Monaghan discusses career challenges leading Domino’s Pizza

Legendary business executive Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, told students he came to campus to learn more about Elon's phenomenal success story. He is building a new university in Florida and spoke at Elon on April 4 in the Koury Business Center. Details...

lecture, titled “Domino’s Pizza: The Story of a True Entrepreneur” was
part of the Legends of Business Series at the Martha and Spencer Love
School of Business. The series brings successful business leaders to
campus to share their experiences with students and the community.

established Domino’s in 1960, while still a student at the University
of Michigan. He and his brother, James, borrowed $900 to buy a small
pizza store called Dominick’s, and Monaghan eventually turned it into
the world’s largest pizza delivery chain. He did so with a
straightforward business formula that included simplifying the menu,
limiting toppings and pizza sizes, and making deliveries in record
time. In 1984, the company was the fastest growing chain in the United
States. When Monaghan sold Domino’s Pizza to Bain Capital Inc. in 1998,
the chain had 6,250 stores.

During his lecture, Monaghan detailed the many highs and lows of his career running Domino’s, including several times when the company was broke and fighting off creditors and lawsuits. He is credited with leading Domino’s dramatic turnaround in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I credit it (the company’s turnaround) to all the mistakes I made and all the hardships I endured over the years,”  Monaghan said.  He said the company’s eventual success was built on an intense focus on an excellent delivery system for pizzas, and a unique franchise system to grow faster than any other restaurant chain in the country.

Monaghan devotes his time to nonprofit endeavors. He is specifically
focused on underwriting Catholic higher education through the Ave Maria
Foundation, which he founded in 1983.

As chairman of the
Foundation’s board, Monaghan has overseen the creation and support of
the Ave Maria Institute (now Ave Maria College) in Michigan and Ave
Maria University in Florida. The Catholic liberal arts institutions
were designed to prepare students for leadership in academics,
professional occupations, and service to the community. Monaghan serves
as chairman of the college’s board of trustees and the university’s

He says Florida is a perfect place to start a new Catholic university, and he hopes to grow the school to an enrollment of 5,500 in 20 years.

In responding to a question, Monaghan, 70, said his goal in life is to “help as many people as possible get to heaven.”

He said the best way he can accomplish that is to invest in Catholic higher education. During his visit to Elon, he met with college administrators to find out more about the university’s commitment to quality.

“I go by results, and what you have here is phenomenal,” he said.

Monaghan’s lecture was attended by an overflow crowd of nearly 300 people. Many students were turned away at the door of the LaRose Digital Theatre because there was no more space in the room.

Interest in the lecture was heightened by a group of students who staged a peaceful protest prior to the event, gathering on Chandler Plaza outside the building. Students questioned Monaghan’s ethics, saying he has a history of supporting political organizations that oppose women’s reproductive rights and denying equal rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

Several students wore “Gay? Fine By Me” shirts to the address, but there were no questions asked about the protest topics during a question and answer session Monaghan held following his prepared remarks.