Thursday, October 23, 2008

Symon Says

Hello fellow Clevelanders,
As most of you know, I usually write about things happening in the future, not ones that have already occurred. For this I MUST make an exception.

Yesterday I had the honor of attending the 2008 COSE Small Business Conference. After the morning keynote speaker, I knew the day would be a treat...and therefore I had to share.

Michael Symon, born & raised Clevelander, Restauranteur, Hipster & Food Network Big Shot Iron Chef wowed the audience with the stories of starting a small business (Symon now manages over 140 employees..hardly small?) “Nothing is more frightening than owning your own business” proclaimed Symon.

As the morning continued Chef Symon filled our eager minds with the top 5 most important pieces of advice he could give to any small business owner. (This is where I started to get giddy with excitement...six pages of notes later) Since many of you have entrepreneurial minds, I thought I would pass along his wise words.

Be passionate. Start with passion. Figure out what drives you..and THEN how you possibly could make money through your passions.

When Symon first opened Lola’s, the mission was to create a restaurant where Clevelanders could get good food at a reasonable cost...casually!
What is your mission?

Whomever you hire is a reflection of you, the owner. Treat every employee like family. “Let them drink the Kool-Aid!”

What you see is what you get. Build your business around yourself, around your personality (“Unless you’re an asshole,” Symon chuckled his infamous giggle).

You want good faithful clients. You want people to believe in you and support you..then in turn you MUST support your peers. Shop locally. Drive the extra 2 miles for your hardware. Choose Heinens over Giant Eagle. Eat at Lola (he says it shamelessly) vs. Applebee's...although he now calls his restaurant Lolita the Applebee's of Tremont (the place where neighbors go to get a good affordable meal...“a nosh.”)

As Symon’s talk drew to a close he mentioned that while the state of the nation’s economy is plummeting...the income at Lola & Lolita is skyrocketing. (GO CLEVELAND!) His theory? “When we have less, or make less, we want–we need something we know is a definite GOOD THING; something we trust, something that will make you feel good all over.”

Although early yesterday morning, as the clouds parted and I was on my way to the conference I was dreading the usual small talk, business card passing crowd. Now after reflecting on the day, I am pleased to have put my conference stereotypes away and am still glowing in the excitement of hearing Mr. Michael Symon speak of his success, his experiences and his passion for what he loves in a city that supports him.

For the entire podcast of Chef Symons talk visit (it should be available next week)

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