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.

RIMOWA's Mission

From the overview of RIMOWA in their job description:

Welcome to RIMOWA, the first German Maison of the LVMH Group. We are a global lifestyle brand with a mission to create the essential tools for a lifetime of travel. For more than 120 years, we've dedicated ourselves to develop unique products where function coexists with luxury, heritage with innovation, and craftsmanship with design.

At RIMOWA we believe that great ambitions demand resilient companions. It's why our tools are created with longevity in mind. Because the most meaningful journeys last more than a trip, they last a lifetime.

What The Container Store Stands For

This week we’re taking a look at a unique retail company where organization is at the heart of its organization.

Founded in 1978 The Container Store is an American retail company based in Texas that provides storage and organization products. It is listed as one of the Firms of Endearment, companies that outperform the S&P 500 companies by 14 times through a relentless focus on a higher purpose.

What The Container Store Stands For

To help our customers accomplish projects, maximize their space, and make the most of their home.

To be a beloved brand and the first choice for customized organization solutions and services.

Foundation Principles

  1. 1 Great Person = 3 Good People
  2. Communication IS Leadership
  3. Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.
  4. The Best Selection, Service & Price.
  5. Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. You need to train before it happens.
  6. Man in the Desert Selling
  7. Air of Excitement!


According to the letter from the current CEO, Melissa Reiff, she explains they have four pillars - their strongest differentiators - that support their vision and purpose. Here they are:

Pillar #1: To Own Custom Closets - We are working to improve the customer experience, with enhanced in-store and online merchandising, digital tool improvements, and product innovation.

Pillar #2: Deliver on “Accomplishing Projects” across all customer touchpoints.

For our existing customers and new customers, we are updating our marketing efforts to better communicate our brand purpose of Accomplishing Projects and Maximizing Space. We are updating our visual merchandising to make it easier and clearer to our customers exactly how to accomplish their projects.

Pillar #3: Leverage digital and data insights to enable omni-channel growth.

We are developing digital content and tools to support our brand position online and in-store, driving more traffic to our website, and optimizing for conversion.

Pillar #4: To close the gap on value for the money.

We carry an unparalleled assortment of high-quality products and solutions with competitive pricing. We are working on our price and value perception gap with new pricing, signage, promotion and offer strategies.

Further Reading

Start with Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitlism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives, a book by their former CEO, to learn more about their values-based approach to business management.

Also do check out Conscious Capitalism, which The Container Store is a strong advocate of. In fact, former CEO of The Container Store was a college roommate of one of the authors of Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey, who also happens to be Whole Foods Market’s founder.

You can also find an interview over at Inc. with the former CEO about how they grew and benefits of conscious capitalism. For fun, you can also take a look his colorful workspace.

The purposeful ads of Super Bowl
In case you missed it, here are some of the purposeful ads aired at Super Bowl this year.

How Ford rediscovered its purpose

In 2008 three American companies were fighting for their lives.

Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, the Big Three of the automotive industry in US, were running out of cash. To bail them out of the crisis, the government offered them a huge loan. While GM and Chrysler took the offer, Ford declined and bounced back into profitability pulling off a great comeback. This all happened under the leadership of Alan Mulally, a former Boeing executive who stepped in as CEO.

The key to the successful turnaround
Mulally believed “the key to Ford’s future was a return to the principles that had made it so successful in the early days, when Henry Ford was still sitting in the chair he now occupied.”

He dug through Ford’s archives “like a miner convinced that gold was close at hand.” And one day he found an old newspaper ad from 1925.

The ad featured a painting illustrating the original vision of Henry Ford. In the painting, you see a family with their Model T on a hill, and from the hill you could see roads running across the countryside with all kinds of cars on it. Below the painting was the headline — Opening the Highways to All Mankind. Anchored at the bottom was a statement of what Ford stood for.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at the ad here for yourself.

Lastly, I’d like to share a snippet about purpose from the ad:

An organization, to render any service so widely useful, must be large in scope as well as great in purpose. To conquer the high cost of motoring and to stabilize the factors of production — this is a great purpose.

The language may feel a bit old, but the spirit is still relevant. This document would serve as a polestar to guide Ford’s transformation; it would also be a touchstone to fall back on in times of doubt.

What can we learn from Ford about discovering purpose
Ford’s case study highlights that purpose is vital to success. To discover this purpose, look to the past and revisit your heritage. You’ll likely find important links to (re)connect you to purpose.

Books about Purpose in Business

Books about Purpose-driven Companies

What KonMari Stands For

Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo has been listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2015. At the core of her tidying method and philosophy is the idea of sparking joy, an expression you might have come across over the past few years. After her Japanese bestseller book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been translated in various languages, she had opportunities to go abroad and see houses and families around the world.

According to this Japanese interview , it is during this time that her desire to contribute to the world through tidying up grew stronger, which she captures in the purposeful expression of Organizing the World. She elaborates her purpose below.


Our goal is to help more people tidy their spaces by choosing joy, and we are committed to developing the simplest and most effective tools to help you get there.

Bringing the mission to life
To bring the mission to life, her company does three main things.

  1. Her books
  2. Her own line of products such as these storage boxes (current sold out)
  3. Seminars including ones that trains and certifies KonMari Consultants

She also has a Netflix show released in last month, which has made some noise in social media. Here’s an interview from LA Times where you can learn more about the show as well as her origins.

On a related note
This method-centered business model method brings to mind David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) company. His company has a David Allen Academy which certifies coaches and trainers on his time management method. This model is fascinating as the methodology is given away; you can learn the essentials from the Internet or buy the book, which doesn’t break the bank. The secret ingredient of the business, however, is sustained by a network/platform/community built around this method.

Speaking of sparking joy and decluttering, I think we’re seeing a movement towards this on the digital sides of things as well. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work’s, upcoming book Digital Minimalism is about this.

Purpose Link of the Week
10 Steps to Creating Core Values That Your Company Lives By A blog post from the folks at Delivering Happiness about how to create core values with a simple and clear roadmap infographic.

MUTEKI Brands - Lessons From In-N-Out Burgers, Trader Joe's And Ikea On How We Can Make Our Own Brands More Invincible.

This post is the introduction of a new business book I’m working on. Enjoy.

We occasionally discover great and inspiring brands, but every once in a while, we come across a very special kind of brand.

Where other brands scramble to adapt to the latest trends and adopt the latest technologies and tactics, these brands grow and innovate on their own terms. While others respond to pressures of competition and the rapid change in the environment, these companies stick to the basics and focus on what they do best. These are the companies that stay calm and carry on no matter how strong the winds are and how bad the weather is.

These brands are anchored. They are confident. Why? Because their customers are like diehard fans of sport teams; they exhibit extreme loyalty to these brands. These brands captivate their hearts and fully earn their trust. Their customers are not just customers, they are their tribe.

I'm sure you've encountered a few brands like this. Here's three I've discovered.

Consider the California burger chain that only added two additional items (lemonade and hot cocoa) to their already simple menu of less than 10 items in the last 20 years. Yet, this mini chain is considered a must-go place when visiting California by many and its drive-thru always has a line of cars whether it’s twelve in the afternoon or twelve in the midnight.

Or take the US supermarket where Canadians will drive across the country border to purchase items from the store. While other supermarkets provide value by curating various brands of products, surprisingly, this supermarket’s offering is 90% private label.

Lastly consider the furniture franchise where people line up when a new store opens. (This was way before Apple Store lines were a thing.) The conventional rule is to give products friendly names, but for this furniture franchise, their product names are so difficult to pronounce that they got made fun of in a hit super hero movie.)

These companies defy conventional thinking. It’s as if the rules of the playground don’t apply to them. They are the tortoises of the Aesop fable we all know; they win the race by being slow and steady. They win by moving forward at their own pace and terms toward the finish line.

I call these companies MUTEKI brands.

MUTEKI means “invincible” in Japanese. It is a Japanese word made up of two characters: “no” and “enemy,” literally meaning having no one that can rival you.

What makes MUTEKI brands different? What sets them apart? What is their secret? That is what I attempt to answer in this book.

Here’s what you’ll learn

In this book, we will explore three MUTEKI brands: the California hamburger chain In-N-Out Burgers, the US super market chain Trader Joe’s, and the Swedish furniture franchise IKEA. Through detailed case studies, you will gain insights on how you can make your own brand more invincible.

You will discover:

  • how these companies cultivate their culture

  • what makes their culture unique

  • their business model and strategy

  • their key success factors

  • takeaways and best practices for building invincible brands

These brands have inspired me and delighted me, and I can’t be more excited to share with you what’s going behind the scenes that makes them MUTEKI.

Thank you for reading. I'll share more contents as I finish them here.

If you’d like to gets updates on my progress with this book, you can subscribe to my Built On Purpose Newsletter, which introduces you to a purpose-driven company every other week.

What Weight Watchers stand for and how they connect purpose to strategy

The 55-year-old company Weight Watchers (a company that offers a diet program to members in over 30 different countries)recently went through a rebranding transformation to reposition themselves in the wellness domain with help from SYPartners.

Similar to how IBM rebranded themselves from International Business Machines into their famous initials, Weight Watchers changed their name to WW. During this process, they also re-articulated their purpose.

What WW stands for

We inspire health habits for real life.
For people, families, communities, the world—for everyone.

To create a world where wellness is accessible to all, not just the few.

Here’s an article on Fortune with an interview from WW’s CEO talking about their brand purpose and the importance of purpose.

You can also find their purpose film on their about page. And if you like to learn a bit more about their CEO and the transformation, here’s an insightful read about Weight Watchers over at New York Times.

I also encourage you to check out their Impact Manifesto, which not only explains their purpose, 3-year goals, and key strategic elements to realize them, but also a purpose filter (a tool for employees to make purpose-driven decisions).

Finding Purpose and Putting it in Action

As I mentioned above, WW worked with SYPartners for the transformation. SYPartners is known for their purpose-centered approach in helping organizations change.

Although I haven’t found any details on how SYPartners helped WW rediscover their purpose, SYPartners chairman and founder Keith Yamashita wrote a short essay titled Finding Your Purpose and Living It in the book, Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact . Though it’s from four years ago the contents are still relevant as ever. The essay covers what purpose is, how to find it and put it in to action. (If you have an Amazon Unlimited account, you can access it for free.)

[eBook] How purpose really affects companies

My friend Mike Freedman and his team in South Africa has been helping organizations with purpose for 20 years. They’ve recently came out with a beautiful report about results from a research they did with their clients. It’s filled with insight and you can find the report at this link directly for free without any sign ups or registration.

Here’s what Mike found out:

While there are some challenges, notably making purpose meaningful to all levels of an organisation, the results are pleasingly positive. The spur to innovation is particularly heartening.