Work Life Principles to Consider – Interview with Domino’s Executive, JT Anderson

Work Life Principles to Consider
Interview with JT Anderson – Interviewer Terrie Reeves, Founder of Empower Health America

Research shows that the leadership within an organization has a significant impact on the culture. So, rather than quote research findings let’s find out first hand. This interview will highlight the work life principles that have driven JT’s life and why he is where he is today… working at Dominos with people he cares about and loving it. It is hard to separate who you are at work with who you are in your life. Notice how integrated JT’s philosophy is regarding work and life.

JT was born in Pennsylvania, comes from a big family and I knew 5 minutes into the interview that he was down to earth, full of life and cares about his friends, co-worker and family. JT sent the following quote to me the day after I interviewed him. “If you are too big to serve, you’re too small to lead.” This immediately affirmed my perception of him and that this was the kind of guy you want in the fox hole with you.

I am always curious about someone’s upbringing because so much of our life experiences shape and influence who we are today.  So, I begin with a question about family.

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

From my dad, I learned early on that I was responsible for my life. He told me when I was about eight or nine, “If your life’s an automobile, you’re either gonna be the driver, the passenger, or in the backseat. Then JT added followed by a chuckle… “If it’s really bad, you’re in the trunk”. I ask myself often, where are you? It is obvious that JT is not in the trunk because he is clear on where he is and where he wants to be. 

  1. How would you describe your career journey at Dominos?  

I truly believe at Dominos, you can do anything you want. That’s what took me from being a delivery driver, to manager, to owner, to Director of Operations and Vice President. I just believed I could do it. I started as a driver 33 years ago as a way to make extra money when my wife was having our first child, and I loved it the first day! My wife asked me “When you were a driver, you wanted to be in management. When you were in management, you wanted to be the management supervisor… when will you be happy?” I tell her to this day, “It’s not that I am unhappy, I’m just ambitious.” JT says with conviction, “Be happy where you are; but be ambitious about what you want to do next.”

  1. What do you like most about working at Dominos?

Seeing people who join our organization mature and succeed. A lot of people start with us when they are 16 -18 years old and they can barely get dressed professionally and get to a meeting on time, and then you see that same person running a million-dollar franchise. Some people measure success by weeks of vacation, more pay, more stock… I get to measure it by seeing people who’ve worked for us 5, 10, 20 years succeed.

  1. What advice do you give Dominos employee?

Work hard, get clear on your goals and stay focused. I encourage people to position themselves for the opportunities they are striving to achieve.  There is great opportunity to succeed in this company.

  1. What do you think is the biggest factor that impacts your higher than normal retention rate?

Our culture and it starts with leadership. Mack is the owner… he has the first word and the last. He’s a great person to work for, and truly lives by his creed of enthusiasm, teamwork, and the golden rule. The golden rule is #1. He tells our employees to treat people the way they want to be treated, and he doesn’t just talk about it, he walks the walk. That makes a big difference. I’ve been working with Mack for 22 years and I have to say that the culture he’s been building year after year is a great thing to witness. Any of us can go somewhere else, make more money and do a different job… but the culture is the reason people stay. Mack has written 26 letters a year to our employees for 30 years, and enthusiasm, teamwork, and the golden rule are always at the end of every one of them. It’s a letter to the crew. It’s not sales or profits focused, it’s a letter to our employees focused on some aspect of living by our creed.

  1. If you had to write a purpose statement for your life what would it be?

You take care of the people that depend on you, and don’t let them down.

  1. What do you believe helps an individual succeed in life and within the Dominos organization?

I think it’s mental and it starts with a positive attitude. You are the only one that can deal with your life. You can get help from outside influences, but it’s up to you to succeed. Have goals and project yourself toward them. To me there is an internal drive and an external drive. Internal is the will to succeed and mental strength; external is “I have four kids and I have to take care of my family”. I’m going to have one of those drives, and sometimes one is stronger than the other… but when you have both, that’s the best!

  1. How do you keep a good work life balance?

This is always one that comes up with our people. They believe they don’t have enough time for family, don’t have enough time for work. I hear a lot of “Well, my family is more important than my job”. Well I certainly hope so! But I think, if you care about both, you have to fight very, very hard every day to maintain balance, and not give up on one or the other. I deal with this every day.
I don’t know that there is a perfect answer, but I think it starts with awareness. I think it’s important that you keep both real close to you, or you’ll start to give up or discount one or the other. As the interviewer, I could relate to JT’s answer. It has been my experience that people often feel polarized…struggling to find the time and energy to balance life and work. The ones who succeed are the ones who stay aware and work hard every day to maintain balance.

  1. What makes you happy or what does happiness mean to you?

This is a tougher question. I would have to say succeeding, not success. Success is good, but I like succeeding better than success. I enjoy succeeding at something, whatever it is. Success is more of a destination goal, someplace you arrive at. Succeeding is more of a journey. If I see others succeeding that I touch, especially the people closest to me, that makes me happy…that is succeeding!

  1. What does healthy mean to you?  

Healthy means just feeling good and strong. I kinda measure it 3 ways, and I believe you need all three to really be healthy. For me, healthy is when I feel good about my faith, feel good about my health, and feel good about my mind. It has to be all three!

JT’s perspective of well-being is very holistic. You can’t pull the 3 (spiritual, emotional, and physical) apart.  They are all interconnected, and one effects the other.

  1. What is your life’s purpose?  

To influence people’s lives for a positive result. I am grateful I get to do that at Dominos every day.

  1. What is your favorite word and why? 

Grateful. If you’re full of gratefulness it will come out. If you’re full of bitterness and resentment, that will come out too. Fill yourself up with what you want to come out.

  1. What are 1 to 4 things in which you are grateful?

Family, health, faith and career

  1. What are you most proud of and why?

My family. Not because they are all successful in life but most of all I’m proud because I think they’re just good people.

  1. How do you deal with stress?  

I get exercise and I get fresh air. When I can get a little bit of quiet time that’s helpful too. Just get out and do something different than work.

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

Listen, and understand yourself.

  1. What advice would you give someone who is stuck in a bad situation?  

Change the recipe. Sometimes you have to change it up to find out what works for you.

  1. What do you do to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually?

Physically—kayak, bike, hike, walk, run and a little bit of weights. I am grateful that I don’t have to take medicine, but my wife gives me lots of vitamins. I don’t know what they all are…besides the slow release rat poison, you know… followed by laughter!

Emotionally—wife has always been there for me

Spiritually—practice what I learn, go to church, read

  1. What has helped you manage your finances over the years? 

I wasn’t always good at finances, and I’m certainly no financial genius, but I think now, you have to have a plan and your finances have to be a priority. Have goals, be responsible, save to be and do what you want and don’t spend what you don’t make.

JT’s answer to this last question was very powerful and a great way to close out the interview.

  1. Share your favorite quote and why it is your favorite?  

“Choose your day”. I think I came up with this. Only you can choose what kind of day you’re going to have.  There are so many people that let outside influences change them… but you still have the ability to choose every day. Think about people in prisoner of war camps… some people survived… other people died! Why? You have the ability and capacity to choose your day despite your circumstances.

I have done hundreds of interviews, but the interview with JT was rich on every level and full of great advice and insight. My key take-a-ways were: be clear on what is important to you, have a plan, stay focused, have a sense of humor, take care of yourself (spiritual, emotional, and physical) and the people you love, work hard every day but strive to keep a good work life balance and if you are clear on where you are going, you won’t end up in the trunk.

Thank you, JT for taking the time to share your story.

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