Leading Blog






08.30.21

Made From Scratch

Kent Taylor Texas Roadhouse

THE KIND OF SUCCESS Texas Roadhouse has enjoyed didn’t happen by doing things the conventional way. But then founder Kent Taylor is not a conventional guy. He dropped out of business school and threw away the rule book. Through trial and error and a whole lot of perseverance, he opened the first Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He describes Texas Roadhouse as “a people company that just happened to sell steaks.”

In 1997 he was awarded an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. Regarding that occasion, he said that his “emerging” took him thirteen years “from idea to rejection, from success to failure, and finally from failure to a glimmer of success.”

His story is told in Made from Scratch. It is a well-written story that takes us from his days as a student-athlete through his formative years working his way up in bars and restaurants from busboy to manager, to the wild ride founding and growing Texas Roadhouse into the international success it is today.

In 1997 he was awarded an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. Regarding that occasion, he said that his “emerging” took him thirteen years “from idea to rejection, from success to failure, and finally from failure to a glimmer of success.”

Throughout the book, his colleagues, friends, and family members weigh in on Taylor’s remarkable journey, and at the end of each chapter, he summarizes lessons he had learned along the way. It is a great mix of the lessons, the mistakes, the rejections, personal growth, and the counterintuitive ideas that worked.

Some of the lessons Taylor shares are:

There’s a perception that we can’t do much about our weaknesses in life, so we should only focus on our strengths. That’s BS. We can often get better at something if we love it and are willing to put in the work (running, in my case). In some cases, we can even become outstanding. Weaknesses can become our strengths.

Regular, consistent one-on-ones with each staff member are the best way to get to know your people, understand their frustrations, grasp any interpersonal issues on the team, and help them achieve their goals.

Instead of offering discounts, focus on product and service quality. If people aren’t willing to pay full price for your stuff, then something is wrong with your offerings.

You can get tunnel vision when you are moving fast, and many of the best parts of life may pass unnoticed. Stress should not manage you, and friends, family, business, and health should not pay the ultimate price.

After college, I realized the value that older people have in life and business. It started to make some sense to me that we value those who have gone before us and blazed trails. It just makes sense that they’ll know more than those of us who have yet to set out.

Great inventors keep tinkering. Never be satisfied with good enough results. Encourage your people to push you to continue improving.

As always, I wanted to put the pedal to the metal and race to a better future but didn’t have the gas money to get there. I hear that’s a common flaw with entrepreneurs with a vision.

If they are passionate and want to contribute, talented people who are not thriving in one role might thrive under a different manager. It’s worth a leader’s time to see what juggling a person’s direct report may look like.

To develop your mission and values, moderate open and honest discussions with groups around your company. Your people will tell you what ideas are already in place and what they are striving to achieve. Take a stand and keep these statements simple and meaningful—don’t try to include everything.

Of the many successful businesses that have succeeded over time, we believe they focus on (1) quality of operations, (2) people, (3) culture, and, last, (4) the financials. Yet, in tough economic times, it is easy for CEOs to cut quality, people, and lose their culture in an effort to preserve the quarterly bottom line. To be clear, this is what we call a mistake.

As to politics, I’ve always found it best for leaders to keep their opinions to themselves.

All leaders should have a counselor with whom they can blow off some steam. The key is to find someone who is quick to listen and then offer sound advice. We all need a sounding board, not an echo chamber; someone who will let you rant but then put the issue in a proper context and not overreact.

My counsel is to be the most positive person in the room. Eventually, good things will happen.

Most [leaders] are made. I believe the inner spirit to inspire others lies dormant within all of us, locked and loaded, ready to fire.

Know that you get what you earn. Life will always have ups and downs, and how you view and deal with obstacles and struggles will define who you want to be and can be. After sixty-five years on planet earth—making good and bad decisions and facing my share of challenges—I’ve realized that each day and each moment gives us a choice. Happiness does not come with fortune or fame; it is a state of being that resides in our hearts and minds. Fear is inevitable, as is pain. I’ve never met a successful person who did not overcome some personal hurdle or tragedy. But we can make a choice each and every day to either listen to the negative around us and react emotionally, or we can smile and try to be the most positive person in the room.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:09 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leaders



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