Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Restaurant Business -- My ticket to bankruptcy!

"The man who chases two rabbits catches neither." -Confucius

After mother died, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands, but was paying my bills handling HUD and VA homes for the government.  But that didn't fill my day.  And we lived right across the street from 2 guys who had a flower shop and frankly, did beautiful work.  I was using their services to send floral gifts to my clients, as I had accumulated a few newly formed "Federal Savings Banks" clients.  (These were what the government renamed the S&L's after their failure.  Oh.....did I mention that JR McConnell caused many S&L's to fail, which led to the collapse of the entire industry?  What a time!

Nonetheless, they realized that what I did best was sell houses . . . and so the government hired me to sell assets for the failed thrifts in these new organizations.  And I sent them lavish flower arrangements, designed by the highly talented Craig Starling and delivered by his partner, Matt Parsons.

To make a long story short, Craig and Matt had decided to go into the gourmet coffee business, way before there was a Starbucks in town......this was a brand new concept.  So they put together 3 sets of partners -- themselves, Rachel and myself, and two lesbians whose names I simply cannot remember.  We all put up a couple of thousand dollars, met with coffee dealers, and soon enough, we opened the Java Java Cafe on 11th Street (in The Heights) which is still in its original location today.  (Matt is the sole owner now, I believe.)

Boy, was it fun starting and running a restaurant -- at first.  We developed recipes, learned to run a commercial kitchen, learned to hire/fire staff, learned that cafe cooks typically learn their craft in prison, pay your staff on Monday or you'll have no help on the busy weekends, and much much more!  It was indeed a lesson in life and business.  The Java Java was so cute and such fun that I found myself hanging out there every day and night, and not tending to my real estate business.

Consequently, it didn't take long before all the partners started bickering and fighting, my income plummeted because I wasn't paying attention to my work, Rachel and I separated and divorced, the lesbians had to go, and on and on.  What we thought we were building -- a long-term lifestyle -- we were actually destroying.  I accept full responsibility for that.

After the demise of the lesbians, then the remaining partners began to quibble because the restaurant simply did not provide enough money to support all of us.  Without going into details, let me just say that Rachel and I walked out one day, got a little of our investment back, and, thanks to Jeanne Leach and Steve Goodson, settled out our ownership and went on with our separate lives.  I had ventured down to Pearland to work for Mary Starr, so that I wouldn't be near the Java Java anymore and I could focus on rebuilding my real estate business.

When I got to Pearland -- my Suburban had been repossessed and I was flat broke.  There were two reasons I didn't file bankruptcy -- Jeanne wasn't certified to do it and I couldn't afford to pay a lawyer.  (I should mention what a life-friend Jeanne has been -- she wasn't a divorce lawyer either, but she helped Rachel and I with our divorce for free -- and the judge approved it without a snag.  Jeanne remains closely in our lives to this day with a fee office of First American Title and handles our closings.  She is a gem of a human being, as is Bill, her big bear of a husband!  I love them and their family, too!)

Putting blinders on, I went to work in Pearland and built the "Pearland Sam" brand into a household
word.  And now, I share how I did that in my one-on-one FREE coaching for agents entitled, "From Broke Realtor to Rich Realtor."  (The program is new, excellent, and currently being revised.)  But it requires work and dedication.  The strategy is to work yourself out of debt and stress, like I did.  And now, my company, RE/MAX Top Realty, will be recognized by the Houston Business Journal as one of the Top Residential Brokerage Firms in the Houston Area on May 31.

MORAL OF THIS STORY, though it's a true story, not a fable:  Stick to what you know.  Focus.  And remember that everyone (yes, even you) thinks they can run the perfect restaurant.  Rethink that.

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