serving food, they’re creating happiness and creating a family. It gives them more meaning.

It’s how we’re touching people’s lives and making a positive impact. It is needed at this day and age.

There’s some rapid fire to finish out here, especially leaders who are teaching because you’re doing this Track and Trust leadership. If you want better answers in life, you’ve got to ask better questions. What are some of the best questions you’re asking different leaders?

Some of the best things are what’s inside them. I ask inquisitive questions about why they’re doing what they’re doing. I keep asking why to get to what’s deep inside there that brings excitement. It makes their heart warm and makes them feel they’re in the flow. I want to understand that. When I help them, I could help that core human part of the person.

That’s what I call service. You’re in the service business. What’s the best service you’ve received or something that either your group has done that stands out as an unbelievable service experience?

Honestly, I’m grateful for those little things, every day experiences such as the service in a restaurant or our team. I have experience of one of our managers helping a high school student that is not even part of our team but helping do a fundraiser for that child who was sick. It’s not necessarily to me, but it still influences me because it influences our whole company. Even at dinner where the server picked up my girlfriend’s coat. My girlfriend didn’t notice it, picked it up, put it behind her and didn’t say anything. Picked it up off the floor and walked away. He didn’t ask for any credit. He didn’t ask for any acknowledgment. He just did the right thing and kept going. I love that stuff.

It’s the simple stuff that goes a long way. In our Fans First playbook, we have all the stories that build who we are. We kept them. We have videos on them. We interview our people because the stories build the culture. I’m always intrigued by service stories. What’s the most important tool you have in your business toolbox?

[bctt tweet=”Be of service first. If you can create value for other people, the value will come back to you in some way.” username=””]

The Miick Safe Space communication tool.

What’s that?

The Miick Safe Space communication tool from my consultant, Rudy Miick, we have eight elements. How we communicate, intentional communication that we create. We make eye statements, we track data, be aware of meaning-making, speak my truth, my experience. We also name the moose in the room. We also pay attention to our seven, our words, our 45%, our body language and our 48%, our tone of voice because the 45% and 48% of the 100% is the tone of voice and body language. We also have an intention and impact match. Those are the eight elements of the Safe Space communication that we teach in orientation. We are teaching our team how to create a safe space environment through that communication tool.

If you want to create a better experience, create a better culture, a leader has to be getting better every single day. You, your consultant, your groups you’re working with, you’re constantly learning and getting better. It’s not talked about much. You have to be evolving out much. It sounds like you’re doing that every single day.

It’s important. You notice this intuitively, but I have found that the ceiling of the organization is dependent on the ceiling of the individual leader who’s at the top of the business. If I’m not growing, learning and expanding my knowledge and experience as best I can, my company is going to have a ceiling too. It’s not going to grow, learn and be able to expand. It goes hand-in-hand. It is important.

What’s one thing you’ve done to stand out in business and life?

It’s to see how I can be of service first. If I can create value for other people, the value will come back to me in some way. Let me see how I can create value first.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I would say something similar to that. I did have a teacher who focuses on creating value in people’s lives first. Rudy Miick had a lot of good teachings for me.

How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as the person who had a good heart, good intentions and did the best he could every day.

It’s interesting how you said it’s not important. Legacy doesn’t necessarily matter. Legacy or impact, that’s different for leaders.

BDD 175 | Authenticity
Authenticity: The ceiling of the organization is dependent on the ceiling of the individual leader who’s at the top of the business.


They don’t have to remember Nick Sarillo. I want to make an impact, have them remember the people I’ve worked with and what kind of people they are now in their lives because of the work we did together.

From the first time I read your book, reached out, you’ve made a huge impact on me. A Slice of the Pie, the book and the Track and Trust leadership. Even on your website you’ve got the values, everything you’re doing. You’re making an impact well beyond your area in Chicago, all over the country and world. I certainly appreciate you being on the show, talking some wisdom and learning. How else can people connect with you or learn more?

Thank you very much. You’re an inspiration as well. You are one of the ones that helped me push to go beyond doing the work within my restaurants, also doing this work for other companies which have turned into the Trust and Track Institute. That’s a way somebody can reach me. My Twitter is @NickSarillo. They could also go to the and reach me or through Nick’s Pizza & Pub website as well. Either way, those are all simple.

We have a practitioner here who is making great things happen. Nick, thank you for being on the show.

Thank you and thanks for reading my book and making a difference yourself. I appreciate it.

I appreciate it. It’s good stuff. I know we got into some crazy things but thank you.

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About Nick Sarillo

BDD 175 | AuthenticityNick Sarillo is a leading expert in leadership, organizational culture, employee engagement, and executive development. ​​He serves as a mentor and coach to entrepreneur’s, CEO’s, and leaders from technology startups to the health and fitness, retail and manufacturing industries.

He is the CEO of one of the top ten busiest independent pizza companies in per-store sales in the U.S. In an industry in which the average annual turnover rate is more than 150 percent, Nick’s Pizza & Pub boasts less than a 25 percent employee turnover rate.

Nick is both relatable and a great story-teller. He openly shares his successes as well as mistakes from more than 25 years of entrepreneurship. Your audience will relate to his authentic answers of how to deal with their day-to-day business challenges, and they’ll leave inspired and equipped with tools they can implement in their own companies and jobs immediately.