Normally I do a Marketing Tip of the Week on Wednesdays, but this week I have an inspiring and informative treat for you.
Earlier this year, I managed the Asian Hall of Fame event where we honored Roy Yamaguchi. I found him to be a humble man with a tendency to let others do the talking. But when I looked at his bio, I couldn’t believe it. How was it possible for a human to do all the things he has done?
Roy is the first James Beard Award-winning chef from Hawaii. He is the founder of Roy’s Restaurants, Roy’s Beach House, Eating House 1849, Humble Market Kitchin and Asian Market Kitchen (you can read about Roy’s here). He invented Hawaiian Fusion cuisine. He hosted six seasons of Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi on PBS. He has published four cookbooks. He co-founded the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. He founded Roy’s Annual Golf Classic. He is a dedicated philanthropist. Frankly, the accomplishments I just left off this list to be mindful of length are highlights in their own right.
As a business owner whose offerings have expanded in various directions simultaneously, I wanted to hear more about Roy’s story. I believed that there are other small business owners out there who would benefit from hearing it, as well. Now, as I present you with the exclusive interview I did with Roy Yamaguchi, I know my instinct was right.
Roy amazed me with how open, honest, insightful, and forthcoming he was with the details of his journey. The interview itself is all about what Roy wanted to share (click here to go straight to it), but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you the three key takeaways I had during our conversation.
First, I opened the interview with a question about where he picked up his business skills. It is a fairly simple question that could have yielded a simple answer. But Roy immediately went for his own jugular. He brought up the biggest failure of his career. He talked about what went wrong and what he learned. And this was not the end of that thread of the conversation. He continued to go back to this event all throughout our interview. It kept resurfacing and a new moral of the story would come from it each time.
We did our interview a while ago, and I still think about this.
I’m a perfectionist, and Roy’s lesson spoke to me. What he perceived to be his biggest failure is a constant source of education for him. He used that time to study the mistakes and the things he could fix. Then he fixed them. Because that process was so intentional, he has been able to create success and replicate it not only across new businesses, but new industries.
You hear a lot of people say that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. I know I’ve heard it. But I honestly never believed it as much as when Roy told me his story. And he doesn’t seem to have any doubt that the thing he thought of as failure was a step on his road to success.
Second, he is a man who takes risks based on instinct. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of the very first Roy’s Restaurant property, but he was strongly advised by many reputable sources that he shouldn’t open where he opened.
In an industry where location is probably everything, Roy got nothing but warnings about the location he wanted. But he opened there anyway, because he believed it would work. He could envision that it would work. And he planned to work to make it work.
Making decisions based on instinct is something that I do, as well. I do my research, but all the best decisions I’ve made came from a gut reaction that was informed by research. So, when Roy told the story of what made him decide to open Roy’s in Hawaii Kai, it resonated for me. But – to me – what sets Roy apart is the level of risk he was prepared to take to go with his instinct. There was no halfway in this decision. Roy was told his restaurant would fail and was given the logic and the science behind why it would fail.
Yet 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of non-failure.
One more thing struck me about our interview. I have always been a believer in partnership marketing and forming allies. I am of the opinion that it is the smartest thing that a small business can do for marketing to find collaborators and cross marketers.
Roy is my new icon for this.
Roy didn’t just form partnerships to branch into new markets or open new restaurants. He launched into entirely new industries. He built relationships that brought him from chef to business owner. From business owner to television personality, author, event creator, Board member, and so much more.
Roy’s brand extends well beyond the kitchen even though it always links back to the kitchen. He has been able to stretch so quickly, so efficiently into new territories, because he builds professional relationships that work.
I will continue to pursue partnerships that make sense for my own business, and Roy’s story encourages me to lean in further with that. And to think bigger.
I’d love to hear what you take away from his story. Share your thoughts in the comment section below!