Domino’s employee, Lou Ann Dellinger wins manager of the year because she has a big heart and the secret sauce. 

Interview by: Terrie Reeves

When you google or ask Siri to look up servant leadership, Lou Ann’s picture should pop up. I say this because words like teamwork and gratitude showed up throughout the entire interview, all traits of a servant leader. The first thing I did when I met Lou Ann was congratulate her on receiving the manager of the year award, and she was quick to say, “it shouldn’t be manager of the year, it should be store of the year… you can’t do it by yourself. The award belongs to my entire team.”  Through this interview you will see how Lou Ann’s actions translate into words, namely competitive, work ethic, integrity, customer service, attention to detail, and family. This is a woman with a big heart, big smile, big ambition and a small ego. I call that a servant leader.    

  • Tell me about the award you received, how it made you feel and your thoughts about winning?  

“I was very excited and honored to receive the award. I have always worked hard, and I watch the details.” Lou Ann shared two important aspects of how she does that. To begin with, she pays attention to the things that are harder to measure. She places great value on the customer experience, the attitude of her employees, and the amount of smiling that is taking place in her store. These softer details are mission-critical but make no mistake; Lou Ann is fiercely competitive when it comes to the things that can be measured—the numbers. She started rattling off Domino’s lingo like DOT, load time, store rankings, and net sales, and I am confident her entire team knows where they stand in the rankings with each. I asked her what her “secret sauce” for her store was and she said “to get everyone to buy in. I have a relationship with all of them, they’re like my family. I’ll help them anyway I can… they need a ride, a place to crash for a night, days off…whatever it is, I try to help them. Mack always says, “treat others how you want to be treated”, and that’s also what my mom and dad told me. Treat everyone with respect, and they’ll respect you.”

  • What are some key things you look for when you are hiring?  

“That they’re smiling when they’re talking to me. What their attitude is. Do they get excited about things? Everyone does their best in the interview… but how are they once they get started? I want them to be prepared and fired up. I have a lot of family working here and that’s the environment I want to create: a family atmosphere, where everyone works together. Sometimes I have to get tough with my team but that’s part of the job. I tell them, “I’m doing this as a boss, not as your friend.” She also pointed out while laughing, “my son tells me, you’re not my mom at work.”

  • How would you describe your current responsibilities/role at Dominos?

“I want to keep my customers happy. If I keep my employees happy, I’ll keep my customers happy. I want to keep everyone working together, engaged, inspired and moving in the same direction. A big part of my job is quality control. Even on vacation I’ll check the cameras. If something goes wrong, I feel like it’s ultimately my responsibility to ensure everything runs well, even when I’m not in the store. I don’t want to let JT or Mack down.”

  • How would you describe your career journey at Dominos?   

“I started when I was 16 and I remember crying the first week because it was such a steep learning curve, but my dad always told me, “I want you to do your best”. That’s what I did, and I’ve always received the support I need to get to the next level. One thing is for sure, I love the customers and they have made my experience with Domino’s even greater.”

  • What do you like most about working at Domino’s?

“I love working with the people, the fast-paced environment, and the customers.” Lou Ann got a big smile on her face and proceeded to share a customer experience with me. “This little boy with sunglasses and his little sister came in the other day and their grandpa told me that this is their favorite place to eat because we give them a little piece of dough to play with while they’re here. We sometimes give folks extra bread bites as well, and the kids and parents all love it. It’s not expensive, but it’s great customer service. We also try and go the extra mile around holidays by decorating the store. This Christmas we had a tree with hundreds of presents underneath it. We gave away a lot of Domino’s glasses and we got a lot of smiles in return.” While Lou Ann was talking about the customer experience she was quick to point out that they had already given away 1,000 suckers this year.

  • What advice do you give new Domino’s employees?

“Hard work does pay off. It’s stressful at times, but you can still do hard work and have fun. It’s important to remember that your smile can make a difference in someone’s day.Don’t beafraid of hard work. You’ve gotta have initiative and take charge. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to tell you what to do… take the initiative.”  

  • If you had to choose the three most important qualities that you believe make-up the character of a person, what would you say they are?

“Honesty, respect and caring. Be honest, care for people and respect yourself and others.”

  • What do you believe helps an individual succeed in life and within the Domino’s organization?

“You have to work hard, take initiative, give back and care. Your crew needs to know you care about them. If they do, your crew will care about the work they do.”

  • What would you say to someone how makes a mistake? 

“Nobody is perfect. Everyone has bad days, and everyone makes mistakes. What is important is to learn from them and be better/do better next time. Setbacks are temporary.”

  • How do you keep a good work life balance?

“My husband understands this isn’t just a 9-5 job… it’s 24/7, but when I am off, I try to make sure I spend time with my family. We have movie nights, we go out to eat, and often we just sit outside by a bonfire…. whatever we can do to relax.”

  • What is one thing about yourself that no one would guess?

Lou Ann smiled and said, “I am an open book, so I think everyone knows everything there is to know about me.”.

  • What were the greatest lessons you learned growing up in your family?

“Be respectful. Set the bar high. Work hard. You’ll get there with hard work. It may take a while, but you’ll get there. Dad was always a hard worker, and he always gave 100% and my parents always told me to do the same.”

  • What makes you happy?   

“Spending time with my family.”

  • What does healthy mean to you?  

“Having good physical and mental health and having a good relationship with my husband and kids. I focus on gratitude, giving back and making a difference.”

  • What is your life’s purpose and what helped you find it? 

“There’s so much bad out there, I just want to make people happy. If everyone would just be kind, the world would be a better place. I want to instill in my kids the importance of being kind and respectful and I want them to pay it forward.”

  • What is the most powerful force on the planet and why? 

“The most important thing to me is my faith. It is my anchor.”

  • Who do you most admire and why?

“I have always admired and looked up to Mack, JT and Kyle. (Domino’s top executives) They have always treated me with respect and modeled good leadership for me to follow. They each treat people how they want to be treated. They talk the talk, and walk the walk, and they care about their employees…. their people. They are authentic, would do anything for you, they push you to do your best, and they make me want to do the same thing as a leader. They have always had mutual admiration for each other and that shows real teamwork.”

  • What are 1 to 3 things for which you are grateful and why? 

“Family, Mack giving me the opportunity to be a partner in his location. I’m happy we’ve been partners for 18 years now. I am grateful for my friends and family…. family is my personal family and my Domino’s family.”

  • What has enriched or changed your life the most and why?

“Having my children was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m responsible for somebody, and I can show them through my actions how they need to be.”

  • What are you most proud of and why?

“Children. Every time we get off the phone or they leave they say, I love you.”

  • What empowers you to take action?

“I want to be the best… and see everyone succeed.”

  • How do you deal with stress?  

“I take some deep breaths when I start to feel anxious and sometimes, I take a break and unplug. I also try and get prepared for times that I know will be high stress. Getting prepared in advance can be helpful.”

  • What advice would you give someone who is struggling to find their purpose?

“Sit down and ask yourself, what can you do to change the situation, so it is better in the long run? You can create the future you want and the way you want it to be.”

  • What drives your life decisions?  

“My kids and my family. I try to think about how my decisions are going to affect them before I make big life decisions.”

  • Describe in one or a few words what you think has helped you most in life? 

“Having a positive attitude. It’s not easy but it’s always important.”

  • What has helped you manage your finances over the years?

“Mack Patterson (CEO and owner of over 60 Domino’s stores). He encouraged me to sit down and figure out what I had, to make sure I don’t overspend, and to put some money back for the future. He also encouraged me to think about the things I wanted verses the things I truly needed.”

  • Anything else you want to share?

“I want to encourage people to take pride in what they do. I was telling JT that it seems like as I’m getting older, I am getting better and I didn’t think it was supposed to work like that. I am so proud that our store in tiny Lincolnton beat out all the other stores. I was thinking it was going to be New York or someplace big that would win the manager of the year award (aka store of the year) aware. Now I see that I can do it, so I want my numbers to keep going up so we can keep going and win it again.”

I asked one of the girls that works for Lou Ann to describe her in one word and she said, “sweetheart”. Then I asked her, “what is her greatest talent?” and she responded, “her ability to put people in the right position on the team so they are successful, and the team runs really smoothly.”

While I was in Lou Ann’s store, I observed her team and these words came to mind for me: awareness, positive attitude, teamwork, customer service, and efficiency. I could envision Lou Ann saying to her team, work hard, have fun and smile big because you want to, not because you have to.  Great leaders create healthy work environments and recognize they can’t create the secret sauce by themselves. This is the kind of environment that servant leaders create.

I’ll close with one final comment. Look out Domino’s managers because Lou Ann has the “secret sauce” and the team to win this thing again. Consider yourself officially challenged because Lou Ann is going for another win! 

22 key interview takeaways from Lou Ann’s interview 

  1. Teamwork is key…. you can’t win by yourself.     
  2. Teamwork requires buy-in
  3. Treat others how you want to be treated
  4. Treat everyone with respect, and they’ll respect you
  5. Successful people are prepared and fired up about what they are doing
  6. Do your best by going the extra mile
  7. It’s important to remember that your smile can make a difference in someone’s day
  8. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to tell you what to do… take the initiative 
  9. Be honest, care for people and respect yourself and others
  10. Ingredients for success: work hard, take initiative, give back and care
  11. Mistakes are part of life…. choose to learn from them
  12. Setbacks are temporary
  13. Gratitude, giving back and making a difference will make you feel healthy and happy
  14. Showing mutual admiration for each other demonstrates real teamwork
  15. Be your best and want success for everyone on your team 
  16. When you get stressed, take deep breaths, and unplug for a few moments
  17. Manage stress my being prepared for high-stress times and situations
  18. You can create the future you want and the way you want it to be
  19. Having a positive attitude…. it’s not easy but it’s always important
  20. When it comes to money, think about the things you truly need versus the things you want
  21. Take pride in everything you do…. even the small things matter 
  22. Smile big because you want to, not because you have to
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