Lesson #5: Religion and Business Can Go Hand in Hand

“No matter what I did, I knew I had five priorities in life,” says Monaghan, “physical and mental health, as well as the social, the spiritual and the financial. But the most important thing I could be was a good Catholic. That is my No. 1 priority. There's no compromising that.”

Monaghan is a controversial figure in today’s America, not for the success he has achieved with Domino’s, but for his very public commitment to philanthropic Catholic causes. He promotes daily attendance at church, the daily recitation of the rosary, advocates the right to life along with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and has committed the vast majority of his billion dollar fortune to Catholic organizations. He was a key founder of Legatus, an organization of over 1,500 high-profile Catholic business leaders that represent more than 750 major firms, which has as its aim the promotion of Catholic ideals throughout society. He also laid down most of the funding behind Ave Maria, a newly constructed town with its own Catholic university in Naples, Florida – a town whose pharmacies will not carry contraceptives.

Agree with his cause or not, Monaghan has proven that it is in fact possible to achieve great business success and be devoutly religious at the same time. Indeed, Monaghan attributes his success to the faith that was impressed upon him at the Catholic orphanage he attended as a young boy. Asked whether he would have been as successful had he been of another religion, or even an atheist, Monaghan replies, “There’s no question in my mind it would have turned out differently. I would not have been nearly as successful.”

So, just how exactly did being religious help Monaghan achieve such great wealth? The Golden Rule, he says. “The golden rule of Domino’s: Treat people as you want to be treated. I don’t believe that in 38 years that I treated anyone unfairly. That may not be true, but as far as I know it is.” As a result, Monaghan says he was able to develop trusting relationships with both suppliers and employees, where business deals were often done on the shake of a hand because he had little else to offer them at the time.

Monaghan also suggests that his Catholic faith helped him get through many of the difficulties that plagued Domino’s throughout its turbulent history. “I don’t think anyone in business had a tougher time than I had,” he says. “My faith sustained me when we had internal problems with franchises, when the media would write nasty things.”

Monaghan once said, “I am focusing on God, family and Domino’s Pizza,” in that order. His business was important to him, but came only after his faith and his family. It is this balance to which Monaghan today attributes his success. “The nuns taught us that honesty is the best policy,” he says. “Many people think that the rich marry into money or steal it. I thought I could show that you can live by Christ’s teachings and be successful.”

And, being the savvy entrepreneur that he is, it wasn’t lost on Monaghan how his strong and vocal faith would impact his business. “For every customer I lost, I gained many,” he says. “My theory is you've got 10 percent of the people who were never going to buy a Domino's pizza even if they were starving to death. There were 10 percent who would buy my pizza because of my position. The rest couldn't care less, but the controversy was free advertising.”

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