#20 The Law of Explosive Growth

From the book “The 21 Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell

#20 The Law of Explosive Growth - To Add Growth, Lead Followers — To Multiply, Lead Leaders

In 1984, at 22 years of age, John Schnatter started his own business.  He started his business in the closet of a local tavern co-owned by his father.  The next year he opened his first store in Jefferson, Indiana and called it Papa John’s.  For the next several years he opened additional stores and then began selling franchises.  By 1991, he had over 45 stores.  

John had always hired good people, however, in those early years he was the sole leader driving the company’s success.  Although he surrounded himself with lots of people with great potential, John failed to provide them with coaching and mentorship.  As a result they left the company.  


By 1990, John had grown into a solid leader which made it possible to attract better leaders.  This go around he gave them all mentorship and coaching.  In 1990, the number of stores doubled and continued to do so over the next 2 years. Some of the people he started recruiting later went on to lead the company including Wade Oney, who later became the company’s Chief Operating Officer.  Prior to joining Papa John’s, Wade worked at Domino’s Pizza for fourteen years and was a key ingredient to its success.

Papa John’s had not only expanded rapidly and been very profitable — it also had a higher sales per store than Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Little Caesar’s.  It’s early success was due to the high quality ingredients and focus on quality while keeping things simple.  Despite this success the goal was to scale the company.  In order to open 400 to 500 stores a year, the focus would need to pivot to developing leaders.  

Since the 1990’s, John and Wade developed a world class team of leaders making it possible for explosive growth.  Blaine Hurst joined the team and later became President and Vice Chairman.  Drucilla “Dru” Milby also joined the team and later became CFO.  Robert Waddell was brought in to be the President of Food Service and Hart Boesel led Franchise Operations.    

By 1998, Papa John’s had over 1,600 stores with plans of becoming the largest seller of pizza in the world.  


John and Wade succeeded because they practiced the Law of Explosive Growth by shifting from follow’s math to leader’s math.  Leader’s who develop followers grow their organizations one person at a time.  But leader’s who develop leaders multiply their growth, because for every leader they develop, they also receive all of that leader’s followers.  Add 5 followers to your organization and you have the power of 5 people.  Add 5 leaders to your organization, and you have the power of 5 leaders times all the followers and leaders they influence.  That’s the difference between addition and multiplication.  It’s like growing your organization by teams instead of by individuals.  The better the leaders you develop, the greater the quality and quantity of followers.  

To reach the highest level of explosive growth you have to develop leaders of leaders.  With this pattern, there is almost no limit to the growth of your organization.  This is the Law of Explosive Growth.  

Becoming a a leader who develops leaders requires the right focus and attitude.  Leaders who develop leaders: 

Developing leaders is difficult because potential leaders are harder to find and attract.  They are also harder to hold on to once you find them because unlike followers, they are energetic, entrepreneurial, and tend to want to go their own way.  Developing leaders is also hard work.  Leadership development takes time, energy, and resources.  

Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey — you will only go to the highest level if you begin developing leaders instead of followers.  Leaders who develop leaders experience an incredible multiplication effect in their organizations.  This is not done by reducing costs, increasing profit margins, analyzing systems, or implementing quality management procedures.  The only way to experience an explosive level of growth is to do the math - leader’s math.  That’s the incredible power of the Law of Explosive Growth.  

Papa John’s currently has over 5,199 establishments—4,456 franchised restaurants operating domestically in all 50 states, and in 44 countries and territories. Papa John’s operates 246 “company owned stores” under joint ventures and 35 units in Beijing and North China.

Here is a link to obtain this wonderful read. https://www.amazon.com/21-Irrefutable-Laws-Leadership-Anniversary/dp/0785288376

I hope this book provides you with guidance along your journey.