Archive for March 2011
This was March’s letter from Ian, and we thought it was worth re-posting, because not only can he make a mean pizza, he’s a darn good writer…
The ongoing political events here in Madison have been nothing short of historic for the people of Wisconsin and, on a much smaller scale, Ian’s Pizza. Starting on February 16th, Ian’s Pizza was entrusted with delivering pizzas to demonstrators on behalf of people from all 50 states, over 60 countries and Antarctica. Media coverage soon followed with articles mentioning us by name in newspapers all around the world. The following on Ian’s Pizza on State’s Facebook page alone grew from 3,900 to almost 15,000 fans in one week. Given all of the media scrutiny, not surprisingly, many people have asked what Ian’s Pizza stands for.
When I founded Ian’s Pizza 10 years ago, I wanted to create a business that could make a positive difference in the lives of our employees and customers. I wasn’t convinced I could change the world, but within the confines of the four orange walls in our original store I was confident Ian’s could be a force for good. Over the past decade Ian’s Pizza has grown to four stores, yet the values, which were so important to me in beginning, persist throughout our company today.
One of the greatest contributions we can make to our community is to be a good employer. We believe being a good employer means, above all, treating people with dignity. We don’t believe yelling is an effective means of communicating with each other. We cherish greeting our co-workers with a smile and sharing a beer after work. Disagreements are okay, demeaning comments are not.
We realize that you have many choices when you want to go out for pizza. While we work very hard to serve you the best pizza we know possible, what makes Ian’s Pizza unique and what truly is our greatest asset, is the people who work with us. Simply stated, our goal as a business is to continually humanize our work environment and personalize your customer experience.
In addition to treating our staff with dignity, our leaders are also expected to practice Servant Leadership. The practice of Servant Leadership, which was coined by Robert Greenleaf in a book of the same name, simply states that the job of the leader is to serve the organization and not the other way around. I understand Servant Leadership to mean that ultimately, as a leader at Ian’s, it’s my job to help our staff be successful in theirs.
The tangible employee benefits we believe in include the practice of paying good wages, providing generous vacation time (long-time employees receive one month paid vacation each year), and matching employee’s 401K contributions. We also offer 100% employer-paid health insurance to full-time employees. Health insurance is an issue which resonates very strongly with me. My dad was involved in various entrepreneurial activities while I was growing up and for most of my adolescence we only had catastrophic medical insurance. The lack of adequate health insurance was a concern my parents passed on to me. In April of 2002 we began offering 100% company paid health insurance for our staff and have done so ever since.
We are an open book management company. Staff are required to know and report on company financials during staff meetings. Bonuses, based on the company’s profitability, were first paid at our original store on a trimester basis in 2005. Our other stores have paid bonuses on an annual basis, when possible. Although many small businesses might be leery of disclosing their finances, we’ve found that operating in a system of total financial transparency results in better productivity and financial performance.
Lastly, we believe in providing a path to ownership for qualified staff. Initially, I was very cautious and even skeptical about growing the company beyond one store. Ultimately I reached the conclusion that expanding Ian’s would create opportunities for staff to remain working with us and still grow professionally. Today, our Chicago location is owned by a UW history major who worked with us through school, while our stores in Milwaukee and State St. are owned by several long-time employees.
For the sake of brevity I have not described our philosophies on food or customer service. (Please know that we have strong opinions on both subjects!) For now, let me conclude by stating what will come across as obvious to everyone, but during these heated times, might be forgotten by some: Ian’s Pizza is not a political party.
We stand in solidarity with anyone who shares our company’s values, but we don’t believe it’s our job to endorse a specific political entity. Despite the highly polarized political climate we live in, we feel food (especially pizza!) is something that brings us together regardless of political orientation. When you choose to order a pizza with us you are also supporting the practices I outline above.
This years marks our 10 year anniversary and I’d like to thank not only all of those who supported us these past several weeks but also over the past decade.
With love and appreciation,
Over the past couple of weeks, Ian’s Pizza on State has gotten far more business than any Ian’s Pizza has ever gotten (this might not be a newsflash…) and for that we are more grateful than mere words can express.
We’ve been the medium in which thousands of people worldwide (Antarctica! Iran! Holy cow!) have expressed their support & generosity, and we are working pretty much nonstop to ensure that their trust in us is not misplaced. We also are doing our best to live up to the expectations of everyone involved (including our expectations).
We have a set of values that we firmly believe in as a company, and we base our decisions based on those values. We’ve written them in previous meanderings, so we won’t rehash that all again but will hit the high points: We treat our workers well, with 100% paid health care, 401k, a safe & healthy work environment, input as to what happens here, and the ability to choose their path within Ian’s to realize their career dreams (pizza-related or not).
Outside of our business we support the local community by donating hundreds of pizzas and thousands of dollars every year to causes important to local residents: students of all ages, groups of all stripes, fundraisers of all different focus, and a wide variety of organizations have been recipients.
We don’t do this because we “should” or because our accountant tells us we’ll get sweet tax write-offs; we do it because it is our privilege, and our responsibility as corporate citizens (and as grateful human beings).
With this in mind, we have decided to give back in the same way that this all began, and that is through you, our little (okay, not so little…) internet community.
Your job is to please post (or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org) with suggestions of where you’d like to see a portion of the February 16-February 27 proceeds go, and we will compile those over the next couple of weeks. (At the same time we’ll be crunching numbers here and waiting anxiously to see how much eight tons of flour & cheese costs.)
Once we hear from you, a committee of Ian’s employees will create a poll based on the top suggestions. Then you can then vote to see which final three will get a donation from all of you.
We thought this would be the most, dare we say, democratic way to help give back what you all made possible. So, without further ado, let the suggestions begin!
Oh, and as always, thank you.