College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Jimmy Johns' Wisdom: Student Reactions


On September 9, the College of Business Honors Program started a new tradition by hosting its first college-wide lecture for all students in the College of Business.   Jimmy John Liautaud told approximately 200 students his success story starting in 1983 when he opened his first sandwich shop to the present. Jimmy John's is the fastest growing restaurant chain in the USA.  Here are some student reactions to Jimmy John's success story:

"I could not believe how real and down to earth the owner of the fastest growing food chain was. He showed me that succeeding in business is truly about how you deal with people and not all about how professional you are.  It is more about how good you are at job and that everything else will follow."

"I was inspired by Jimmy John's quote 'Your income is directly related to the people you touch.'  I realized how important it is to initiate contact with people.  They are not going to come begging for you.  You need to go to them and let them know how driven you are to succeed in the business world."

 "Jimmy's flippant attitude toward business and casual dress made me judge him as unremarkable, merely lucky. The passion he exhibited towards his craft allowed me to understand why Jimmy John's is the fastest growing chain of its kind."

"Jimmy John is living proof that passion for what you do is one of the most important ingredients for success.  His story is truly inspirational."

"Jimmy John got me pumped up and made me want to do something with my life."

"Jimmy John stressed that entrepreneurs should stick to the basics and break everything down to its most fundamental elements into order to make their product the best it can be."

 "Walking out of Jimmy John's presentation, my first instinct was to go buy a Jimmy John's Sub, not because I was hungry but because I had nothing but respect for the man behind the sandwich. Never have I laughed and learned so much in 30 minutes."
"Despite all his success, Jimmy John is still a modest, down-to-earth guy and not afraid to say it like it is. I was surprised at his frankness but learned a lot from him because he was so honest. It was inspiring to hear from someone who started with basically nothing and through hard work and perseverance built a multi-million dollar corporation."

"I was impressed that even though Jimmy John was not a great student, he knew the qualities that it takes to become successful: hard work, determination, and a love for serving others."

"It was amazing to hear how Jimmy John managed a successful business in such an unusual way.  Not many CEO's would be willing to personally clean stores and work with employees to help fix problems at restaurants with plummeting sales.  He really inspired me to believe that anything in this life is attainable if we really want it bad enough."

"I had a great time and also learned a lot from hearing Jimmy John speak. Although he took a shot at the professionalism we are trying to hone at the business school, he was very straightforward and had very valuable lessons to share with us. The greatest thing I will take away from the lecture is to be totally accountable as a leader and to always break things down and tackle them full force one at a time to be efficient and effective."

"I thought Jimmy John was a very entertaining and inspiring speaker that was really able to capture the audience. I had no idea he was so young but I definitely thought his story was amazing considering his age. Although he did not necessarily state this, he emphasized the importance of networking by showing who helped him out along the way. His success doesn't relate to being one of the top students in his class, but having a dream and the networking skills to be able to achieve it."

"I wanted to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Jimmy John speak. He gave me an entirely new perspective on the world of business. Not everyone needs to be straight-laced and dressed in suits. What is vital to success is the amount of hard work and passion put into what you're doing. He stressed the importance in serving others and taught to never settle for mediocrity."

"The one thing I took away from listening to Jimmy John was his persistence and ability to go back to the basics. He stressed that he was most successful when he took problems one step at a time. He never opened an additional store or location until he was sure that the first ones were succeeding and running properly. I also could not help but enjoy his 'brutally honest' answers to all of our questions."

"The most fun I've ever had at a guest lecture."

UIUC College of Business