A recent episode of the HBO show Treme featured a guest appearance from Emeril Lagasse. In a scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril is counseling chef Janette Desautel on her dilemma of having a big, new restaurant versus having a small restaurant. Here are three great lessons from that short scene (and remember that both Bourdain and Lagasse are tremendous business people, not just great chefs).
- Emeril takes Janette to an iconic, and now closed, New Orleans restaurant and explains that there are two choices: stay small and risk closing, or expand. “The other choice is that you can build something big and keep it the way you want to keep it.” He describes the owners of the restaurant by saying, “They cooked until they couldn’t cook no more.” Emeril goes on to say, “Build something big but keep it the way you want to keep it.” He’s saying that you can work “in” your business or “on” your business. Work in it and you have a job and an uncertain job at that.
- A second lesson is when Emeril says, “Take those ideas [of yours] and execute to the highest level.” In other words, don’t do anything unless you do it right. Don’t strive to be the second best.
- One of his final remarks makes the analogy that as a chef or owner, “… You’re the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you’re the ship. And all these people that look up to you… they’re living on the ship… That’s the way it is. You‘ve got a chance to do your restaurant and take care of these people.” The evolution of a business goes from start, through a number of steps and ends (the business doesn’t end, just the evolution) with legacy. That legacy can be family, self or the business itself. As part of that it’s the opportunities you create for other people. Offer your people opportunity and the good people will stay with you and help you grow to become an even bigger, better and more rewarding business.
Last week I wrote about how too many businesses are coasting. The above has lessons on why coasting and “staying small” is an extremely risky strategy.
“You‘ve got a chance to do your restaurant and take care of these people. Just do it!” Emeril Lagasse