Spending an hour with Nick Sarillo is bound to change your approach to business. You may have already read about Nick's Pizza & Pub--one of the top-performing pizza restaurants in the U.S.--but I recently had the chance to meet Nick in person and discuss the philosophy behind the wildly successful Chicago pizza joint.

With his unique approach to management, Nick has built a magnetic workplace with loyal employees and customers. His long-term vision for his business is based on what he calls "trust and track": educating employees about the company's purpose and trusting them to do what's necessary to make the business successful.

His ideas stuck with me because they're simple and intuitive. They offer a solution to one of the most pressing problems facing business leaders today: the fact that just 13 percent of employees are engaged at work.

Obviously, a disengaged workforce is the kiss of death for any business--especially a business in the service industry like Nick's. And you may not think that an army of high school kids and part-time pizza makers would be the shining example of an engaged workforce, but it is.

Luckily, Nick offers five remarkable tips for building a business model that keeps employees engaged:

1. Be explicit about your goals. It takes discipline to consciously promote the culture you want in your company. For Nick, that means putting each applicant through two rounds of interviews and being intentional about creating a "safe space" for employees. If you create a meaningful place to work, the best people will find you and stick around.

2. Hire based on personality. Nick hires employees based on their personality--smile, eye contact, and attitude--because he believes all other skills can be taught. Once you find people who want to succeed, all you have to do is provide them with the tools they need to learn.

3. Don't sweat what you can't control. Most of us waste a lot of energy worrying about outcomes we can't control. But Nick suggests that once you've done everything you can, move on to doing something more productive. That doesn't mean you should give up, but for Nick, it means putting processes in place to track progress so employees can trust one another.

4. Make values-based decisions. Most business owners make decisions based on finances. While there's some sense to that, making decisions based on your company's explicit values guarantees that people who work with you and buy your products will be buying into those values, too.

Nick's pizzeria embodies values-based decision-making. There's a sign in the lobby that reads, " Price Monday and Takeout Tuesday are here to stay until the unemployment lines go away." That policy has amped up Nick's business and created loyal customers for life.

5. Learn emotional intelligence. Having a high EQ means you make mature decisions that naturally draw people to you. Responding calmly and clearly to situations promotes trust and positive behavior in the workplace.

If you struggle with emotional intelligence, it's something you need to work on for the good of your business. The next time you get a rude email from an investor, take some time to cool off before responding. If an employee makes a mistake, focus on helping him or her improve rather than getting frustrated.

Making big cultural changes in your company can be overwhelming, but Nick's philosophy clearly produces results. Personally, I'm going to start with the advice that's easiest to put into practice and will have the biggest impact on my business: hiring based on smile, eye contact, and attitude.

Published on: Nov 17, 2014