Have you meet Willy Theisen?

EP10 is a new entrepreneurial profile assessment developed by Gallup, the internationally known research company.  They’ve identified the ten most critical entrepreneurial talents and an incredible tool that allows a person to see where they stand on those ten talents when compared to the best entrepreneurs in the world.

I was invited to learn more about the program this week in Omaha from Gallup’s Jeremy Pietrocini and Heather Wright.  I also had the pleasure of spending some time with an entrepreneur who possesses all ten of those critical talents.

   
  
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    from Left:  Jeremy Pietrocini, Willy Theisen, Heather Wright

from Left:  Jeremy Pietrocini, Willy Theisen, Heather Wright

Willy Theisen may or may not be a name you recognize, but I promise you know his work.  Back in 1973 he launched a company called Godfather’s Pizza.  He had simple beliefs that guided his professional life-cleanliness, honesty, hard work- and they paid off with a company that grew exponentially under his guidance.

When Willy proposed a taco pizza for Godfather’s, the other people in the meeting said he was crazy.  “What about the lettuce?  How can you put that on a pizza?”  Willy said, “We’ll throw that on, and maybe some onions and grated cheese after it comes out of the oven.  Let’s not ponder over it-let’s do it.”  Forty years later, it’s the best selling pizza at Godfather’s.

 

After selling the company, Willy has been at the helm of a number of successful restaurant ventures.  His latest is called “Pitch”, a coal-fired pizzeria, sits in a beautiful neighborhood in Omaha.  The coal-fired ovens cook a pizza in 2-3 minutes, and oh man, they are some pizzas!   Our group feasted on a lobster pizza and the “Mia”, Willy’s favorite. 

 

The restaurant is a beautiful place, carved out of a 100 year-old building that once served as a car dealership in the 1920’s.  Willy’s first step when designing the building?  The bathrooms.  Willy says, “If you wait to do those last, you’re tired, you’re out of money, and you’re probably sick of the whole design process.  Bathrooms are important to people, though, so they have to be right.  You start there and build out from there.”

 

When Willy came into the restaurant as we dined, guess where he went first?  To check out the bathroom.  I watched as he then worked the room, greeting guests, chatting with the staff, and generally bringing happiness to the place.  Willy is nearly 70, by the way, and to watch this man in action you’d swear he was half that age.  This was a Tuesday night, and the place was hopping.  Pitch was packed and brimming with energy.  There will be a second pitch opening soon in Omaha, twice the size of the first.

 

He’ll need every square foot.