Ron Shaich: Know What Matters


As an entrepreneur and CEO, Ron Shaich has had one truly remarkable career.

He’s the founder and former chairman and CEO of Panera Bread, a groundbreaking restaurant brand that today has more than 2,400 bakery cafés, 120,000 employees – and nearly $6 billion in annual sales.

Under Shaich’s leadership, for multiple years, Panera generated annualized returns of over 25 percent, and in the same period, delivered a total shareholder return forty-four times better than the S&P 500. In 2017, he sold the business he created thirty-seven years earlier for $7.5 billion.

In his new book (destined to be a bestseller), Know What Matters: Lessons From A Lifetime Of Transformations,” Shaich reveals with honesty and candor what it’s like to live the entrepreneurial life and to run a large corporation – not just the highs but also the lows.

In his book – the focus of the podcast discussion – Shaich reveals many attributes and philosophies that distinguish his leadership process:

  • He’s Massively Planful: Before landing on a business model for Panera, he more than extensively traveled the U.S. visiting bakeries and restaurants in search of inspiration and practical guidance.
  • He Keeps A Sharp Focus:  Shaich pays close attention to the most essential elements of his business and lets the rest fall away. Hence his title, “Know What Matters”.
  • He’s Anchored To Empathy: While traveling the U.S., he had the epiphany that people want to feel special in a world where they no longer feel they are.  And making people feel special became a foundational intention of the Panera experience.
  • He Believes Managers Must Be Inspiring: “A leader’s job is to give people are reason to do more than is expected of them – not less.”
  • He’s Remarkable In His Own Field: Shaich has received an astonishing number of awards – many acknowledging his being one of the most significant contributors to the history of the restaurant industry.  In 2017, he received the Legend in Leadership Award from the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at the Yale University School of Management. Incredibly, he’s already created an entirely new, Mediterranean restaurant chain, CAVA, that’s taking America by storm.

For obvious reasons, an episode not to be missed!

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.