Several hundred students packed into the PNC Horn Auditorium at the College of Business for the sixth and final event of the inaugural year of the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise.

The standing-room-only crowd got a chance to hear Schnatter, founder, chairman and CEO of Papa John’s International, tell the story of how his business started in a tavern broom closet and became the third-largest pizza delivery chain in the world.

He used the company’s television advertisements to show how it has grown, beginning with a vintage 1987 ad, and sprinkled in advice and lessons:

  • On hiring: “Hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”
  • On advertising: “Nothing sells like the truth.”
  • On day-to-day work: “Wake up. Kick ass. Be nice. Repeat.”
  • On employees: “Be kind. Be respectful. Make sure they win. Teamwork is a byproduct of doing the right thing.”
  • On consumers: “The customers can fire you anytime they want just by not buying your product.”
  • On being successful doing what you love: “I wish that for all of you.”

Schnatter said Papa John’s is close to opening its 5,000th store but that he doesn’t think too far ahead. Beyond a year or two, he doesn’t know what the future will hold, he said.

The Schnatter Center opened in August 2015 with a $4.64 million donation from the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation and a $1.66 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. Its purpose is to engage in research and teaching that explores the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing the well-being of society.

Stephan Gohmann, director of the center, said planning has already begun for the second year. An event scheduled for September will feature a former resident of North Korea who escaped the country.