Lessons in Leadership: Chris Ilitch

Recently I had the opportunity to see Chris Ilitch speak about the Little Caesars culture and success. He is the son of the founder, Mike Ilitch. Some basics on this organization is that it is a privately held $4.2B company that derives income from 11 different organizations that includes pro sports (Tigers and Red Wings), pizza (Little Caesars), food distribution, entertainment, and gambling.

Here are the key values/beliefs that he titled – Secrets to the Sauce.

  1. Think Big / Set Goals
  2. Creativity and Innovation (remember Pizza Pizza? They started that craze)
  3. Courage and Risk Taking
  4. Perseverance and Commitment (“Not all risks pay off. Mistakes will happen.”)
  5. Humility and Character (“Don’t get to high. Don’t get to low.” “If you do something good people will find out about it.”
  6. People and Giving Back

Every speaker leaves you with something.  For me, the thing I took away was how long it took to build this organization and how diverse it has become.  The first store opened in 1961, the 100th in 1988, and the 2000th in 1989.  Overnight success?  Hardly.  Now their businesses go way beyond pizza, and yet what has not changed is a commitment to a struggling city (Detroit) and a state where it all started.  Chris ended the presentation with that reminder that their key has been to define what is important to them(this list) and then stick with it.

No family or business is perfect, and I am sure the Ilitchs are no different.  It is a great story and Chris Illitch does a great job telling it.