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How MOD Pizza's People-First Culture Drives Growth and Impact

Images credit: MOD Pizza

Corporate culture sets the groundwork for how your team interacts with each other and your customers. It’s the secret sauce that brings together cohesion, community and motivation. In a recent Deloitte study, over 80 percent of CEOs and HR managers surveyed believe that “culture is a potential competitive advantage.”

In other words, cultivating a thriving corporate culture is critical to business success. What’s more, both employees and consumers want to do business with companies actively working to build a better world. Therefore, marrying corporate culture with company purpose is a one-two punch when it comes to carving out a competitive advantage.

Seattle-based MOD Pizza is an excellent example of a company that’s leveraging its purpose-driven corporate culture to stand out in a crowded market. The pizza brand actively practices what it calls impact hiring, staffing people with a history of incarceration, drug abuse, mental illness or homelessness — it gives everyone an equal chance at being part of a meaningful brand and community. At first glance, hiring disadvantaged people may sound like a business risk. However, MOD has found that these people are more appreciative and work harder than others at performing entry-level tasks. From a branding standpoint, offering jobs for people who traditionally struggle with finding employment has positioned the company as a force for good. In turn, consumers feel good about supporting MOD and purchasing pizza with a purpose, effectively building impact into the act of consumption itself.

Here are key lessons from MOD Pizza on how to drive business growth through a purposeful culture:

Take purpose-inspired risks

Executing on calculated risks is a critical component of profitability. Just as launching a new product line or opening a new store branch can lead to increased earnings, so can taking risks that strengthen corporate culture. Back in 2011, MOD Pizza hired its first previously incarcerated employee. As Entrepreneur explains, the original hire was not necessarily a purposeful endeavor. However, founders Ally and Scott Svenson noticed that the individual was more appreciative and harder-working than other employees.

After this first success, MOD began employing more individuals seeking a new path in life. In another purpose-driven hiring, a Texas-based MOD manager employed an autistic person to help fold boxes. While other employees often view folding boxes as a tedious and undesirable task, the autistic hire found joy and pride in the process. The manager eventually hired more individuals with autism, down syndrome and other special needs. Today over a third of that store’s staff are differently abled. Eventually, MOD’s founders made a point of hiring disadvantaged individuals and the commitment to impact hiring was born.

The risk MOD took by hiring people dealing with various hardships paid off by yielding productive and committed employees, building a purposeful brand and empowering its business to become a force for good.

Invest in your employees

Your employees are the building blocks of your company and significantly influence bottom line performance. In fact, a recent study found that corporations with engaged employees had over 16 percent higher profit margins than companies with disengaged and unsatisfied staff. Building a strong corporate culture is pivotal to fostering satisfied and engaged staff. To increase your employees’ commitment to your company, you must increase your commitment to your employees. This may mean paying special attention to ensure people have the skills they need and are happy on the job.

MOD Pizza treats its employees as part of its community. It works with its employees to help them reach their personal goals, whether that be getting off of the street, purchasing a home or learning something new. This investment in employees pays off because the people feel like the company cares about them. In turn, employees care more about the company. This translates into increased employee dedication, higher productivity and an overall positive attitude about work. By investing in your employees, you will strengthen your corporate culture and receive greater return on your investments.

Share internal culture in external communications

Among today’s socially conscious consumers, having a clear, impact-driven brand story is more important than ever. Consumers actively vote with their wallets to support companies doing good in the world. The only way consumers will know about the amazing work your brand is doing is if you tell them. For this reason, compelling purposeful storytelling is paramount to gaining consumer goodwill, trust and purchases. There are many pizza chains; however, MOD stands out because of its dedication to helping the communities in which it operates.

MOD’s commitment to using business as a force for good has propelled the brand to open over 380 storefronts across the US and UK. Its rapid expansion is due to a high-quality, customizable product; as well as its purposeful corporate culture and brand story. In short, MOD Pizza’s commitment to purpose, people and pizza has led the company to success.

Business leaders looking to carve out a competitive advantage must lead with purpose. This means taking educated and calculated risks that build on your brand purpose. It also means taking the time and resources necessary to ensure your employees have what they need to thrive on the job, and then sharing those memorable stories of social impact with others in service of something larger than the brand itself.


I’m the founder and CEO of We First, a leading brand consultancy that builds purpose-driven brands. We deliver purpose-driven strategy, content and training that accelerates growth for clients including TOMS, Virgin, Timberland, Sony Pictures, SAP, VF and more.… [Read more about Simon Mainwaring]


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