March 2, 2018
I love food. I love cooking it, reading about it and eating it. When I moved back to St. Louis from Chicago, I was terrified of the culinary situation I was entering into. I hadn’t lived in St. Louis for 10 years and knew nothing about the food scene.
So, I asked around and received some great recommendations and advice. The best tip I received: “You can’t go wrong with one of Gerard Craft’s restaurants.” Five years later, I still heed this advice. Although I know much more about St. Louis’ amazing food scene, my go-to destinations are Pastaria, Brasserie, Sardella or Taste.
Last week, I had the opportunity to not only go to Sardella for their newly launched brunch, but also to listen to Gerard Craft speak about his journey as an entrepreneur. The food and conversation were exceptional, and I hope Sardella makes this Small Business Brunch a regular event.
Let’s start with the food. I’ve been to Sardella a couple times for breakfast and dinner but have never made a bunch service. The menu was just as I like them: minimalist and diverse. I started with an Espresso and Tonic, a drink I first had when Sardella opened, and one that I make daily at home with cold-brew coffee.
Next, I went with the Butternut Squash soup that hit all of the right notes. Smooth, not too creamy and a hefty heaping of olive oil on top to marry all of the flavors. Next up: breakfast toast with poached eggs, brussel sprouts, dates and olives. I love breakfast toasts and make them daily at home.
This one was outstanding, and it all started with the bread. From Union Loafers, the bread was the perfect size, texture and flavor to support the toppings. All of the other ingredients worked together perfectly, especially the crispy, charred brussell sprout leaves that seemed to work their way into every bite.
But enough about food. Let’s talk about Gerard Craft’s advice to the other entrepreneurs and business owners in the room. Quite a few things he said resonated to my personal experience as an entrepreneur and small business owner. Here are four:
“If you own a business, you have to work harder than everyone else.”
No doubt about this one. It also helps to be a bit naïve, Craft said. I agree with this as well. Far too often, people are quick to tell you they’re an expert at something that in reality they know little about. I’d rather accept my inexperience and do something about it. Six years ago, I knew nothing about honey. Today, I have no problem talking about honey for hours on end to the best chefs, brewers and food manufacturers in the world.
“It’s a lie to think that to prevent your people from making mistakes, you have to make them be afraid to make mistakes.”
Oh, how I wish I had heard this advice 10 years ago. It’s a management/culture flaw I believed in for the better part of my career, and only recently understood that this is the absolute worst way to prevent mistakes from happening.
“Don’t hide what’s not great about your business. Approach it and address it.”
After hearing Gerard drop this bit of knowledge, I kind of felt we’d had a similar journey, albeit in completely different industries. In my opinion, this is the most valuable advice I would give to a new entrepreneur. Even if you’re business is successful, it’s imperative to address flaws as they appear. Making money should not be a reason to “tolerate” inefficiencies, bad cultures or mediocre employees. For long-term success, issues have to be addressed.
“You may have to part ways with insanely talented people because they don’t fit with your culture.”
I used to be a culture naysayer. I used to believe that everyone should be working so hard that a culture wouldn’t even have time to develop, let alone be a problem. It’s another thing I’ve done a complete reverse on over the years. Running a creative agency, it’s terrifying to think of letting a talented person go because they don’t share your values. But it’s necessary. For you, and the person you’re letting go. Culture fit is the key to actually enjoying your job. It’s key to being a human being that can function as a compassionate person both at home and at work.
Thank you Gerard Craft for hosting this event (and making great food)! I hope it becomes a regular series.