It’s no secret that to make it in the cutthroat business of restaurants you have to stick to your beliefs and overcome challenging obstacles.
Cameron Mitchell has owned restaurants for more than 25 years. To survive and thrive that long in a business where trends come and go, he met many challenges along the way. Columbus, Ohio-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants now has 60 restaurants and generates more than $300 million in annual revenue.
“Without determination, fortitude and profound drive, I wouldn’t have made it,” he told IBD.
How To Dig Deep, Beat The Odds
Believe. Mitchell says he’s an entrepreneur by nature. That means he’s used to facing tough challenges and overcoming them. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, he had three restaurants scheduled to open within 45 days. He has also dealt with horrible cash shortfalls and slumps in the restaurant business
“I feel as though I’ve never met a problem I can’t solve,” Mitchell, who wrote “Yes is the Answer. What is the Question?” told IBD. “You climb over a problem, dig through it or switch course.”
Embrace fear. Mitchell has always feared failure. That drove him as he encountered hurdles to open his first restaurant in 1993. He struggled to raise financing, gave up his apartment to live with his mother and was down to his last $70. That’s when the last piece of financing came through.
“Fear is a great motivator,” he said. “In my heart of hearts, I never believed failure was an option. Come hell or high water.”
Play The Long Game
Patience pays. Most things that are worthwhile take a long time, says Bill Treasurer, founder and chief encouragement officer of Giant Leap Consulting, Inc., an Asheville, N.C.-based courage-building and leadership development company. If you’re trying to change the company culture or create a succession plan, you’ll have to persevere to get past obstacles.
“It takes perseverance and a strong stomach,” Treasurer said.
See the big picture. Keep the overarching goal in mind when you’re launching a new initiative, Treasurer says. That will fuel you and your team as you face setbacks.
“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal,” Treasurer said. “Keep your eyes on where you’re going.”
Make A Commitment
Go all-in. As Mitchell was about to open his first restaurant, the building’s landlord went bankrupt. It ended up taking 14 months to get the place open, but he never considered giving up.
“In the early days, this was the only thing I knew how to do,” he said. “I thought, ‘There is no other choice.’ I knew I had to make it work or I would work for someone else my whole life.”
Rely on principles. When you’re implementing a new initiative, stay grounded with some of your key tenets. One company Treasurer has worked with lists tough-mindedness as one of its core values.
“So when they face a challenge, people know this is a core value and say, ‘Who are we to shy away from it?'” he said.
Get others involved. Don’t try to overcome every challenge alone.
“Make sure you have a posse of perseverance around you,” Treasurer said.
Be honest and open. During a recession, scuttlebutt among Mitchell’s employees was that the firm would be laying off employees. Once he heard about it, he quickly called a staff meeting. He told employees the company’s culture of putting people first stands firm in good times and bad. He’d cut the ad budget before laying people off.
“People would run through a brick wall for us after hearing that,” he said. “I always say integrity takes years to build and days to ruin.”
Gain perspective. You’re going to encounter setbacks. Everyone does. Look at them from the bright side.
“As much as they suck, they can be helpful because they show what’s not working,” Treasurer said. “They make winning so much sweeter. To have a team of people around you high-fiving because they know what they went through, that’s really such a great moment.”
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