To Whom I’d sell Alive Juice Bar, Part I

I’m not going to sell it to anyone.  I’m going to sell it to someone who can grow and continue to express core values of the business.  I don’t want to come in and find shit like wheatgrass being sold for five bucks and I’ll continue to expect employees to be intense and focused, not bubbly and fake.  I just want a different personality and mindset to run the business, a gentler, softer presence, someone who can refine established practices and products.  I want Alive Juice Bar to evolve.  New products, better processes, more effective outreach.

By “gentler, softer,” I don’t mean nicer.  This is a business — no minimum wage, no union protection, no tenure for owner — business owners don’t have the luxury to be nice.  Being nice is easy, it’s lazy, it’s one step above acting like a douchebag, and that’s why there’s so much of it in the world, so much that it’s a cheap commodity. Being nice is not the same as being responsible, compassionate, patient, kind, and understanding.

Put it this way.  Pretend you’re a teacher. What would you do after an earthquake big enough to topple a few bookshelves?   Nobody is hurt, everyone is okay, just jittery. What do you, as teacher, do?

a) Stop class, act jittery and anxious because that’s how you feel.
b) Have students clean up mess and continue class as if nothing happened. Assign double amount of homework and quizzes for rest of the week.
c) Stop class, bring in school psychologist to discuss how everyone is handling the event and “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

If you picked A, you’re self-absorbed.  If you picked C, you’re nice.  If you picked B, you’d do what famed math teacher Jaime Escalante did in real life (and he asked that a psychologist NOT visit any of his students to discuss event).  Escalante was able to get students at his poor inner city high school to pass the AP Calc exam at rates unheard of except at the best schools.  His “dynasty,” as he called it, crumbled after he left.  You think it was because his replacement wasn’t nice enough?  Who do you think is more responsible, the “nice” teacher worried about the amount of pressure placed on kids or the tough one who works them harder than they’ve ever worked?  Which teacher works harder to ensure students have a good future?    

As a parent (imagine yourself as one if you don’t have kids), what would you prefer to do if your child isn’t able to play, after an hour of practice, two bars of a piece assigned by piano teacher?

a) Congratulate her for trying her best.  Give her ice cream and watch her favorite movie with her.
b) Make her keep practicing until she gets it right.  No dinner or breaks until she gets it right.  Stay up with her until she gets it right, even if it means an all-nighter
c) Tell your kid it’s not her fault she can’t get it right.  Ask piano teacher to assign easier pieces.     

The real life mom who picked B has a daughter who played solo at Carnegie Hall at age 14 and is an undergrad at Harvard.  Who is the more patient, loving mom?  Love is an action, not a feeling.  That’s the primary message of I Corinthians 13.  And if it is a feeling, it ought to be painful and exhilarating.

Look at those at the top of their professions.  Bill Parcells publicly humiliates his players.  Bobby Knight grabs and screams at them. Barack Obama believes in the Bobby Knight school of training and his White House basketball games are reportedly vicious. Michael Jordan puts anyone who doesn’t meet his standards down.  Everyone is a “fucking” something or another to Hillary Clinton. Steve Jobs explodes, calls his employees “Fucking Dickless Assholes” when they can’t meet a deadline.  Marissa Mayer is in your face for this and that.  Marco Pierre White will throw hot risoto at an employee who complains.  White’s apprentice, Gordon Ramsay…just watch one of his shows.

Not saying the Buyer has to act like any of these maniacs.  We’re not trying to win any Micheline stars. I especially don’t want anyone to throw anything hot or sharp at my employees.  Just want the business to thrive and to do so, the Buyer has to know what it takes to run one well.  If you find the behavior of those at the top of their professions troubling, then you’re not cut out to run a restaurant.  If they inspire you, if you want to work for them, then running a restaurant is the right job for you.  Let’s talk.

By “gentler, softer,” I mean someone with a subtle but effective presence.  Someone who leads by example. Someone unassuming. The person most people don’t notice until there’s a crisis, which is when this person takes over and shows his/her mettle.  Someone who won’t yell at customers who walk in with a Frappuccino.  Someone who will play fewer songs about death. Someone who won’t charge customer a dollar to change the music.

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