In today’s business world, success stories happen everywhere. This is especially true of those who find success within the restaurant industry, since there is a seemingly endless array of different establishments offering every type of food imaginable. In the case of the sub sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s, founder Jimmy John Liautaud has used a determination he has had since childhood to find unbelievable and continued success in one of the business world’s toughest industries.
While most people would assume Liautaud oversees all aspects of the Jimmy John’s empire, that is no longer the case. To the surprise of many, despite being worth an estimated $1.7 billion, he no longer runs the Jimmy John’s show. In fact, as the business has grown over the years, he eventually sold the majority share of the company to private equity firm Roark Capital in a deal valued at $3 billion. Now retaining only a 35 percent share in the company, Liautaud is still heavily involved in the company. Along with keeping the chairman title, he also has a major voice in the restaurant chain’s food and culture, acting as its official taste tester and making recommendations for how the chain presents itself to customers.
Having a personality that is over-the-top and boisterous, Liautaud believes this played a major role in helping him achieve such high levels of success. Akin to using a four-letter word now and then and giving himself various titles such as “Sandwich Savant,” he has found a formula for success that began early on when his father gave him $25,000 to start the business. However, this was done so that in the event the business did not work, Liautaud would instead join the U.S. Army. As fate would have it, the Army’s loss was the sandwich lover’s gain.
Though sales at Jimmy John’s restaurants have dipped slightly in the last three years, Liautaud himself has little doubt that various changes can be made to right the ship. Continuing to offer a much simpler menu that many competitors, he believes many of today’s new fads in many other restaurants will quickly fade away, resulting in customers continuing to enjoy the simplicity of the Jimmy John’s menu and experience.
Whenever times may get a bit difficult with his business empire, Liautaud simply remembers back to his childhood and the days of having to drink powdered milk and needing to watch every penny that was earned. Calling his early years in life an “utter failure,” he has shown that through hard work, perseverance, and a continued belief in his ability to succeed that achieving one’s dreams can indeed happen.
Having learned the basics of business finance and accounting on the fly when he opened his first restaurants, Liautaud quickly learned that to succeed in business a person needed a detailed plan of action. Thus, all of the restaurants are very standardized down to the last detail, including the placement of sinks and the size of refrigerators. In taking this approach, he has been able to develop a checklist that is easy for franchisees to follow and use to their benefit.
Despite the fact that the billionaire now needs a boss, Liautaud continues on his quest to enjoy life to its fullest. Regularly meeting with company executives and friends at a farmhouse outside Champaign, Illinois, he discusses not only the happenings of company business, but also many aspects of life in general, such as what everyone’s kids are doing and other topics. In doing so, he keeps a keen perspective on what is truly important in one’s life.