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The Road to Success


Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, is one of the richest men in the USA.

He is currently devoting his attention full-time to non-profit endeavors. He is founder of the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Spiritus Sanctus sister-run elementary schools, where students attend Holy Mass every day. As chairman of the Ave Maria Foundation, he has been instrumental in launching the Ave Maria Catholic Radio Network and supports organizations defending life from the moment of conception to natural death. In the near future, he plans to open a Catholic university in Naples, Florida. It will be the first new Catholic university founded in the USA in forty years. In April of 2004, Tom Monaghan granted an interview to members of LOA’s editorial staff.

There is nothing wrong with owning great wealth so long as you earn it honestly and put it to good use. I thoroughly enjoy the things money can buy, such as private jets, a helicopter, a yacht, and a big-league baseball team. But to me the real substance of life is the struggle with evil, mastering one’s weaknesses — that is, living life in accordance with the commandments and the moral principles revealed to us by Jesus Christ. In business I have always been determined to win, to outstrip our company’s best performance and beat the competition. But winning in business is nothing unless you do it strictly according to the rules. That idealistic attitude has often struck others as na?ve or vain or foolhardy, especially during periods of crisis in the early years of my company, when the odds against its survival seemed overwhelming. Today I am deeply convinced that it was ideals — right moral conduct and plain hard work — that saved the company. My faith in God kept hope alive. It energized me, enabled me to weather every crisis, and provided the fuel that propelled our corporate growth.

I was twenty-three years old, with no college degree and virtually no business experience, when I opened the restaurant that was the beginning of Domino’s, on December 9, 1960. It was a small, ungarnished pizza shop at the edge of the Eastern Michigan University campus in Ypsilanti. Our sales in that wintry first week were only $99. But when Domino’s celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in December 1985, we had 2,600 stores. We were represented in all fifty states and six foreign countries. A year later we had 3,600 stores and sales of $2 billion. By the year 2000 we were running 7000 stores in 66 countries, employing 120,000 workers, and garnering sales of $3.54 billion.

The management techniques that I applied in building the company were developed mostly by trial and error. But all of them were based on a homemade philosophy I call my five personal priorities. I first came up with this list during a voyage from the Philippines to Japan while I was in the Marine Corps. I had plenty of time aboard that troopship to reflect on my life and goals. I realized that the most important goal in life was to go to heaven and take as many people there with me as possible. Since then I have been guided by these five priorities: spiritual, social, mental, physical, and financial — in that order.

Spiritual values are my first priority in life. Domino’s Pizza is not my greatest success. The only success that can be counted as great is to be saved, to get to heaven, and to this end I devote myself heart and soul. We can never find happiness unless by faith we open ourselves up to the love of God and place implicit trust in Him. That is why people should pray every day. It is through daily, persevering prayer that faith takes root, matures and deepens. By praying sincerely, we receive the greatest spiritual gifts: faith, hope and love. I plan my day in such a way as to have time for praying the four mysteries of the rosary, scripture reading, meditation, and Mass. I receive Holy Communion every day because it is my greatest strength and source of constant joy. I go to confession regularly and have a spiritual director. I cannot understand how some Christians after committing a serious sin do not immediately go to confession. Living in a state of serious sin is a nightmare, a state of spiritual death, slavery, and subjection to the powers of evil. Through the Sacrament of Penance, Jesus frees us from this terrible bondage. He never fails to forgive us, whatever the sin. An honest admission of fault and a desire to make good is all that is needed. Even if we fall seriously every day, we should never give up, but immediately go to confession and receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Only then can Jesus begin to heal us and, despite our failures, lead us down the road of the greatest success — toward heaven.

Faith is my greatest asset. Jesus Christ is my one Lord and Savior, true God and true man, who suffered, died, and rose from the dead in order to pave our way to heaven. My faith is constantly growing and maturing. When I was four years old, my father died. My younger brother and I were placed in a Catholic orphanage, where a Polish-American nun, Sister Berarda, had a decisive influence on my early spiritual development. She was a gentle, loving teacher, and I flourished under her care.

Years later, for a short time I attended a seminary, with every intention of becoming a priest, but the rector soon realized I wasn’t suited for this, and so I had to strike out on a different path. I am convinced that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is the greatest privilege Christ could accord a man here on earth. I have a great respect for the priesthood. A newly ordained priest is much more important than a president, prime minister, king, successful businessman, or any other great person. It is through the gift of the priesthood that Jesus Christ forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Penance and makes present His passion, death and resurrection in the mystery of the Eucharist, in which we partake of His glorified body.

My religious faith has always been strong. I know I can never be a success on this earth unless I am on good terms with God. I would never have been able to achieve success in business without the strength of the Holy Spirit, which comes from prayer and belief in Jesus Christ. In the earlier years, I was hit by a long series of difficulties. Each one seemed like a knockout blow. But I was able to get off the floor every time and come back stronger than ever. That’s the power of faith. I use it every

day. No matter how tense or tired I get, I can take time out to pray or say a rosary and feel refreshed. Personal contact with Christ in prayer is my greatest asset.

In 1984 I made my first pilgrimage to Medjugorie. I was present with a dozen pilgrims when Our Blessed Mother appeared to the children in a small room of the rectory. For me it was an extraordinary experience of the presence of Mary, one of the most extraordinary in my life. It has strengthened my faith and intensified my prayer life.

 The second on my list of personal priorities is the social one, that is, my relationship with other people. After God, the persons most important to me are my wife and children. My wife and I were married on August 25, 1962. Our early days were very difficult, and our earnings very modest. We had no house. We lived in house trailers. Despite these modest conditions, we were very happy, since it is love not money that makes for happiness. Now that we are rich, we have not lost this happiness. Thanks to prayer we remain close to God and our love for each other is constantly deepening.

After family, on my scale of social relationships, come friends. Nobody can succeed in business without the help of friends. Here I am guided by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I’ve always told Domino’s employees and franchisees that all they have to do to be successful is have a good product, give good service and apply the Golden Rule. One puts this rule into action by being nice to others, by thinking of the needs and interests of others. I learned this from Sister Berarda in the orphanage. Honesty and ethical behavior can often be taught. Managers should do it by example, and it’s an uplifting experience for both manager and employee when it happens. I tend to be slow in recognizing dishonesty in others because I prefer to trust people. I look for good in others, not the bad. But I’ve also learned from my disappointments. Where you have an incorrigibly dishonest employee you have to treat him like a bad apple. No matter how bright or appealing he might be, I know he’ll wind up spoiling the barrel. I toss him out immediately — for the good of the company, and his own as well.

My third priority is maintaining a sound and healthy mind. The key factor here is a clear conscience. This means you have done your best to live up to your own expectations. A clear conscience fosters self-esteem, a positive attitude, and an optimistic outlook, all of which promote success in business. I believe that the mind needs exercise, that it will grow in capacity and thinking ability if it is forced to by constant questioning and the desire for new information.

After the priority of mental fitness comes physical fitness. I subscribe to the idea that the body is the temple of the soul. As a living edifice it needs proper fuel and good maintenance. Physical health is a gift of God and it cannot be taken for granted. To keep myself fit, I do 45 minutes of floor exercises six days a week, including 150 consecutive pushups, followed by a six-and-a-third mile run. Twice a week, I end my run in the fitness center at our new headquarters, Domino’s Farms, and work out for an hour. I am careful about what I eat. I eat dessert only 11 times a year, on feast days and family birthdays, and just before Lent. During Lent I fast. I never overeat. Thanks to this regime I enjoy perfect health even though I am 68 years old. I admit that over the years I’ve harassed some of my employees and franchisees to keep fit. One of them was our vice-president, Dick Mueller. I promised him fifty thousand dollars if he got into shape and completed the marathon run in Baton Rouge. It took him a year, but he lost over 100 lbs. and ended up completing the race. Needless to say, I was at the finishing line cheering him on with a check for $50,000.

Ave Maria University will stand on three legs: spiritual, academic, and social, i.e. student life. The most important of these is the spiritual dimension.

Most existing Catholic universities seriously neglect the spiritual side, the need to deepen the Catholic faith of their students. The result is that many of these students graduate with a weaker faith than they had when they first began their studies. About 25 years ago I began seeing the need for creating new Catholic seats of learning that would place great value on spirituality and faith-building with a view to forming a strong new elite of Catholic leaders. That is why over the past few years I have allocated 200 million dollars toward the building of a new Catholic university, and have devoted all my energies to this project, which should be complete by the year 2006. Ave Maria University will have a solid Catholic theology program that is totally loyal to the teachings of the Church. Every semester students will be required to take courses in theology and philosophy. For this purpose we have chosen the best professors of theology and philosophy, who are bound to swear an oath of fidelity to the Magisterium and the local bishop. Everywhere throughout the campus there will be symbols witnessing to the Catholicity of this institution. It will be the site of the largest church in North America. We are in the process of building an entire university town, which will be home to Catholics living out their faith on a daily basis. Priests and consecrated persons already make up 25% of our student body. We plan to have 15 to 20 Masses celebrated every day in the town. In addition, the confessionals will be open all day, and there will be Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The university will have a population of 6000 students. It will be the best seat of learning in the United States, superior to Yale and Harvard. We want it to be the best, not the biggest. The entire student body will live in residence, men and women separately. We will place great emphasis on sports activities since these help to build character and form young people. Our students will come not only from the USA but also from about 100 other countries around the world. Our bookstores will be free of pornographic books and magazines, and no contraceptive devices will be sold.

I consider John Paul II to be a great moral authority, a true hero of our time. He radiates holiness. I experience this every time I meet him. I have received Communion from his hands several times, and these are moments I will never forget. It was after my first meeting with him on May 7, 1986 that the idea of founding “Legatus” — an association of Catholic businessmen came to me. Its members pledge to deepen their Catholic faith, put its principles into action and share them with members of their organizations, both in a professional and private capacity. Our chapters meet monthly, attend weeklong retreats once a year, and make pilgrimages to famous shrines. Legatus is the Latin word for ambassador; that is why our members pledge themselves to sharing their faith with others by their own witness — by their good deeds and high ethical standards. Currently our organization numbers 1800 entrepreneurs grouped in 58 chapters throughout the USA, Canada, Italy and Ireland. It is an exclusive organization for Catholic businessmen who own companies of a net worth of not less than 100 million dollars, or at least with a net annual income of 10 million dollars.

At one of our meetings with the Holy Father, he told us: The world needs authentic witnesses to Christian ethics in business. The Church invites you to carry out this role at all times and in the public eye.

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!"

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