John Schnatter, founder, president and CEO of Papa John’s International, kicked off the Business Summit on Monday with the story of how a young man with a business degree from Ball State went from selling pizzas out of the back of his father’s bankrupt bar to leading the world’s third largest pizza company operating 750 international restaurants in 32 countries. Schnatter described the framework he used in 1984 to build the company into what it is today. That framework, Schnatter explained, is built on a product of passion and core principles which he learned from his personal beliefs and business needs. Still, he said, companies must be willing to adapt and create a unique identity for themselves.
Schnatter also devoted a significant portion of his speech to his concerns about the business climate in the United States. Schnatter feels the U.S. is losing its competitive edge in the international marketplace due to excessive government regulation and the devaluing of the U.S. dollar due to big government spending.
“The United States of America was founded on a certain framework,” explained Schnatter. “I’m concerned that the framework is in jeopardy. The most foreign country in which we compete is the United States.”
In the end, Schnatter told the business executives he still loves making pizzas and pointed out he had spent the morning prior to his speech in the kitchen laboratory trying new recipes. He said that the key ingredient in creating a successful global brand is being prepared for challenges.
“Success is nothing but failure with the dirt knocked off of it,” he said.
He also said that the consistency of a company’s brand is crucial, and that it should never be diluted.
“You can always tell the power of a brand by how easily recognized its founder is,” says Schnatter after telling a story about being greeted by grateful customers in the streets of Peru.
By that standard, Papa John himself helped create a place in the global market for both pizza and his company and emphasized that his international brand is healthy and poised for growth.