57: Install an Intelligence Machine with Steve Salis

Steve Salis is a serial consumer brand entrepreneur and investor. His company, Salis Holdings, has ownership interests in 14 companies in a diverse spectrum of industries, including technology, food and beverage, hospitality, and real estate. We talk about why the private equity business model is broken, what millennial employees want from their jobs, and the key differences between a specialist and a generalist in your business.  

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Install an Intelligence Machine with Steve Salis

Our guest is Steve Salis, who is a serial consumer brands entrepreneur and investor. He’s the founder of Salis Holdings that has ownership interests in 14 companies in a diverse spectrum of industries, including restaurants, consumer, digital and technology, food and beverage, hospitality and the real estate. So without further ado, welcome to the show, Steve.

Thanks for having me, Steve. Good afternoon to you.

It’s great to have you on the show. So let’s plunge in. And my first question is always the same, you know, what’s been your journey? How did you come here? How did you get here? What made you an entrepreneur?

I think every entrepreneur has a unique journey, I suppose, to how they ground themselves as to when and why they become one. I think for me, there was really a couple points that I would point to, but actually really more, probably more one. I grew up in New Hampshire and I was raised there and I ended up going to school on a scholarship to play basketball and stay in state and play at the University of New Hampshire.

And after my freshman year in college, I was playing in a summer league game with some very talented basketball players that were playing in Europe. And I’ll never forget after the game, we were standing on the sidelines and I asked them, I said, so how is it? How’s it going? What do you like about it? And they were just so energetic and so excited about playing in Europe. I believe one gentleman was playing in Ireland, the other one was playing in Czechoslovakia. And they were just kind of almost bragging to me about the experiences they were partaking in.

And one of them was they were talking about what they were making, and one was making 85,000 a year, and the other one I think was making 75,000 a year. And each had their own places by which they were put up for free. And they had a car that was given to them for free. And, you know, I remember thinking to myself, boy, that’s not really enticing to me. And, you know, it was kind of a really significant eye-opening event because, you know, I was good enough to play in Europe, I suspect. I was already talking to various teams in Europe, even though I was only coming into my sophomore year in college.

And it was kind of like a defying moment where I said, you know, I tell people, I was looking sort of at an impending cliff staring at me in the face. And, you know, not to poopoo people’s dreams and aspirations because everyone’s entitled to lead the life that they want to fulfill. But when I looked at it, I looked at two guys who were very talented at their craft, but really in a lot of cases were, you know, sort of exceeding their time by which, or buying their time, or prolonging their time for which eventually they were going to have to get into the real world.

And that scared me because I didn’t want to be that. I didn’t want to be behind that April. I wanted to be in front of it. And so I thought a lot about that conversation through my sophomore year in college and decided inevitably at the end of my sophomore year that I was gonna leave school and drop out. And before I did that, I really needed to gut check it because it was a pretty significant move. I was the first kid, I believe, in my entire family to go to school without having to pay for tuition.

You know, in a lot of cases, we’re leading a life that initially I wanted to lead, but then I kind of felt like it was really more the life that I was leading that my parents or my grandparents or others wanted me to lead. And so decided that, you know, that I needed to go in a different direction. And so all I asked for them was to respect me and love me and appreciate, you know, my decision and that, you know, I wanted to go and do something else.

And frankly, what that was, was, you know, kind of really going against the grain and leaving school, dropping out after my sophomore year and moving to New York City by where, you know, I really had to learn the ins and outs of life. And it was at the time probably, I dropped out 20, 21 years old. I was there for like a year. I started out working in odd jobs, fashion industry, catering. And then I got into the lounge and the bar and the club business, learned a lot about that business.

And it just kind of dawned on me when I was watching the way things were getting done and just how inefficient things were, at least from what I was seeing. And I thought to myself, I think I could do a good job at perhaps doing this, and I want to try things on my own. And so that led to me doing that, and ended up having a couple of nice successes by the time I was in my mid-20s. And then from there, had the super bug and have been an entrepreneur really since then.

And so, for me, I don’t tell people not to go to college because I do think college, definitely depending on what you’re seeking can be a wonderful opportunity for you, whether it’s learning more about yourself, you know, removing yourself from comfort zones because you’re no longer staying at your house, engaging in a lot of new experiences, and of course, maybe getting an education. But for me, two years was enough. And I got what I needed out of college and I was able to move forward and take whatever I learned and try to apply it. But, you know, really, there’s not a better way of being an entrepreneur than just sort of getting in and figuring it out.

So, Steve, tell me about the pizza business. So you got after that, you got into the pizza business and you built like a nine figure business. Tell us a little bit about that, like a short version of it. How did it happen?

Yeah, so, you know, around 2009, I had a bar, Mexican bar restaurant in the West Village of Manhattan. And being at that time, I was in New York for the better half of five or so years, you know, there’s really a pizza shop on every block. And the funny thing about pizza in New York is that there are so many different layers and levels of pizza and the quality of pizza. You know, we talk, a lot of people talk about how great the pizza is in New York.

And I grant you, you know, the upper upper echelon, not necessarily from a value prop, you know, value or cost side, but just there’s an array of various things on the upper echelon of, you know, whether it’s by the slice or sit down or fine dining, it has some of the best unequivocally in the world. But there’s a lot of not so good product. And I saw a business really that needed to get materially disrupted. It was highly bastardized. And I found that there’s probably would be a way for that to be disrupted.

And so what we tried to do is sort of bring the speed efficiency and convenience of buy the slice pizza, but we wanted no pre-made product. And we wanted to bring a semblance of quality and sophistication you get at a casual or fine dining product offering, which at that time you were seeing a massive foodie emergence taking place, finer dining chefs that were really taking pizza on the base of pizza and really sort of expanding the horizons of how to engage and consume pizza, beyond just sausage, peppers and onions and pepperoni and cheese.

And so, we wanted to bring those dynamics and sort of meld them together. And that’s how the pizza business started. And we wanted to build a brand that had great strength to it, where pizza in a lot of cases was the conduit to life, to community, to friends, to family. You know, my co-founder and I, you know, we grew up in small towns. And so the local pizza parlor or the pizza shop to us was a very profound place where, you know, as we were going through and building this brand, you know, we recognized that you could argue the pizza was good enough and maybe not so good enough, but it almost became ancillary to what pizza did, which is really to bring people together to share fond memories and to have extraordinary experiences.

And, you know, a lot of my fondest memories growing up really were around pizza, whether it was actually in the pizza shop or even at my home, you know. And so we wanted to try to sort of modernize that mom and pop pizza shop experience. And that coupled with the, you know, made to order personalization, customization of pizza and bringing that foodier, finer food sourcing dynamic to the table at a highly approachable value proposition is really the essence of pizza.

And so that idea was birthed in New York, but we quickly decided as tough as it was to make the decision, it was really the right decision, which is not to build in New York. And so, we traveled the country for a while and went to a bunch of emerging markets and ended up in Washington, DC. And never came here in my entire life, but took a train down from Penn Station to Union Station and rest is kind of history. Got here, toured the market for three hours, thought that this is the right place and both him and I moved, you know, late summer 2011, built our first store in 2012 and the rest was kind of history.

You know, we built our store, I thought in a very, it was funny because the first store really was an accumulation of kind of getting passed by, by the community here in Washington, DC, but not for the reasons that normally you would get passed by. I mean, we had money to build a store. We had enough experience to open a store, two areas that are always concerning, I think, you know, for a landlord when they’re thinking about worthiness or the quality of the tenant.

But really, the bigger issue for us was trying to convince landlords on using a proprietary oven technology that was not invented because people had a really hard time figuring out how do you cook, you know, gourmet pizza in 90 seconds and do it without a vent. And so that was a big hurdle for us. And we ended up opening our first store in an area that, you know, looking back on it was really, I think, so crucial to the essence of how Ann was birthed, which was we went into a highly transitional, highly gentrifying neighborhood. You had folks that had been living here for tens upon tens of years.

You have a new constituency of people moving into the neighborhood. It was very, again, transitioning and transitional. And this was an environment where everyone felt like they belonged. Didn’t matter what you did or didn’t do or how much money you did or didn’t have or whether you lived in the neighborhood for 45 years or you just moved in the neighborhood three months ago, it was an environment where everyone felt like they belong. And they all got to share great experiences through that conduit, which was pizza.

And that’s why we called it and pizza in the first place. You know, and then the rest is kind of history. We built that thing up. I ran the company as CEO till for about four, five years. I successfully sold my position in the business in 2019. And in 2015, set up my holding company, which you referenced earlier. And really over the last five to six years, have accumulated an array of companies, but really what’s sort of one singular mentality or North Star, which is to focus on, making the everyday exceptional and really thinking about how to sort of aggregate great brands that offer affordable, luxurious experiences through premium food, through premium service, through premium, again, experiences and offering them at highly approachable price points.

And so, I think that’s been sort of a hallmark for us. And so whether we’re in restaurants or retail or consumer or tech or wholesale or manufacturing or even real estate, it’s really just thinking about that. How do you create premium and luxurious experiences? But then how do you sort of, you know, bring the right sort of value proposition or, you know, the right value angle so that you’re placing the masses in. I believe that people should be able to treat themselves more frequently. And that’s why when we talk about making the everyday exceptional, we have to first do that internally and then try to do that externally.

Ok, well, I’m taking some notes here. I love this idea of bringing the exceptional experience to the masses. And how do you create a business out of that and build these brands. So right now you have 14 different brands, right, in Sellers Holdings. This is what I read on your LinkedIn page. Yeah, I think that’s right. I think that’s about right. 14 different and you are investing in these different businesses. Now, you mentioned in our previous conversation, you mentioned that the private equity business model is broken and you’re looking for something different. So, why is it broken and how different is your approach?

Well, I think it’s broken on a couple of levels. I think first and foremost, you know, it was broken prior to COVID where there was an incongruence between the great companies in this country, which all things that are great take time to harvest and mature and develop, they generally exceed the timeline by which capital needs to be deployed and needs to exit. And so I think you have an issue there.

I think secondarily is, you know, when you have a short timeline for capital deployment and for capital to be returned, it tends to at times put the operators, the founders, the entrepreneurs, the owners, the operators of the business at a precarious place by where sometimes they’re making decisions chasing the wrong things, which could materially put your business at risk, such as chasing rates of returns because you have to give money back fast because you took the money versus making the right decision for the long-term of the business.

Private equity in short, generally takes shorter views of the world. Extraordinary brands take the long views of the world. So that’s also an incongruence. And I think lastly is, and I’ll make this more specific to the restaurant industry, and I saw this firsthand in building pizza, is building any company today to support the modern consumer is not linear. It’s not linear, okay? So the days of like, let me give you money and let’s build 20 new restaurants and they’re all going to cost X dollars and you’re going to build them out in X time. And that sort of mentality is highly flawed because the reality is there aren’t perhaps 20 good locations.

Private equity generally takes shorter views of the world. Extraordinary brands take the long views of the world. Click To Tweet

And so you could be signing not so optimal opportunities or deals just to chase a unit count, but get a bad deal as a result. I think today the consumers now are smarter, experiences are more impactful, multi-channel for distribution, channel segmentation is more important than ever before. And so when you’re thinking about different channels to connect with your customer, how you get to them, how they get to you, and what you need to do to invest in that, to me, I think, is making the world less and less linear in front of our very eyes.

And so, you know, my my rule of thumb is the days of black and white, you know, being the ends of the book, the ends of the spectrum will will continue to be the bookends. But the ones that are able to operate in the different hues of gray, which effectively are all the shades between black and white and make them their own black and white, I think are the ones that are going to be the most successful coming into the this decade and going forward.

And so I tell you all this because I think it’s really to say I use the term that there’s an incongruence between how capital works and how companies need to be built and harvested and fostered and developed in order for them to be the best and brightest companies in the world. So, you know, for me, you know, what we’re looking to build is something where, you know, sort of we’re taking the axis of investing and operating and recognizing that our horizons are ones that are going to be perhaps indefinite or take a lot longer.

You’re seeing companies, a couple of companies do like teeny Capital is one. There’s another gentleman, his name is slipping my mind, but he, I think it’s called Perpetual Capital. He has a 26 year horizon for returns. And so I’m not necessarily suggesting that, you know, our companies are not going to get returns for 26 years.

But what I am suggesting is, again, in order for you to foster, develop, and build the best and brightest, I keep saying this, companies, you need to be able to balance the fragility of capital management, investment management, asset management, rates of return, prudent capital allocations, prudent investing with creating intrinsic value, creating value that touches your customers, building fanatical or tremendous excitement around that constituency that’s in love with you. And that is not always very linear in how you invest in those things.

Got it. So you really have a clear idea in your mind, a clear vision of how you want to mold your companies. You talk about extraordinary experiences, you talk about the non-linearities, you need some flexibility, you talk about bringing in extraordinary people, and I’m going to touch on that in a minute. So you seem to have a clear idea how to make this brand disruptive brand and what is the opportunity there? Do you have like an overarching management philosophy? I call these management blueprints. Do you use kind of a coherent framework that you are implementing in your businesses or it’s all homegrown, you know, things that you picked up and you’re intuitively putting them together?

I think there’s a couple of things, right? So I think, you know, starting at the top, when you think about the promise, which I alluded to earlier, and sort of the mission and the vision for the company, I mean, when we think about a blueprint, a couple of things come into mind. I think number one is, is that, you know, anyone we’re bringing into our company, we’re very thorough and very rigid about making sure that those we’re bringing into the organization, in a lot of cases, have these very similar beliefs in their own personal life.

Because if they don’t, then what happens is you create perhaps some friction with regards to these beliefs. So I’m all for friction, I’ll come to that in a minute, but the friction should be about how we get somewhere, not what that place is. And I think in order for us to be aligned on that, I think it has to start off by principally and on a values level, having a great sense of alignment doesn’t mean you and I are going to agree on everything. this idea of creating the exceptional every day, because that will allow internally for us to do that, which gives us the highest propensity externally to do that.

You can’t ask your people, if you give them suboptimal environments to work within, or you’re not giving them the right compensation packages or the right other perks to incentivize them to be exceptional. You want it to be in their DNA, and then these are just ways to further pull it out. But you can’t ask them to deliver exceptional to your customer if you’re not giving them exceptional too. So there’s this kind of give and take relationship. I think the other thing is, is that, you know, we want people to come into our business that really have a performance mentality at the forefront of what they do.

You can't ask your people to deliver exceptional to your customer if you're not giving them exceptional too. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, even though I sell you on all the reasons why, you know, private equity and why it does or doesn’t work and why we’re building long-term companies, you still gotta perform. And so I think people coming in with a level of accountability, people that take their work very seriously and that put performance at the forefront of what they do is very, very crucial. And I think that the last thing would be is that, and this is something that we talk about internally is, we’re in the game of inches. You know, you hear that term in like football, right?

It’s like, so in American football, you’re like, you know, the NFL is the game of inches. It’s the reason why a team wins versus why a team loses. It’s why you may score a touchdown versus, you know, kicking a field goal. It’s why, you know, you may have a fumble versus having, not having a fumble, right? And I think that that is very esprit de corps, if you will, to our holdings and the way we think about business. And so this isn’t to scare anybody, but this is to remind everybody that we are in the business of, or in the game of inches.

We’re in the game of inches in how we engage with our guests and making sure we hold up to that promise. We’re in the game of inches in how we perform and making sure we don’t lose line of sight of that. We’re in the game of inches when we talk about making mistakes or mental mistakes or error repeating mistakes. We don’t have time or patience for those things. And so, we really look at this thing from that first. And then of course, it’s aligning on that North Star, which is where we wanna be and why we wanna be there.

Because I gotta be frank, you can’t own a bunch of companies and grow them if I have a strong stranglehold on every single person in the organization, I really spend so much time upfront and I get very involved in this process. So when we’re bringing people in, you know, like it’s not like, you know, get bad a thousand percent at it, but we want to bat as high as possible to a thousand percent and then by doing that, it allows me when I bring them in, I have the confidence they’re gonna perform and you give them the rope to make the decisions they need and to be the best that they can be. Because the reality is I can’t do everything. It’s impossible.

And I don’t need to be the smartest guy at the table. And I also know where I want to play and how I want to play. And so we got to be clear about that North Star, like I said, and we can debate how we get there all the time because that’s good banter. But you don’t want to debate what the North Star is because I think that that creates undue friction and perhaps a misalignment that may sever or hurt or drive a relationship to no longer be a relationship at that point.

That makes sense. That makes sense. So basically you talk about this North Star. So it’s really important to have alignment on the end result and how you get there, you, you basically want everyone to be engaged in this discussion, you’d welcome friction there, how we figure it out what our strategy is going to be to get our to our goal is is up that I read on your website, or maybe it came up in a discussion actually before this thing, it struck my ear when you talked about the importance of an intelligence engine. So you say that for every business you own, you have to have an intelligence engine inside. So, what do you mean by this and how do you create that kind of intelligence engine?

Yeah, so, you know, we’re trying to take a much more scientific data-laden approach to how we obtain, access, and cut, and then lastly, use data to help us really first and foremost, build a deeper connection with our loyalist, and then focus on how we can get better in the key objectives that will make our business tick going forward.

And so we have and will continually invest in technology, data mining, data warehousing, various touch points, whether it be anything from physical environment, data texting, chatting, working with knock rooms with our operators to see what’s kind of going on, heat mapping values to see, understanding lifetime value of key loyalists to our business? How do we increase that? How do we target them more profoundly? You know, I think this idea of first party data I think has been really important for a long time.

I’m not suggesting it’s not, but I think it’s gonna become even more important because of really two reasons. Number one, third party data is gonna become more and more difficult as government further puts more and more clamps on how third party data is administered, which I actually think is a good thing. Your ability to get peripheral data is gonna become more challenged in light of, I think, more and more, you know, more and more stringency around, you know, protecting that data.

Which means that it’s gonna force more companies to have to invest in first-party, which I think is gonna almost create, to some extent, a, you know, a rub between, you know, great companies and not great companies because you’re gonna have to invest in this now. And so Steve, honestly, like if I wanted to get your information and you’re a loyalist of our business, I can tell you that our customers, our guests, our consumers, they will be willing to give us that information.

And as long as I’m targeting them and engaging with them in a profound manner and I’m learning about them because I wanna get to know more about them so that I can enhance their life or as I said earlier, make the everyday exceptional for them in the way that I can best do it. Then we’re going to have no issue continuing to get that information. So as we get that information, we look at a lot of various measures that I just alluded to some of them, but I’ll use, let’s just say use an archetype as an example.

If you dine in one of my restaurants three times a week, you go in three mornings every single week and you order breakfast and you always order a side of bacon, extra bacon and sausage, okay? And I see that over time, I can see that Steve is, Steve Prada is ordering from us, the lifetime value is X, their average check is Y, this is what they order. And I can see that time and time again, he’s getting the same thing, and he’s also ordering again, extra protein.

So the question then would be, right, is okay, does Steve know that we own other things? And so I could go to you and say, hey Steve, I see that you’re ordering a lot of bacon and sausage every morning at my breakfast joint. Are you aware that we own this barbecue business? And you might say, no, I had no idea. Great, why don’t you come to our barbecue business on us? We’re gonna take care of you. The cost of that acquisition is really just the cost of the meal, which is the wholesale cost and I guess the derivative dollars of creating it.

It’s not a very big lift. But then I have you go to this business and now you say, oh my God, I love this business. And I can effectively take you from spending three incidences in a week to let’s just say for simple math, six incidences in a week. And let’s assume for a moment that there are 21 meal periods in a week, three meal periods a day, seven days a week. I now just two times increased your frequency across my portfolio.

So now you’re, I don’t wanna say higher value to demean people who are not increasing their frequency, but you’re now coming into this new echelon. It’s like, okay, you’re spending 12% of the mill periods a week, three over 21, give or take 12. Now you’re spending 24, 25, 26, okay. Your PPA has gone up, your total dollars spent have gone up. You’re frequenting more with us. So now we’ll target you differently. You might say, okay, look, like how do we, now we’re seeing how they’re spending more money and they’re doing more things with us.

How do we deepen that relationship? How do we connect further? And so that would be an example of, you know, how we’re leveraging data and technology, both today and how we plan to going forward to really build that. Again, with one goal in mind, which is to make the everyday exceptional. If I can continue to give things that make your day better or more exceptional, then I feel like that that’s a part of what we’re trying to do.

One goal in mind: To make the everyday exceptional. Click To Tweet

I love that idea. And obviously a lot of companies are doing some variation of that, but you made it very tangible that 21 meal periods and if you can get some more, you know, get the customer out from three to six, you’re doubling the lifetime value of the customer. And you are now taking 25% of their meal valid, and then maybe they have relatives, they have friends. So there’s also this leverage effect, they become more of a loyalist. That’s fascinating. And another thing I want to ask you about is this idea of the maturation process of the business and how important it is to understand that. Can you elaborate on that?

Yeah, so we talked about this offline. So we talked about a couple of things, rock stars and superstars, you know, which are really, you know, superstars are your generalist, rock stars are your specialist, you know, that level of organizational planning really sort of is driven by various need states of the company, right? And so that can vary on a lot of levels. Going back to your, and I guess I would say that’s part of answering your question, which sort of is, you know, the maturation.

So, you know, companies are like, you know, humans in a lot of ways, right? I mean, like, you know, they start out as babies and then they grow up and then, you know, they start riding a bike on training wheels and then they’re riding a real bicycle and then they go to preschool and kindergarten and so on. And then they eventually are in college and then they grow up and then they go to work and then they have kids, right? And so when you think about the maturation process of humanity, I think companies have a very similar maturation process too.

And I think, you know, depending on that maturation process companies can grow a lot faster than humans can because depending on the kind of company you have you’re a lightning in the bottle, as an example, it can move really quickly. You get this, you know, really significant hockey stick growth. So, you know, one of the things I’ve learned, my short business career so far, just based on the various companies I’ve been a part of currently and previously is, looking at the maturation process of companies and then recognizing what you need at those times to be successful.

A great example of that would be, there are just some people who just are so resourceful, so scrappy, so entrepreneurial, they can wear 10 hats, have no issue with it, from a business that’s just a piece of paper that might get to, I don’t know, $10 million in revenue. And please don’t hold, revenue is not the only barometer per se for what the example I’m gonna make is, but just more illustrative in nature, right? And then, yeah, you get the $10 million.

Let’s assume you have proof of concept and now, because you’re generating $10 million in sales, you’d like to think that your business has gone from like super scrappy, super tenacious. And in many cases, you’re not losing that because that’s really, in a lot of cases, part of your DNA. But then you have to start to professionalize your business because you need different things in order to take your business from 10 million to 25 million, right?

And so sometimes, and really a lot of times, the person that helped you build it from a piece of paper to 10 million, unfortunately may be left back because they don’t bring some of the skill sets that you need to go from 10 million to 25 million, or then 25 million to 50 million, 50 million to 100 million. And so depending on the trajectory of the business, you’re always having to do some very deep evaluations, both when it comes to investing in human capital and systems and other various disciplines to balance the fragility of not losing the essence of your business while professionalizing the business.

Balancing the fragility of not losing the essence of your business while professionalizing it is a challenging but necessary objective. Click To Tweet

And I think those are really hard objectives because it’s personal from the standpoint of, you grow such a fondness of the people that have helped you along the way, get to a certain place. And in some cases, if you’re a serial entrepreneur, you might just be able to take someone once you get to 10 million and put him in another company that you’re starting. But for most people, you have to let them go. And that’s hard because there’s a humane element to this, because a lot of these companies are highly human, capitally intensive.

And so, you know, growth and need, depending on company and depending on how fast that growth has taken place can be, well, it’s something that a CEO or a founder led company that are still very much involved are having to make these decisions. Sometimes it warps speed depending on how quickly the business is growing. So at some point, you know, you want to get to a place, as I mentioned a moment ago, where you have rock stars and superstars. You need both. Generally, your C team or your C cabinet or your SWAT team, as we call it, you know, they’re generally more generalist because they need to be. Because in your C role, you do have your hands in a few jars.

And really, you’ve got to know enough about those jars. You probably have a super strong competency, and then you have a fairly strong competency in the other areas so that you can manage and lead appropriately. And then you have really great specialists, and these are people that are just can go really deep. You know, I kind of, generalists are more horizontal and specialists are more vertical, and they’re just subject matter experts. You know, they know their stuff, and you have to have them too. And so there’s just a lot to unpack there. I know. And I was trying to give you an example, hopefully a good one.

But and there are a lot of other examples, of course, as well. But this is this is something that you see happen very quickly with a lot of companies. And frankly, we’re a lot of I think where I look back and probably where I stumbled a fair bit and by no means am I perfect at it That was one area where we had a lightning in the bottle and probably the naivety, because you’ve never done it before, of figuring out what you really need and why you really need it, is something where now I’m a little bit more, or a fair bit more intelligent about those things based on the various things we have today.

I love that. I like two things about this approach. So, one is I like the positivity of how you distinguish between the tech, the specialists and the journalists. And, and yes, we, you know, everyone has the experience of promoting the star, rockstar salesperson who actually didn’t become a superstar sales manager because it’s not in their DNA. They, they really like to work on their own and they are great producers. So don’t do that. And you need both. So you need the rockstar and the superstar, I love that. I also love the positivity of, you know, the specialist is equally important, the rockstar, you want the rockstar in your business. You want to keep them, even if you cannot promote them, you want to give them the opportunity to grow.

That’s right. Yeah, not everyone’s meant to grow, Steve, you know, like, and also I’ll say maybe differently, like growing is like, there’s a lot of ways to grow. You know, like, I mean, you can grow in title bumps, you can grow in scope within current role, you can grow in a lot of ways. So, you know, in other words, all growth is not equal. Yeah, all growth is not equal. So I think it’s just, you know, trying to, you look, you want to put people on a path, you know, especially in like a lot of our companies where we have growth companies.

And so, you know, there are definitely people who are very excited about this idea that they are, you know, a part of this growth. And, you know, I didn’t mention this earlier and I meant to is, I’ll tell you another thing that’s really important in companies, I think in today’s environment is people feeling like assuming that you’re aligned principally and on a value system to how the company sort of thinks, really contributing, you know, it’s like an intangible benefit, which is contributing like, or interweaving your DNA into an organization.

You know, it’s funny because, you know, I talked even earlier and I just, it slipped my mind, but just on this topic, I mean, yeah, the compensation, the bennies, that stuff does matter. I mean, in many cases, let’s be honest, you gotta be able to live and you wanna have good perks and stuff. But what I found is that, you know, a lot of people we hire, especially in my generation, the millennial generation or the Gen Z generation, they’re just so much more about creating impact and feeling like they’re not just another number, you know, on a pay roster.

We try our darndest to make sure no one feels that way. And we really feel like, you know, if people can interweave their fabric into the company, there’s this, I guess that benefit, even though it’s intangible, might be in some cases the greatest benefit you can offer somebody in this climate. And so, you know, I think that was just another point I wanted to bring up just on this topic of people and growth and stuff like that. You know, there’s a lot there for sure, but I wanted to put that out there.

Well, I appreciate it. And unfortunately, our format 45 minutes is not enough to cover everything, but I definitely agree that it’s super important that we give the opportunity to people to be part of a great story, to be really excited about your purpose and be part of that. And that’s very energizing and very attractive for people to make this impact. I also love this idea of this Rockstar Superstars from at many levels.

So one of the things that struck me when you were explaining that, you know, the people who got you to the 10 million do not get to the 25 to the 50 in some cases. And, you know, I see some companies who are stuck at the level of the 10 million or 20 million because they are just not willing to let go of people that they are emotionally connected to. Yeah. They are not willing to to make some moves on the chessboard because sometimes maybe that person is no longer a superstar. They’re not a leader, but they would be a great rock star.

And if you just saw them on the idea that, hey, you don’t have to be a leadership team, but they really need you here in this specialty to deepen us and to get us the expertise and deliver it. And you just move some chess pieces around. If everyone is aligned on a greater mission and they all love your culture, then they’re gonna play along. They’re gonna be okay with being in a different role as long as they can contribute and they are appreciated for whatever they bring to the business.

We all struggle with this as leaders. I mean, again, there’s a humane side of this, right? And that part is tough. I also think siphoning, Steve, between when you got to play checkers and when you have to play chess, because you’re not always playing chess. And frankly, you got to play checkers to play chess. Chess is the graduation of being able to be a good checker player. And being a checker player means getting your house in order, keeping your priorities in line, making sure you’re not getting ahead of your skis. And I think a lot of companies are playing checker still today, just to kind of try to get themselves in order so that they can play chess.

Or you’re balancing, I guess, maybe I could say it differently is, you’re paying checkers at times and chess at times, right? Because you’re playing defense and offense, you’re trying to sort of balance the fragility of a lot of the macro and secular trends that are taking place that are, you know, beyond our control. But they do affect us. And, you know, how do we manage through that stuff? And so, you know, I think that’s another part of all this. I know we won’t have time to go over today, perhaps subsequent conversation. But,

So, lots of great ideas here. I’m really struggling what’s going to be the title of this show because this is a great title this is a great title and I’ve got like 15 of these. So I just have to figure out which one is going to be the most impactful, the most representative of the other ideas that you have. Definitely lots of great concepts to work with. So if people would like to learn more about what you do and connect with you or visit your restaurants, what do they do? How do they find you? Where do they find you?

Yeah, so you can go to salisholdings.com. I didn’t mention, but we are introducing a new consumer platform called catalog.co, which we’re very excited about. So a lot of the various operating companies will live under that platform. Something we’ll be introducing in the fall. And you can check me out on LinkedIn. I’m not very big on social. It’s kind of one of those things for me. I’m kind of like a, not an anti-social. I can see why it benefits. The companies do it, but I just try to stay focused on doing a good job and I don’t try to get caught up. And I don’t know if people really care about what I’m doing all the time. Maybe they would, I don’t know. But like for me, I like to kind of separate my life a little bit from the business side versus the personal side. But you can check me out, LinkedIn, probably the best place to check me out.

What I understand is that introverts don’t do as well on social media as extroverts, because you actually have to be social on social media. And I struggle with that.

You have to be social. That’s an operative point. Yes, that’s correct.

Because that’s what it’s all about. So that, you know, I struggle with that too sometimes. So Steve Salis, the founder and CEO of Salis Holdings. So if you’re in Washington, DC, check out Steve’s restaurants. You can find them on, say again, the website, which has your portfolio of companies that’s coming online in September?

Yeah, so Salis Holdings, it’s S-A-L-I-S holdings.com. And then the new platform will be introduced in the fall. It’s called Catalogue.


But with a U-E, because we wanted to bring a little bit more of a exceptional quality to Catalog and give it a little zest. Catalogue.co. C-A-T-A-L-O-G-U-E.co.

Okay, so definitely check out catalogue that car check out Steve on LinkedIn as well and if you enjoyed the show then please rate and review us on YouTube or on Apple podcast and You know come back next week. We’ll have another exciting entrepreneur coming to visit us Steve.

Not that you’ll bring me back next week Finish our conversation.

Yeah, right. Yeah, no, definitely. I’ll bring you back sometime because we have a lot left to cover. So thank you, Steve, for coming on. I really enjoyed it. Have a great day and listeners. Stay tuned next week.


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