How Nick’s Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

There's a misconception that purpose is only for big companies. Nick's Pizza & Pub is among the busiest independent pizza company in the US. But that's not what impressed me. It's the fact that a thousand dollar tips has shown up four different times!

The owner Nick Sarillo said this in one of his TEDx talks:

What's the amazing stuff that goes on inside those big companies like Google? We can have a world-class culture in small business too! We can either let culture just happen, which happens mostly. Or we can be explicit and create the culture we want to be a part of. That's what I decided to do. So my approach to doing this is: the first step in building trust at work is starting with purpose.

Small businesses and small teams too can harness purpose.

How Nick's Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

When Nick wanted to to grow his company, he turned to cultivating a culture around purpose. Before his team could proceed, they needed to discover their purpose first.

In his book, Nick explains their discovery process. They organized an off-site 2-day retreat gathering select team members to put the company's purpose in writing. Here's Nick's initial thoughts about the retreat:

The idea seemed strange, even a little frightening: two long days of sitting in a circle and talking honestly about our business, even the bad stuff. There would be flip charts, creative projects with Play-Doh and markers, meditations, and, of course, that all-too-scary things: emotions.

Selecting the purpose discovery team

The team included servers, bartenders, cooks, busboys, two people from every work group, a newbie, a veteran, as well as the entire management team.

Questions to ask

At the retreat the team explored these questions:

  • What are we doing right?
  • What value are we adding?
  • What are the contributions we make to our customers?
  • What is the need we fill in the community?
  • What part of work makes us feel good?
  • What are we individually most passionate about?
  • How do we define ourselves?

Process and tools

Day 1: Use flip boards to brainstorm ideas including:

  • list of words describing what the company means to the team
  • phrases describing positive elements of the company

Day 2: Turning all the ideas into a purpose statement over several hours

  • start with a series of paragraphs
  • summarize into one-page document
  • edit down to a single sentence in the present tense

Purpose discovery is a life- and business- altering experience

Nick's Pizza & Pub is one of my favorite case studies. I hope it inspires you to do a purpose discovery session with your team. Because as Nick puts it, it's a life- and business- altering experience.