When Willie Degel set his mind on success, he stopped at nothing to create it happen.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing battle day in and day trip. (Answers have already been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Willie Degel, founder and CEO of the brand new York-based Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse chain, that i started twenty years ago with an individual location.
What does the term “entrepreneur” mean for you?
A business owner is a visionary, a risk taker, a dreamer, a motivator, and a problem solver. He includes a fire burning inside his belly, a vision and a dream that he’ll do everything in his capacity to bring to life. He’ll set himself up to achieve success, put the pieces set up to create it happen, take his entire team with him, and study from his failures in order that he will keep going and keep improving.
How has your business grown because you started? Today I operate three fine-dining Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse restaurants in NEW YORK, a fast-casual Jack’s Shack Organic Eatery on Long Island, and a farm-to-table concept called Uncle Jack’s Meat House that opened this past year in suburban Atlanta with another location scheduled to open in Queens shortly. I also hosted THE MEALS Network’s Restaurant Stakeout reality show from 2012 to 2014, helping restaurateurs identify and solve their service problems.
Entrepreneurship IS FOCUSED ON the Fight
That which was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it? Raising the administrative centre for my first Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, which opened in 1990. I was only 29 years old. I’d been owning a modest bar and restaurant for just two years, but I needed to open an upscale chophouse. I designed an 1890s Prohibition-style Victorian saloon with a hand-carved mahogany bar and walls, copper-pressed ceilings, and a fine-dining menu, but I needed the amount of money to create it happen. I did so it by enlisting family and friends as angel investors. They believed in me and my dream. They knew I’d succeed due to my passion and drive.
What’s the problem you merely solved or are attacking now? Last year’s minimum wage upsurge in NEW YORK from $5 to $7.50 one hour for tipped employees could have added $350,000 to the payroll within my three Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse restaurants. Clearly, I couldn’t pass costs on that scale along to my customers. This forced me to cut a busboy position, which amounted to 20% of my front-house staff. Even then it offset only 30% of the price so I had to lessen food portion sizes and absorb the others, including higher workers compensation insurance and FICA taxes due to the minimum wage increase. And it’s not over. Increases for other styles of restaurant employees will be phased in by 2019, therefore i must take a lot more drastic measures only to survive.
As an Entrepreneur Means Finding Profit in Your Passion
What perhaps you have learned through attacking this issue? You can’t fight City Hall — despite the fact that they seem to have no idea what it takes to perform your small business — so you need to work out how to work smarter. You need to be ready to change things you once thought untouchable, just like the bus boys I considered a pivotal part of Uncle Jack’s customer support experience. You should challenge conventional wisdom, just like the proven fact that every table should get yourself a basket of free bread. (I tried to charge for bread like they do in Europe, but customers complained therefore i returned to free.) And you should do it without undermining your brand value. For me personally, which means refusing to compromise on food quality and continuing to get the best beef available to buy. There are lines you just cannot cross.
What’s the main trait in a fresh hire and just why? Passion and energy. They are things you can’t teach. You’re either born with them or you’re not. People who have these traits multi-task well, and that’s critical in my own business, especially nowadays when staffs are receiving leaner to regulate costs. Have a manager. She or he has to know how exactly to bartend, wait tables, wash dishes, greet people, schmooze them in order that they’ll hug you and many thanks even if they’ve had to hold back 20 minutes to have a table! A manager must solve a large number of problems a day, cope with drama among the staff, but still keep their game face and love what they’re doing. You might have a resume a mile long, but if you’re not the Energizer Bunny, I’m not likely to hire you.
How exactly to Inspire Innovation INSIDE YOUR Business
What trait do you depend of all when making decisions and just why is that useful for you personally? I go from the gut. (My friends would explain that mine is ample enough to take care of virtually anything.) Of course, I look at trends — what’s selling, what’s not, how come one store doing much better than others — but I don’t dwell on data or poll my team because of their opinions. I could size up the problem instinctively and constitute my mind very quickly. It serves me well because I’m usually right and since it sends a sign to my employees that I’m a solid leader. They depend on me and my vision, and the actual fact that I’m decisive helps provide them with confidence they are backing the proper horse.
How has your leadership style evolved? I used to have the ability to make every decision and solve every problem myself. Now, with five restaurants and a sixth going to open, I must delegate. I must empower others to be my working partners. That’s hard for someone with my personality. I’m a perfectionist, I understand what I’d like, and I’ve no patience for anybody who doesn’t see things the same manner or run as tight a ship as I really do. But I hire good people and I’m understanding how to trust them. I believe I’m calmer than I used to be, but I’m uncertain that my