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Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson

11 Facts About Domino's Pizza Founder Tom Monaghan (in 30 Minutes or Less)

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Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson

Domino's Pizza was founded by brothers Tom and Jim Monaghan in 1960. At the time, it wasn't called Domino's (it was an established restaurant called DomiNick's), and the brothers faced plenty of challenges getting their new business off the ground. Today, Domino's Pizza is the #2 pizza chain, second only to Pizza Hut.

In 1986, Tom Monaghan wrote an autobiography entitled Pizza Tiger, detailing how he went from one store to thousands of franchise stores. Some of the revelations in the book are a little surprising. Here we go!

1. His Brother Sold His 50% Share in Domino's for a Used 1959 VW Beetle

About eight months after taking over an ailing pizza restaurant, Jim Monaghan wanted out. He owned 50% of the business (which today rakes in over $10 billion annually), and cashed out by taking the beat-up '59 Volkswagen Beetle the brothers had bought as a delivery car.

2. He Threatened Pizza Thieves With a Meat Tenderizer and Fisticuffs

Throughout the book, Monaghan recounts stories of violence related to pizza. It seems like he had a bit of a temper. This passage, from page 97 of the paperback edition, gives you an idea (emphasis added):

I didn't take abuse from anyone. If someone refused to pay a driver for an order, I didn't call the police. I just went and demanded the money. Usually, the culprits were a bunch of college guys who'd decided to have a party at my expense, and I didn't hesitate to swing a punch to persuade them to pay up. From time to time, we'd have a rash of pizza thefts from parked vehicles while drivers were busy with customers. I'd hide in the back of the car the next time it went to that neighborhood and wait for them to try it again. I'd carry a meat-tenderizing mallet or a pop bottle as a persuader, and that approach always solved the problem.

Directly after the quote above, Monaghan describes how he beat up an employee whom he had just fired. Fortunately, the charges were dropped.

3. He Met His Future Wife on His First Pizza Delivery

Fourteen months after getting into the pizza business, Monaghan made his first delivery from a new store he'd set up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The order was to a dormitory at Central Michigan University. When Monaghan arrived, the woman working at the reception desk, Margie, caught his eye. Monaghan wrote (page 11):

After our second date, I gave Margie a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine's Day. It was a big hit with her friends in the dorm. On our third date, I looked into those big blue eyes and realized I was in love.

They were married the following year, and Margie Monaghan worked with Domino's for decades.

4. He Was Swindled...Repeatedly

Throughout the early days of Monaghan's business dealings, he was taken in by a series of business partners who effectively stole his money. The most notable was a would-be oil tycoon, who convinced Monaghan to give him his entire savings (several thousand dollars) to drill an oil well...and then disappeared. What's more, Monaghan built up those savings in the Marines, which he says he was duped into joining. He thought he was joining the Army, and only found out it was the Marines after taking aptitude tests. Oops.

5. He's Obsessed With Frank Lloyd Wright

Throughout his book, Monaghan discusses his lifelong interest (I say obsession) with the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For instance, on page 7 he casually drops FLW's name in this odd paragraph:

...I see no contradiction between, on the one hand, sitting down at home to a simple meal that my wife spoons out of the pots it was cooked in and, on the other, insisting that meals in the executive dining room at Domino's headquarters be of five-star quality, impeccably served, with white linen tablecloths, fine china designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, silverware, and crystal glasses.

He wrote extensively about his desire to build a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed tower as the centerpiece of a new headquarters for Domino's Pizza. On the grounds, he wrote that his collection of classic cars would be on display, along with peacocks, pygmy goats, Shire horses, miniature horses, Chianina cattle, and a museum of steam-powered farm equipment. Unfortunately, the tower was never built, though Monaghan got much of the rest done (and check out that Duesenberg!).

6. He Grew Up in a Roman Catholic Orphanage, and Founded a Roman Catholic University

Truly a self-made man, Monaghan and his brother Jim ended up in a Roman Catholic orphanage shortly after their father died and their mother couldn't handle raising the kids alone. It was a formative experience, and Monaghan is a devout Catholic to this day.

Monaghan founded Ave Maria University in 1998, located in Michigan. In 2007, he moved the university to southwest Florida, at an extremely inconvenient time for the real estate market (translation: it was costly). He also planned a community surrounding the Roman Catholic university that would be free of pre-marital sex, contraceptives, and pornography. Critics have suggested that this approach to town life violates Consitutional rights, but Monaghan told Bloomberg News: “There’s so much you can do at a university that can change the whole world. ... I didn’t want a diploma factory, I wanted a saint factory."

Monaghan and wis wife Margie met Pope John Paul II in 1987. Judging from the photo, it was awesome.

7. How He Invented the 30-Minutes-Or-Less Promise

Initially, Domino's did not offer its famous promise to deliver your pizza within 30 minutes of ordering, or it was free. This idea only came about after years of Monaghan tweaking his business practices—shaving seconds off of the time needed to make each pizza, streamlining the product line (to reduce the number of ingredients and variables), designing a new corrugated pizza box to keep the pizzas hot and protected during delivery, and all sorts of other crucial innovations.

The biggest innovation that enabled the 30-minute promise was territory. Monaghan bought up pizza joints whenever he could, slowly creating a network that meant there would be a store nearby any customer who might call. After franchising the business, the network effect continued to work, as thousands of franchisees clustered in regions in order to get pizzas to customers' doors on time. Sadly for those of us in the US, the 30-minute promise was discontinued in 1993, though it's still in effect in many international stores.

8. His Best Employees are Known as Dominoids

Monaghan presaged The Noid in his 1986 book when he wrote (emphasis added):

People respond to that [pizza-making] challenge. It's a game, and the ones who have a knack for it can go a long way in Domino's. They're the ones we call Dominoids, and we say that have pizza sauce in their veins.

This was published in 1986, the same year the "The Noid" became the official Domino's mascot. Coincidence? I think not.

9. He Maintains a Serious Diet, and Badgers Others to Lose Weight

Monaghan detailed his personal diet regimen on page 15 of Pizza Tiger:

Every Friday or Monday, or on any day that my weight has moved up over 163 pounds when I get on the scale in the morning, I limit myself to 500 calories. I eat dessert only eleven times a year: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, just before Lent, St. Patrick's Day, and six family birthdays. I call these my "pig-out" days.

He then proceeded to explain that "...over the years I've harassed some of my employees and franchisees to lose weight," and then explained how he convinced franchisee Dick Mueller to lose 100 pounds in exchange for a $50,000 bonus. (After an initial diet failure, it finally happened when Monaghan challenged Mueller to run a marathon. Monaghan presented a giant novelty check at the finish line, garnering some good PR.)

10. He Bought the Detroit Tigers at Just the Right Time

In 1983, Monaghan bought the Detroit Tigers. The next year, they won the World Series (!). Monaghan sold the Tigers in 1992 to Mike Ilitch, cofounder of Little Caesars. It's good to keep the team in the pizza family!

11. He's a Doctor of Pizzerology

In 1973, Monaghan pushed for a thorough corporate training program that would enable Domino's managers to learn the business at a deep level. Calling the program "Domino's College of Pizzerology," as of 1986 only Monaghan, the aforementioned Dick Mueller, and Jim Tilly held the "Doctor of Pizzerology" degree, though Monaghan writes that "about 20 individuals in the company hold a master's degree from the college."

More on Monaghan & Domino's

There's a ton more to the Domino's story in Pizza Tiger. It's out of print, but the book is very cheap on the used market. The copy I picked up happens to be autographed!

All images from "Pizza Tiger," 1986 paperback edition.

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Here’s Why Bells Are Always Ringing in Trader Joe’s
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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Trader Joe’s has attracted a devoted fan-base by doing things a little differently than your typical grocery store chain. But shoppers may not even realize that the company has done away with this ubiquitous supermarket feature.

As Business Insider recently noted, Trader Joe’s doesn’t use an intercom system. So instead of hearing “clean up in aisle 4” blaring overhead, customers shop to a soundtrack of ringing bells.

The nautical bells, which are situated at each register, are used by employees to communicate with one another. According to the company’s website, “blustery PA systems” didn’t fit the brand, so it borrowed inspiration from the maritime traders of a bygone era and developed its own Morse-like code.

If you hear one ring, that means an additional register needs to be opened. Two rings means that either a cashier or a customer has a question at checkout, and three signals a manager. The code isn’t exactly a secret as it’s available for anyone to find online, but memorizing it will definitely give you bit of intel most patrons don’t have. It can also be used to plan your shopping strategy. If you hear four bells, for instance, that means the store is getting crowded, so you should forget about grabbing that second bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and hustle to the checkout line.

[h/t Business Insider]

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13 Secrets of Professional Naming Consultants
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When it comes to companies and products, names matter. A slick name makes a company sound trendy and cool, while a terrible name can have customers running into the arms of the competition. Unsurprisingly, many companies take the process very seriously, hiring outside naming consultants who either work within creative agencies or at agencies devoted entirely to naming. We got a few to give us the scoop on how their job really works.

1. IT’S NOT JUST A CREATIVE TASK.

“The notion that namers are hippies and poets jotting down names on cocktail napkins couldn’t be farther from the truth,” says Mark Skoultchi, a partner at Catchword, the agency that named the Fitbit Flex and Force and Starbucks’s Refreshers line.

The stakes are just too high for naming to be a purely creative project, because a bad name can break a product. Consider, for example, the major slump in sales ISIS chocolates experienced in 2014 when people began to associate their name with the Islamic State. (The company rebranded itself to Libeert.) And when the AIDS crisis hit in the 1980s, the diet candy company Ayds chose not to change its name, eventually suffering the consequences. (When asked about it, an official from its parent company, Jeffrey Martin, famously snapped, “Let the disease change its name.”) By 1988, the company conceded that the name was hurting sales, and changed it to Diet Ayds. But the product was soon pulled from shelves altogether.

“When you’re naming your kid or nicknaming your car it’s more creative. There aren’t as many consequences,” says Nina Beckhardt, founder and CEO of the Naming Group, a consultancy that works with Chevrolet, Kohler, and Capital One. “But when you’re brand naming, the name you select has to be strategically impeccable. It has to make sense and at least not offend millions of people around the globe.”

2. NAMES CAN’T JUST SOUND GOOD.

Naming isn’t just a subjective choice—really liking a name doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for your company. “People want to get more subjective with it,” Beckhardt says. “They’ll say that name reminds me of my cat or rhymes with such and such. That observation is so enormously unimportant compared with the fact that the name successfully checks all the boxes we created at the beginning.” The point is to find a name that gets across what the company wants to convey, rather than one that every person involved in the naming process loves.

For example, when The Naming Group was working with Capital One to develop their first brand-name rewards credit card, the company had to consider who they were trying to target—travelers. The result was the Venture card, a name with a connotation of adventure and exploration that’s “not right on the nose.”

3. IT HELPS TO HAVE A BACKGROUND IN LINGUISTICS—OR TRADEMARK LAW.

Though naming is essentially an exercise in corporate strategy, naming agencies don’t just employ people with backgrounds in branding and marketing. They also need linguistics experts to help generate names that make sense, have positive connotations in modern usage (i.e. nothing that might have a negative slang meaning), and inspire the associations the company wants to elicit.

Coming up with a name also involves some legal legwork. You can’t name your company or product after something that’s already trademarked. And if you want to expand internationally, the name needs to be available to trademark in other countries as well. That means naming agencies are often looking for people with a background in trademark law.

4. YOU HAVE TO COME UP WITH HUNDREDS OF NAMES, IF NOT THOUSANDS.

“Naming is a game of numbers,” Beckhardt says. “You have to have a lot of options.” Even if the potential names sound great, many are bound to run into trademark conflicts or not work in another language.

So before namers get together to present feasible ideas to the clients they’re working with, they come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential options. “At Catchword, 200 names is scratching the surface,” Skoultchi says.

5. BUT THE CLIENT WON’T SEE THEM ALL.

When faced with too many options to choose from, people tend to freeze up in what psychologists call “choice overload” [PDF]. Whether you’re talking about choosing between similar items at the grocery store or an endless array of potential product names, it’s overwhelming to consider all the possibilities. Namers take their initial 200 or 1000 ideas and whittle them down to present only the best (and most feasible) options. At Catchword, that means about 50 names.

But namers can also face the opposite challenge. If a client gets too set on a single idea, it blinds them to what might be better options still out there. “For each project I will get and try to get the client attached to a number of different names,” Beckhardt says, rather than looking for “the prince charming” of names.

6. A NAME CAN BE TOO ORIGINAL

The amount of meaning a name communicates lies along a continuum. On the one end, there’s an overly descriptive name. On the other end, there’s so-called “empty vessel” names, which are so far removed from actual words that they come off as meaningless. The ideal name falls somewhere in the middle, but if you end up too far toward the “empty vessel” side, your name will be a target for mockery.

Consider Tribune Publishing, the media company that owns the Chicago Tribune. In 2016, it rebranded as “tronc,” a name derived from the phrase “Tribune online content.” The move was widely mocked, for good reason. In The New York Times, a branding expert said the name “creates an ugliness.” The new name became a black eye for the company rather than a sign of its forward-thinking vision.

Empty vessel names are particularly common in the tech world, but played right, it can work. Google could be considered an empty vessel name, but it does have an origin, albeit one that most people aren’t familiar with. A googol is a huge number—10100—which makes sense within the context of the search engine’s ability to aggregate results from a near-infinite number of sources online.

7. A NAME CAN’T JUST SOUND GOOD IN ENGLISH.

One reason naming agencies need linguists is that unless a company is only marketing its products domestically, the name needs to work in multiple languages. If your product sounds slick in English but means something dirty in Norwegian, you’ve got a problem.

Plenty of companies have found this out the hard way. The Honda Fit was almost the Honda Fitta, but the company changed the name when it realized that “fitta” was slang for female genitalia in Swedish. The company later started calling it the Honda Jazz outside of North America.

Different languages also pronounce certain letters differently, which gets awkward if you’re not careful. “When we’re developing names we have to prepare for those mispronunciations to make sure that isn’t going to affect how people understand the product,” Beckhardt says. In Germany, Vicks sells its products under the name Wick, because the German pronunciation of the original brand name (in which a “v” is pronounced like an “f”) sounds like a slang word for sex.

Even if the name isn’t vulgar, it might have connotations in another language that you don’t want people associating with your product. In Mandarin, Microsoft’s Bing has to go by a different name, because “bing” means disease. Part of the naming process, according to Beckhardt, is “making sure that if we’re naming a skin care product, it doesn’t mean acne in Japanese.” She adds that at one point, while working on a rebranding project, The Naming Group came up with a name that ended up meaning “pubic hair” in another language.

8. IF YOU DON’T COME UP WITH A FOREIGN NAME, CUSTOMERS MIGHT DO IT FOR YOU.

Famously, when Coca-Cola first started selling its products in China in 1927, it didn’t immediately come up with a new name that made sense in Chinese characters. Instead, shopkeepers transliterated the name Coca-Cola phonetically on their signage, leading to odd meanings like “bite the wax tadpole.” In 1928, Coke registered a Chinese trademark for the Mandarin 可口可乐 (K'o K'ou K'o Lê), which the company translates as “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice.”

9. COMING UP WITH A CHINESE NAME IS ESPECIALLY COMPLICATED.

Foreign companies are eager to expand into China’s growing market, but it’s not as easy as transliterating an American name, like LinkedIn, to Chinese characters. In some cases, companies use Chinese names that sound somewhat like their English equivalent, but in others, they go by names that don’t sound similar at all. “It’s this crazy art form of balancing phonic similarity and actual meaning,” Beckhardt says.

Labbrand, a consultancy founded in Shanghai, helps American companies come up with names that work for Chinese markets. For LinkedIn’s Chinese name, Labbrand was able to come up with a name that both sounded a bit like the original and still had a meaning in line with the company’s purpose. 领英 (lǐng yīng) means “leading elite.” For other companies, though, it makes more sense to come up with a name that sounds nothing like the American brand, yet has a strategic meaning. For Trip Advisor, Labbrand came up with “猫途鹰 (māo tú yīng)," a combination of the characters for "owl" and "journey"—a reference to the company’s owl logo and its role as a travel site.

Some names, however, are just straight translations. Microsoft is 微软 (weiruan), two characters that literally mean “micro” and “soft.”

10. THERE ISN'T USUALLY AN ‘A-HA’ MOMENT.

“Oftentimes, clients are expecting epiphany, to have an ‘a-ha!’ moment, but those moments are more rare than you think,” Skoultchi says. “It’s not because the name ideas aren't great, it’s because most people have trouble imagining” what the names will sound like in the real world. “Context, visual identity, taglines, copy, and other factors influence our perception of a name and how appealing it is. Imagine just about any modern blockbuster brand, and now imagine it’s just a word on a page, in Helvetica, with little to no marketing support.”

To help customers understand how a name might look in real-world settings, Catchword gives it a slightly jazzier graphic design that’s more representative of what it would look like in the market, adding in potential taglines and ad copy to make it look more realistic.

11. YOU’RE NOT JUST NAMING ONE THING.

The Naming Group, for example, has worked with Capital One, Kohler, and Reebok to come up with names for multiple products, and they've also worked to establish perimeters for future names. That's because what you call one product could have implications for your future products—and ideally, the names of different products across a company should work together.

Take the example of Fitbit. The company has a naming style that involves single-syllable, simple English words that are designed to convey something unique about the product. They also had to fit the tiny devices themselves, so length mattered. The name “Flex” went to the first wristband tracker, and the most advanced tracker became “Force.” Later, the first tracker that measured heart rate would become "Charge," and the one designed for high-intensity athletes, "Blaze." All the names have a similar vibe while managing to convey something about the specific device.

As a cautionary tale, imagine a world in which Steve Jobs was allowed to use his preferred name for the iMac, “MacMan.” (Luckily, an ad agency creative director talked him out of it.) Given how the “i” in iMac influenced Apple’s future naming conventions, would there later have been a PodMan and PhoneMan? Choosing the iMac led to a larger branding scheme—the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad—that's instantly recognizable. “The PhoneMan” just wouldn’t have the same ring.

12. COMPANIES OFTEN WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE.

There’s a perception that naming should come from within a company—that if you build a product, you automatically know the best thing to call it. But that’s often not the case. Companies usually don’t employ professional namers on staff and don’t have any set guidelines on how to come up with new names. And it’s often not until the last minute that they realize they need outside help to decide on a great moniker. “It can be so emotional,” Beckhardt explains. “Companies come to you pulling their hair out, [saying] ‘We just can’t decide; we haven’t found it yet.’”

13. IT ONLY TAKES A FEW WEEKS.

Naming something usually doesn’t involve a lightning bolt of inspiration, but neither do companies slave over names for months. According to Beckhardt, the process takes anywhere from four to six weeks, though they can expedite the process if they really need to.

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