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S2E5 Transcript: The Ups and Downs of Being a CEO in the Food & Beverages Industry

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Okay. So welcome to the meaningful jobs podcast. My name is Adrian. And today it's my great


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honor to welcome my guest, Peter, who runs a restaurant brand to my podcast to share


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about his views on career and how to find meaning in work. So first of all, how are


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you, Peter? Hope you're well.


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I'm doing great. How are you doing?


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Yeah, very good. Thank you. Before asking you maybe perhaps how you got how you managed


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to navigate through the COVID times during your business. Could you maybe tell us a little


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bit about your background, like how you went, got into the restaurant business?


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Yeah, so I'm actually fourth generation of restaurant tour. So I had, but my father started


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this particular restaurant, both my parents did actually, and they had, and then I kind


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of worked in it, but I've worked for my father. So I was 12 years old. I didn't want to have


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anything to do with restaurants. Like I wouldn't have nothing to do with it and became a lawyer


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when all school became a lawyer. And I was practicing law and one day I was in my office


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and there was a conversation being taken place next next door. And it wasn't a bad conversation.


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I don't remember what it was about. And it was just so boring. And I just remember thinking,


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I don't want to have that conversation in 10 years. And I was working even while I was


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working for the law firm, I'd still work part time at the restaurants at night just and


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those I'd get energized, et cetera. And so I said, you know what, I want to kind of come back.


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So I talked to my father about coming back. And what I didn't know was that he had,


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he was looking for somebody to buy the restaurant. And like he was wanting to retire.


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And so I agreed to come back and started it over, started from there, took over the operations in


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2001, and then eventually bought the restaurant from him in 2009. Right, right. I see. Well,


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so that's quite a big shift actually from the restaurant to the restaurant business.


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We get through it a lot. So it's really not that much of a shift.


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Right, right. So I think you've grown to quite a large scale already. I think you've got more than


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you have a few, is there a few dozen restaurants already? We have, we have, we have, we have six


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restaurants, but I do have, we have other businesses that we operate. So we have a, a seasoning company


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as well. We have a company that we have an e-commerce site where we ship our food everywhere.


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We do a little bit of real estate development. We got a couple of companies doing that. We have,


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I'm an author, I'm a speaker. I host my television show on Benevolent Faith TV called


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Constructive Christianity. So we, we do a whole lot of different stuff and that just,


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that just goes outside of restaurants, but restaurants is probably what I'm most known for


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because that's kind of really where I got our start. And that's kind of the more public face.


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It's kind of more of the front of mind of businesses that we have. Right. So what would


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you say is the most difficult aspect in running a restaurant business?


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You know, it's always been people regardless of whether it's your employees or whether it's your


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customers. Yeah, as long as I can remember, you know, you're always going to have,


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you're always going to have problem customers. You're always going to have problem employees.


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I mean, you have outstanding customers, outstanding employees too, but in reality, what


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would usually kind of sucks the most time is that. And then I would say probably really close second


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is the changing of government regulations. And, you know, because in the restaurant business,


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we are under so many different regulatory agencies, whether it's the Department of Labor, OSHA,


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you know, then you have everybody who has the IRS, Department of Revenue,


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Alcoholic Peverage Commission, I mean, I can go on and on and on. And so they change regulations on


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a regular basis. And so, and then also they show up with the new inspection and you're just like,


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okay, yeah, we'll fix that. We didn't know it was a problem. Yeah, no choice anyway.


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Yeah, exactly. Well, because I know a lot of people who'd like to actually maybe run a restaurant


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or maybe their dream is to maybe have their own cafe or small restaurant, but a lot of them might


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not know the amount of work that is required. So, you know, I missed all, you know, the busyness


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and the time and effort spent in maybe adhering to different regulations. How do you still find


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maybe enjoyment in what you do? You know, again, that kind of goes down to the people side of it


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as well. I got into the restaurant, I got I went to law because I wanted to help people. That was


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the main reason I went to law. And, you know, I would study, you know, famous civil rights attorneys


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and, yeah, and I would, you know, study people that just made a difference using their, as a lawyer


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to help, help different things. And I think that was one of the frustrating things that


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does not make a difference. And I mean, you might impact a person's life, but that's over a course


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of a year, two years. And even then, they're probably unhappy with you, even if you win,


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because they didn't get the feeling of satisfaction they thought they were going to get.


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We're in the restaurant, they're again, going back to the people we get to make a difference in


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people's lives that workforce, the people at workforce are a, many of them have, they made


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some bad decisions in their life, or maybe their first job ever, you know, and so that's generally


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the people that are there. So we have a lot of people that have gotten out of jail. We have a


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lot of people that are battling drug and alcohol problems. In fact, I just fired somebody actually


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at our office, which is really unusual if I fired someone two days ago due to being drunk at work.


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And, you know, but our main goal even then was, look, we need to get you help. I want to find


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this. We have a chaplain that we had the chaplain contact her the next day, because she was too out


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of it to be to listen to it the same day. But, but we had that chaplain to come and talk to her about


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and give her different options of places that she can go for outpatient rehab, etc. So even after


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we terminate people, we still make that impact. And then the customers, you know, realize people


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don't eat out because they're hungry. They eat out for the experience. I mean, a piece of bread and


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a piece of cheese can satisfy my hunger. I mean, I've made many meals out of trail mix, you know.


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And so, so, so it goes beyond that. And so we get to impact their lives because sometimes that's the


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only brightest spot in people's days. And we get to have that type of impact on them.


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Well, I think it's a good point you made that when you talked about being a solicitor, where


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it's pretty hard to quantify how much help you can actually give people, do you think it's a bit


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easier to do that, you know, in a restaurant business? I think it's, I think yes, but you have to be


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a little bit, your expectations have to be low with it. And the reason why I say that,


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in the business world, you know, we, we expect to make an investment and we expect, you know,


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great returns. I mean, you don't go into business to, to, to try to make little returns off of your


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investment. That's not what you're doing. It doesn't matter what business you're in. Yeah.


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But, but because we're a high turnover industry, because, you know, we see a lot of people again,


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that are making bad decisions that were raised, you know, raised in homes that,


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that were really rough and hard homes. You know, my goal is, is we're there to make an impact in


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their lives and just enough so that if we see it all the way through, that's great. Yeah.


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What we're trying to, trying to add to it so that hopefully someone else can take it to the next level.


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Right. So I look at it as like a big bucket and my job is to add water into that bucket. And sometimes


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I get to add a tablespoon, sometimes I add, you know, gallon into the bucket. You know, I might be


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the last one to get the water overflow, but most of the time I'm not, but if I can keep adding water


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to that bucket and then if they leave us and go somewhere else, someone else might not have that


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opportunity. But if someone else is going to add that gallon to it, it could overflow. But if I did


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nothing, then all they did was just fill the bucket halfway. And so that's, that's a big part of how


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we kind of look at it and how we kind of look at what we do as success. So in this podcast,


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there's quite a lot of people who actually, you know, have a stable job and some of them might


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actually want to venture out, you know, to join a business or start their own business. How difficult


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would you say is, is it to maybe forget about your stable income and just go into business? Because


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it's very easy to think about, oh, I want to help other people, but then you also need to make ends


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meet. So like what kind of advice can you give in this respect? Right.


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You know, to that point, you know, I've heard, you know, no margin, there's no mission. You know,


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so you got to, you got to have money coming to there. You have to be focused on that. But regardless


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of that, yeah, I heard that there was a group of nuns that operated a hospital. That's where it


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came from is at least where I heard it from was from that. But the, but at the end of the day,


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yeah, it's scary, you know, every, you know, because I'll be honest, I probably have failed in more


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businesses and I've succeeded, you know, and but each time we do it, we say, you know, okay, this is,


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this is what it is. We kind of weigh out the cost ahead of time and say, okay, is this going to be


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worth it or not worth it? And we try. But you have to kind of go in with an expectation that


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you're going to exceed your, your, your plans. You got to go into the expectation that you might


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fall short of your plans. And you have to kind of be prepared for both. But the preparation for


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both is not as much of the physical side as more of the emotional side. It's the, you know, when


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you're lying at two o'clock in the morning and you're like, I got so much business that I'm,


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I'm, I can't handle it. What am I going to do? Or I'm about to fail. And what am I going to do?


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It's, you have to have that type of, of strength and, and you have to be able to trust that, that,


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that people are going to, that you're going to make it through to the other side, no matter


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what. But that is a extremely difficult part. And I would think that's probably the hardest part


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about starting your own business. The other parts of it, just you're going to mess up the end of


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the day, you're going to mess up the question isn't when the question or question isn't if the question


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is when and the question is, is this, is it a type of mess up that you can recover from? And,


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and that's the part you can't, you can't sit there and think you're going to have it perfect.


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The perfect plan in my first book, I have a chapter called the perfect plan. And, and we see how it


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just goes wiped away, gets destroyed in that perfect plan. It just doesn't happen. Yeah.


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Yeah. So, well, our listeners can maybe purchase your book, I guess, to further understand how to


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start, you know, a business without, you know, going to go, going into a business with a wrong


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mindset, I guess. So you also mentioned in one of your previous interviews, I believe, about how


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bad, perhaps you were affected by COVID. Yes. Could you maybe talk us through how, you know,


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what happened and how you managed to, you know, navigate through it? So the, I was, I was at a


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speech, I was given a speech one time and I was talking about COVID and the problems with it.


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And there was a guy that came out, real country guy was giving a speech right after me and he got


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up there and he looked at me and he said, we're on a restaurant during COVID is like a three-legged


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lizard with half a tail. And, and somebody gave me this as a reminder, it's a little three-legged


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lizard with half a tail. And I keep it on my desk. Because that, I mean, it was in Tennessee,


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the restrictions weren't too tough, like they were in many other parts of the country or the world.


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But, but, but the problem in Tennessee was, is our governor said every little county


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could make their own rules. So since we're, we were in four different counties,


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you know, so what I did in this store, I couldn't do in another one. So that was one part of it.


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But originally, when it started, it started with, you're not allowed to go to restaurants,


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because if you go eat out at restaurants, you're all going to die. So I had to lay off like all


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my employees, you know, I had to lay off every one of them. Pretty much. Yeah, we were able to


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consider, we were still essential. We were able to keep, you know, some of our cooks.


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And I converted our servers into delivery drivers, and we try to do a delivery business. And we were


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doing setting up different things that we, that we had to do. Yeah, you know, but like one of our


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locations that had normally around 100 employees, I mean, they were operating with, with a team of


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six, you know, you know, our busiest volume store had the most and we were operating with a team of


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25. And normally we had 150 employees. And, and so, and some, you know, and, you know, when you're


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having to do that, it is not only difficult, but then you just don't know if you're going to make it


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or not. I remember I wrote in my, my journal, you know, I talked with our GMs and said, Hey,


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there's this thing called COVID and it's hit the United States. And it might impact us, you know,


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so just kind of be prepared. We might have to close for a couple of weeks, you know, just be


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prepared because that's what they were telling us. And then, then about a week after that, I remember,


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I remember writing my journal, they're shutting down everything. We need to hang on. This is about


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to be a bumpy ride. And two days after that, I was on the phone with a bankruptcy attorney saying,


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um, and I need, you know, I need to make certain that whatever I do that I don't screw up our


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bankruptcy if we have to file bankruptcy. Now we never did. You know, but I had a call, we had a


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call of our vendors and be like, Hey, I don't have any cash. You know, I'm getting a little bit in


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through carryout. I will pay you eventually. But I'm just going to tell you right now, I'm going


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to be late. And I divided our checks up into three piles. The A pile was, was, was my, my food,


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food, government and money. Those had to be paid first or money, people, food and, and, and, and


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government. The C pile was everybody who was going to be hateful and said, well, you got to pay us


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right away. And I'm like, no, no, actually I'm not. And then you move over to this pile because


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what are you going to do? The courts are closed. It's not like you could sue me for it anyway.


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And again, I knew eventually I was going to pay them. Then there was the B pile. That was everybody


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else. So every day I'd kind of go through the checks and be like, okay, we add a few Bs into the


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pile, I'd look at my cash and knock out all my cash, send those checks out. I imagine our stress


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or that might, that must be, you know, the thing about it is, is, is again, when I, when I'd gone


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through the failed business before and, and recognized that, that God has you and my placing


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trust in God and recognize that, that any fear that you have is all you're saying is, hey, God,


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I don't trust you in this moment. I mean, even David says in the Bible, he says, you know, when I,


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when I, if I'm afraid, I'll put my trust in you. And so that was it. So every time we kind of start


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getting a little nervous, the same fears are everybody else, you know, are you going to die if


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you get COVID or you know, is your friends and loved ones going to die? We had those same fears


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too. But I recognize, you know, everything that was happening, the speed at which it came,


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it had to have been a spiritually based component, there's no way that anything like this could


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happen. They're just out of randomness of nature. And so we knew that's where it had to be. So we


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end up spending most of our time being thankful. So we put a blessing boards in our, in our


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restaurants for those that are working. And, you know, we, we, you know, and every day when we pray,


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we made certain that we were being thankful and we would list the things that we were thankful for


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in order to be able to kind of get through that season. And, but it's not because I wanted to


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be, it's not like I was like, Oh, this is just so awesome. It's because I chose to be. And that's


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the part when you're going through these problems, that's the part you have to be, you have to choose


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your attitude. You can't control the circumstances, but you can't control your effort and your


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attitude. Those are the only two things in life you can ever control. So I guess, perhaps, you


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know, your way of trying to manage stress is to categorize between things where you can control


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and things where you can't and just focus on, you know, the things that you can, I guess.


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Well, there's some of that, but control to me is kind of funny. I, I, I look at the way we think


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we control our lives in a similar way that when my son, we took our son horseback riding one time.


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Right. Yeah. Right. It was his first time when he was a little kid, first time when he was by


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himself on a horse. Right. And we told him, you know, on this horse, you got to let that animal


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know you're in control. I mean, it's a big, big animal and a little bitty boy, you know, sitting


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on top of it. And he was like, you're in control of this animal, no matter what. And so the horse,


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at one point in time, takes off in a trot and, and his legs come out of the stirrups and his arms


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are, hold on to the reins and he's just flapping. I mean, everything's just flapping and you hear


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him screaming, I'm in control. I'm in control. And, and that's how we are in our lives when we


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think we have control and reality is we don't have control, but we do get to choose and control


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our attitude about it. We do get to control, control whether we're going to be thankful


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during those times. And some days it's hard. Some days it's really difficult when everything's


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crashing around you. It's just hard to sit there and say, wow, you know, I need to be thankful


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during this time. And that applies in my, in my married life too, with my wife and I are fighting


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at journal every day and every day I write something positive, but I'll focus on her.


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And within three days of me writing something positive, it's amazing that she always gets


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better. It's not because she really gets better, it's because my attitude toward her changed.


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And so we, we, we have a, and I just find that that by changing your attitude towards life,


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it, it just, the Bible is correct. It gives you a piece that goes beyond understanding. And I


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can't necessarily explain it. So during COVID, we had already learned how to process that.


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And so yes, it was stressful, but I also knew that no matter what, God's going to put me somewhere


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else. And if COVID closed me, God, God has me. It's not going to be the end of anything. And


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yeah, I may not be able to take the vacation I want, or I may not be able to buy the car that I


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want. So what, if I died, I couldn't take the car with me and I'm not, those memories of the vacation


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are gone anyway. So, you know, it doesn't matter to me at all. Well, so, so now that COVID has ended,


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would you say you guys are doing a lot better? Like how, how did you guys get out of like the


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whole mess? No, actually, I would argue that it's worse, but, but our sales wise is better or, or,


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or cash or financial, financials thing is better. I mean, you know, we, we actually now have cash,


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we have cash reserves, we, we created better systems for it. So in that sense, things got a


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lot better. Right. Where it got worse was after COVID ended in 21, you had to battle the supply


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chain problem. And you had to buy a legal shortage. And, and the government didn't want to talk about


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the fact that the supply chain was a result of the labor shortage. Yeah. You know, everyone kept,


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you know, even like the, the news kept pointing to all the barges on California. And reality was,


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as we were short supplies of things were manufactured right here in the United States. In fact,


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one of our major things that I could not get anymore is literally a 45 minute drive south of me,


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and I could not get it. So it had nothing to do with barges, anything like it. They didn't have


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the labor to manufacture the size of the cups I needed for it. And so, and again, I get all the


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answers in the Bible, just sometimes you don't always know it's there. But I was reading in


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there and I was reading in Genesis and I got to Genesis 41 and the Genesis 41 Joseph tells Pharaoh,


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Hey, you got seven years of great times and seven years of famine. So start stockpiling.


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And I realized then that's what we needed to do. So I rented a bunch of storage units and


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stockpiled four weeks worth of supplies, all of our non perishables and stored all of that. And,


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and it got us through our busy season. And we, we didn't run out of trash bags when many of our


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competitors did. I mean, you know, we didn't run out of saran wrap and, and, and soup cups. And,


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so we were able to get through that season. And, but the labor market, again, we were having to


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shut down certain days because we didn't have the people. And it's still a problem today. It's not


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near as a problem as in 21 22 is slightly better this year, slightly better than that. So we're


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seeing some change in it. But it's, it's still a battle. I spoke, I gave a speech in Cookville,


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Tennessee the other day, it was about 250 people and asked the question, I said, you know, how many


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of your experiencing labor problems. And if not every hand went up, it was really close to it.


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Like I didn't see anyone's hand not go up. So it is still a, it is still a massive problem. And


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from the friends that I have internationally, I think it's a worldwide problem too.


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It's funny, because it seems like we are in sort of a recession, but the unemployment level is


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still pretty low. There's not enough, enough labor, you know, like, as you said, even in other


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parts of the country. Yeah, yeah, I don't understand. I don't always understand why on that. To me,


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there has to be something the way they've changed the definition of it. You know,


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the government's notorious for changing definitions to make things fit. You know,


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you know, they've changed the definition of vaccine to get the COVID vaccine passed. And I'm


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not like some conspiracy theorist with it or whatever. This is what happened. Yeah. And, you


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know, but they've changed the definition of, you know, they've changed the definition of autism


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a while back. And then all of a sudden you get this outbreak of autism among people.


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They even changed the definition of recession, I think.


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Yes, they did. Absolutely. You're absolutely right. I forgot about that one. That's even the


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best example there. They did that. You know, so you can change the definition, but in reality,


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is we're still suffering the effects of it. So I do agree with you that we have some of these


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issues. But the other problem is, is we're now seeing, because when COVID happened, baby boomers


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were right at retirement age. So so many of them retired, which then gave the opportunities to


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rise up from other people below. And then that's when the population started to drop. And I think


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that's a big part of it. I think the government programs from COVID didn't help matters, because


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it was real easy to kind of ride that wave for a little bit. And truthfully, when you're seeing,


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you know, people that have massive amounts of drug addiction and homelessness, they're not


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being counted in that unemployment rolls, you know, but they're also not working either. So it's not


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like so. So that I'm not really quite sure. And then lastly, and I haven't looked at this number


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in a while, but about three or four months ago, there was 10 million 10.6 million job openings.


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And there was 9.6 million unemployed. Yeah. And so, yeah, so even if you fill every,


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every one that employed, you still were short jobs. So, but I'm not quite sure how all that's


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got contributed with it. I know at 18, we were struggling a little bit with labor, but but nothing


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like we're doing right now. So, you know, lastly, before we end, I'm just wondering if you can


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maybe give our viewers some advice in terms of, you know, how they can find, you know, meaning


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in work aside from maybe just monetary compensations. You know, work is never work is service.


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And work is worship. When you when you actually read the word worship in ancient Hebrew, it


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would actually meant work. And if we're working for money, and not for service and not for worship,


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then it will be always be meaningless. No matter what. And if you're only in it for the paycheck,


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you'll never be fulfilled. Yeah. And Hagi, I the in there, the God says, Hey, you know what,


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you're not fulfilled, you work, but your your your your purses have holes in it. In other words,


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you got money and it's just going away. You can eat, but you're not full. He kind of references


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fulfillment. He says, because you're not working on God's house. And nowadays, God's house is in


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us. It's the temple within us. And so from that, you know, we have to realize that we got to work


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on that first. And that's where it starts. And then from there, everything else will seem to


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take place from it from that point in time. But there are many people out there who, you know,


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who are satisfied with other things. So the question I would have, and it's more of a,


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not really advice, but it's a question you need to challenge for everybody listening can challenge


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themselves on, which is this, what are you going to be accomplished? If you died today,


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what are you going to be remembered for? Because it's not going to be money that you have, what


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are you going to be remembered for? And, and whatever you want to be remembered for, start


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focusing on it and start doing everything you possibly can for it. And you can do it in your


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existing job. You can say, wow, my job is just meaningless. I don't like it. I want to find a


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new job that has meaning. But whatever it is, but ask yourself that question, because if you're not


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making an impact in other people's lives around you, I don't mean to be rude or hateful when I


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say this, but you're just taking up space. And, and, but, but everybody has influence over somebody


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around them. So what are you going to be known for on that circle of influence you have and focus on


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it? But you have to start with that question there, because most people don't think I actually


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understand and know that about themselves. Well, thanks so much for your, for your time today.


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Appreciate it. Thank you. I look forward to having you in our, you know, future podcast, maybe.


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It'd be great. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. All right. Thank you, Peter. Thanks. Thank you.



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