Entrepreneurship is such an enticing word that it can be so easy to get blinded by the name we fail to anticipate the inevitable challenges that come with it. If you plan to become an entrepreneur, this episode will get you covered on the highs and lows of this path that most people don’t realize. Thane Marcus Ringler sits down with Tyler Wilson, a speaker, mentor, and founder of Wurstküche, to discuss Tyler’s journey on helping people fall in love through his business. He talks about his experiences starting a restaurant and sausage business that pioneers a new market niche in LA, all the while overcoming adversities in his life and battling dyslexia. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, he also shares the lessons he has learned, dealing with operational efficiencies and turnover, the challenges with generational differences, balancing family and work life, and more. Plus, Tyler also tells us his insights into finding creative solutions to education and improving the education system and then lays down some of his cornerstone habits and self-talk that can also help you face the challenges head-on.
Listen to the podcast here:
Tyler Wilson: Helping People Fall In Love: How An Entrepreneur Overcame Adversity, Dyslexia, and More To Pioneer A New Market Niche in LA (Repost)
It’s an awesome interview with a good friend of mine and a guy that you’re going to learn a lot from. It’s an interview with Tyler Wilson. Tyler Joel Wilson grew up in Santa Barbara, California as the oldest of four siblings. At a young age, Tyler was diagnosed with dyslexia, leading his family to travel around California and Hawaii to best support his development. Being born into an entrepreneurial family, Tyler began his first business at the age of five selling his grandpa’s oranges on the street corner making up to $100 a day.
As a high schooler at age fifteen, Tyler began his first real business, Turtles Frozen Drinks, renting out margarita blenders for private parties throughout the Santa Barbara area. Through his athletic accomplishments in both water polo and swimming, Tyler was accepted to the University of Southern California. After finding a way to enroll in USC Business School, Tyler left USC four years later with no degree but having a business education that would allow him to push forward with his professional goals.
In 2008, at 22 years old, Tyler cofounded and opened Wurstküche in Downtown Los Angeles with his cousin, Joseph Pitruzzelli, selling exotic gourmet sausages paired with Belgium and German beers. Wurstküche quickly established itself as one of the top restaurant destinations in the city. Tyler and Joseph opened a second location in Venice back in 2011. Tyler regularly speaks on entrepreneurship across the country, including on the USC campus to both undergrad and graduate students.
He also mentors high school students who are interested in business. Tyler resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and their four children. He has a full life and it’s been impressive to see what he’s been able to do with his partner in many years. It’s an amazing place. I’ve gotten to enjoy their food and their space. They call it fun casual. He pioneered a market niche. This interview is a gem. We talk a ton about entrepreneurship.
If you’re business-minded or into entrepreneurial things, this is something you definitely want to read. We talk a lot about the journey, the highs and the lows and the things that most people don’t realize about trying to do anything as challenging as starting a restaurant. We talk a lot about family, finding a balance and having four kids by the age of 30. We talk about generations and differences in hiring. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Tyler Wilson.
Tyler Wilson, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Thane. I’m excited to be here.
We are both excited to be here. What was it like having a pool party in a dumpster in the middle of Downtown LA?
This was a fun afternoon. I decided with a couple of people to open a coffee shop knowing nothing about coffee. I had some extra time on my hands or didn’t but made some. With a great group of people, we opened the coffee shop. The first week, we decided we needed to do something fun. We had always heard about these dumpster pools that people would build in New York. We’re like, “That would be fun.” We’re in a desert in the middle of a drought. We might as well go rent a dumpster and we filled it up. We lined it with plastic, filled it up with water and spent the whole afternoon swimming in a dumpster with blow-up pool toys.
Did you get any random strangers to hop in?
It was a 100-degree day in Downtown. I was in there, throwing kids around, playing. Random people would walk by with their clothes on and be like, “This is cool,” and they hopped in, fully clothed.
Where was it? Was it right in front of the coffee shop?
It was on the Third Street in Downtown LA.
Some other fun facts from some research I did. I’ve found out that you’re quite the expert in the right way to cut things. First off is rose bushes and there’s a right and a wrong way. Fill us in a little bit on what it takes to cut a rose bush well.
I’m still mastering this technique or would like to get better and make more time. A rose bush cut incorrectly ultimately dies or becomes a little rose. It gives you little flowers or a snarly mess. Most people end up with a snarly unhealthy rose bush. When you have roses, you might as well make them look beautiful. I have been paranoid about my roses. They don’t look good yet, but the idea of cutting them and creating this nice three-prong growth so there’s plenty of space and new growth, getting out the old flowers at the right length, cutting right above where there should be new growth and coaching the rosebush.
What are the most common mistakes that people make?
What a lot of rushed people or rushed gardeners might do is cut it more a hedge or a bush and give it a haircut, whereas you need to be more strategic, get in there, and think about each bush. You got to be careful because they’ve got big old thorns. You might have to reach your hand in. If you do that, you get big, beautiful flowers all year round especially in California.
The other ones that I’ve heard are avocados and mangoes. Fill me in.
I’m wondering who you learned this one from. If you give most people an avocado, you get back guacamole even if the goal is not guacamole. This idea of having a knife and using it correctly to get perfect pieces of a beautiful fruit so you can put it on a burger, on top of eggs or not use a spoon. It’s a sharp knife, peeling it correctly and having gentle hands but strong enough to get the skin off and making perfect slices. It tastes better, it looks better, and it’s not all crushed on your plate like, “What is this mess?”
I’ve been teaching all my kids and roommates how to correctly cut avocados. I learned from my dad who eats four avocados a day. I remember watching him when I was little and he’d be cutting eight grapefruits and four mangoes every night for us. If you’ve ever cut a grapefruit, it takes forever to get each little section out perfectly. You’d watch a mango and I used to be like, “How do you do that?” I’d try and do it and then hack it. At this point, I’ve got good at peeling a mango and getting perfect slices quickly.
I’ve been getting into avocados and I’m starting to work on my cuts there a little bit, which has been nice but it is like a dance. I definitely agree with that. We’re off to a good start here. One of the things I like to ask people is what their superpower is. There were some themes but the one that I could see is Aquaman. How do you feel about them stealing your thunder by coming out of that movie? You may be the original Aquaman.
I heard this movie is good. Growing up, I was in the water six hours a day. I was a decent water polo player and a swimmer at one point in my life. The water is fun. It naturally became my sport in all aspects. I’m excited that there’s a movie about it but I have no reference to it or whatsoever. I have no clue what it’s about.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
It’s a superhero underwater. One of the mutual friends said, “Get him out of the water and it gets a little unorthodox but in the water, he’s not human.” Enough one-offs. I want to zone in here a little bit. Let’s start with why sausages? What do you love about sausages?
If you look at sausages in the world, it’s one of those things that most cultures have. In addition to that, everybody eats them. There have been a number of vegetarians that has changed in the last few years but most people eat sausages, even at this point, vegetarian sausages. In general, sausages are associated with some of our best holidays, particularly in America. You think about the 4th of July, Super Bowl or Veteran’s Day, we’re celebrating together and sausages or hotdogs are a huge part of it. It’s American and influenced by our heritage. When you looked at the sausage restaurants out there, they’re always busy and bustling. Rich people are eating them with poor. They’re enjoying them together and it’s attainable, and full of flavor. It’s a fun thing to think about.
The context is you own a restaurant that has featured sausages from day one and continues to do that. I’ve read a lot of the background. It wasn’t necessarily the original idea to have it be a sausage specific place. In light of that, did you already love them at the start? Have you fallen more in love with them through the years?
Without question, I’ve fallen more in love with them because I’ve had so much opportunity to work with them, make them, and learn about them. I remember growing up, we had this market called the Summerland Market which was owned by a Swiss guy. He would make sausages. He had been making sausages forever. He ended up working in this little Summerland Market until he died. He’s the grocer, and his wife was at the register. The shelves and cans are dusty but they had amazing sausages, and everybody in town knew how good their sausages were. I remember when we had those sausages for dinner, I always loved it. It was an easy dinner. We’ll pick up sausages, we’ll barbecue them, and have them at home. I was like, “That was delicious. This is cool.” Joseph’s partner had similar experiences as well on sausages. We both had a mutual love for sausages growing up.
Fill us in on how you say the name because I still am horrible at that. Where it comes from and then how you would describe the business. What do you describe it as to people?
I’m bad at the name as well. The challenge with the name is different regions of Germany don’t even say it similar and I don’t have any clout to argue with anybody. Wurstküche, Wurst is a sausage and kuche is kitchen. The translation is a sausage kitchen and how you say it is less important. We’re purveyors of exotic grilled sausages and a German beer hall. We serve amazing sausages and experience that you will hopefully not forget.
That is a specific and succinct way to describe the experience that we do have. I’ve been there multiple times and it’s a great place. If you had to give a 50,000-foot view of those years, how would you give the rundown of it? What was the experience like and how did that journey go from that high picture perspective over those years?
Looking back at those years, it was a roller coaster. I’m sure many other builders out there can recognize at a certain point that life is a roller coaster of emotions. From the lowest of lows and times that I wished never happened, I hope it never happened again to the most amazing times in my life. When I remember I don’t regret any of it, I have made decisions and choices that I wish I didn’t but I don’t regret any of it. There were miserable times, lots of fun times and hard. I also grew a family at the same time. When you look back, a lot happened but it went by in a flash. I’m like, “Where am I? How did I get here? What’s next?”
I’d love to touch on a little bit of both. I’d love to hear 1 or 2 of the highest highs and the lowest lows that stand out in that journey. To give people a little bit more of a snapshot, I’ll be reading this in the bio beforehand and you’ve already heard it. You’ve got four kids and a wife. You’ve been running this restaurant since 2008 which means 22 was when you started. There is so much to respect about the life you’ve lived. We’re going to dive into those in a little bit but I want to start with this journey of the restaurant.
Anyone in the entrepreneurial space knows how incredibly challenging it is to open and operate a restaurant, be successful at that, and have that last longer than 5 or 3 years even. Let alone have a family alongside that but there’s inevitably like this. You’re saying, “I don’t want to go on a kitty roller coaster. I want to go on six flags. Give me the biggest roller coaster there is.” Walk us through some of those lows or the highs. Let’s start with the highlights.
Some of the highlights of the business is getting it open. I remember that first day we opened. We had worked hard and it was a construction. I thought that was challenging. It’s building, there’s no stress, no customers. There are headaches of things but you solve the problems. The first day we opened, it’s the excitement of selling. We sold 100 sausages or something which was our aggressive goal in our financial model to sell an average of 100 sausages a day. We opened about 30 minutes late and the excitement of opening. You’re exhausted and adrenaline. That first week was special. I’ll never forget some of those days and the people that came in.
You talked to Stan, he was there. He brought in 30 people that first night. He bought a huge beer. People that continued and still continue to support and help. I have a great partner. We’ve had an amazing relationship over the years and we work well together. I’m assuming it’s mutual, but the two of us have had a lot of fun. We’ve got to travel the world. We get to solve and work through some interesting problems. We’ve built a good structure and system that I’m proud of. We’ve come up with ways to lead people in non-traditional ways that are heavily influenced by the things we read, things that we do, and people we meet. We have tremendous respect and that’s a lot of fun. We’ll get after it, work through problems and help each other stay focused. We’ve both gone through a lot over the years, and have been able to support each other to get through that stuff but we’re different.
It seems like you guys are complementary, which is a perfect thing for a partner. You don’t want the same person. This is something that I also came across a lot in research, and a lot of people made the comment that you have an incredible knack for operational efficiencies. That didn’t happen by chance. It’s happened by a lot of work, trial and error, experience and learning. In light of that, how have you developed that sense of operational efficiencies? What is the importance of operational efficiencies in light of any business as you see it now?
This is a great conversation. We talk about this one because an entrepreneur is not by nature a good operator. We have a tendency to jump, switch, and grab on to shiny objects. That is a huge threat to any business because you’ll get distracted and you’ll jump in different directions. The more you do, the more opportunities you get. You and I have talked about things that I’m fired up to do. I could do but I got to quit something or everything realistically.
That’s not a good builder. It’s hard. I still a struggle to stay focused. It’s one of our key tenets within the company is focused. That’s one of the reasons we closed our coffee shop and we’ve stopped doing any other operating endeavors. That’s tough as an entrepreneur. You want to do stuff and new stuff, doing the same thing. I love sausages and beer, but you can only get creative when you’re looking at a model in and out and trying to see why are they successful? Will they execute well? Those are operators.
When it comes to operations, I’ve had to force to learn and great books like The E-Myth have encouraged that growth to get focused, get linear, process-driven, and teach people to enjoy that process. It’s hard for the newest workforce that’s out there to stay focused on simple. We want your task to be as simple as possible because we can get good and effective at it. When something goes wrong, we can quickly get it back to normal, which when you look at a restaurant or any business, the customer’s expectation is it’s the same every time.
The number one reason people don’t come back to restaurants is not that it went bad, it’s because it changed. If you look at a farm-to-table restaurant, which I love, don’t get me wrong, these restaurants are virtually impossible to make money and exceptionally hard to run. It’s one of the reasons they don’t last long. You go once, you love it. You go twice, you love it. You go a third time, you ordered something you didn’t like, you had a server that was either grumpy that day or not good, and you don’t go back.
You never even think about not going back. It’s not like you’re going to write a review. It’s just that there’s another farm to table restaurant. We’ve set out to do something a little different in the sense that we want to execute the exact same way. The only way to do that is to have systems, operations, consistency, document, the heck out of it. We spend a lot of money and time on training. We had a manager quit that we had been training for two and a half months.
The only real takeaway we had is we finished training and they decided like, “It’s not creative enough.” I was like, “You’re a manager. Managers aren’t supposed to be creative. You can be creative within the box but we aren’t trying to get you to reinvent the wheel. Our goal and our customers want consistency and we’ve been doing it for years. Why did you take this job?” Have some respect for us and yourself. If you’re looking for creativity, we want operators and people that are going to execute consistency and that’s hard. Simple is hard.
You’re preaching my language. That’s the whole premise of my book. It’s true. The E-Myth Revisited is a great book. Everyone needs to read that especially if you’re entrepreneurially-minded. I read that. It’s a phenomenal breakdown. I know that played a big impact on you guys too. It’s funny when you mentioned consistency. Have you read Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion? It’s by Robert Cialdini. I’ve read it a couple of years ago and it stuck with me because it’s powerful. In there, one of the key takeaways is we are driven and wired by consistency naturally as human beings. We will do the most irrational things to be consistent with what we say or what we believe about ourselves.
There’s a Chinese prisoner of war camps. That was one of the examples he uses. When they had American soldiers there, they mentally tortured them by having them write out and recorded on video saying pro-Communist things. When these soldiers left, they truly believe they were pro-Communists because they wanted to be consistent with what they had outwardly shown and said. There’s a lot of play on there of the power of consistency. It’s not even a conscious decision. It’s a subconscious decision of like, “I won’t go back there because they weren’t consistent.” It’s interesting hearing that especially on the restaurant side but it’s powerful and it’s hard to do.
I have a story. I was talking to a customer and she was a regular. They were a group of twelve vegans. Their vegetarians. The whole company is vegetarian. They drove 40 minutes to have vegetarian sausages. We had to make a decision to change out one of our vegetarian sausages to a different vegetarian sausage. It was our slowest moving sausage. The one we changed out became one of our top moving sausages and it’s vegetarian. She called me out and say, “It’s a real bummer that you got rid of the vegetarian apple sage.”
I was like, “You told me how much you loved the other vegetarian sausage and that’s what you get.” This decision that I literally thought nobody would care about. I had somebody that little change. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience for them, thankfully, but I’m guessing there is somebody that was a core customer that loved that sausage and is now no longer coming. It’s no big deal when I’m making that decision but I’m sure it had an impact.
There are always trade-offs. For others to embrace it, you have to first embrace it. That’s something hard for someone who’s an entrepreneur and creating new things. You don’t just naturally fall in love with systems and processes.
I hate them.
How have you grown to love them, try to love or embrace them running your own business?
I want to compare it to drinking water. We have to drink water, otherwise we die. You don’t always think about it. At the end of the day, you’re grumpy and you realize, “I didn’t drink any water that I went grumpy.” The operational success of executing correctly with a process, a few things happen. When you have consistent processes, everybody knows what they’re supposed to do. When something is not going correct, you look at the process, not the people. As soon as you get a bad person or a lazy person which by nature, people eventually become lazy or don’t follow the process, lose will or whatever X factor, they stopped doing things correctly.
The whole thing falls apart. Whereas if you have a process and everybody knows it, you can get efficient at that and you can also change it consistently. If every day you’re doing something different, you can never get better. If you do the same thing every day for every task or whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, when it’s time to make changes or you see flaws, you’re able to go in and look at the process or where’s the inefficiency. It’s like a little factory. Make a change there, re-document it, and then consistently roll it out. When you start looking at an organization with 100 people and you need to do something that affects 50 of them, you don’t just make it in a board room and say it happens.
That might take 2 or 3 weeks to get implemented. It might circle back to the old system because of some reasons. When you get those processes, you start seeing the success, efficiency and how well people operate within them, then get it. People that don’t like that process or systems are quickly fired or quit. The system flushes out people that don’t belong and if they don’t get it. If you start seeing how effective a process is as frustrating as it can be initially, once you buy in and you see the success, it’s a game-changer.
There’s a great book also, Culture Making by Andy Crouch. That is more on what God’s role is in creating us and how we’ve been wired. His point is that we’re creators and cultivators of culture. He’s also making the point that we have to have a structure to create within. You can’t just create out of nothing. He’s given us a structure and the same is true. We can flourish so much within a structure that we get to operate within. It’s not confining, it’s allowing us to do our best in a lot of ways. You have to embrace it because if you don’t, then it’s not going to work for you or the company as you’ve communicated already. Looking at the process and not the people, that’s a great way to phrase it.
You need good people though.
Speaking of that, what is that turnover like for employees and then how have you seen the workforce change in those years?
We are in the people business. A guy named Dave Peterson who owns McDonald’s up in Santa Barbara taught me that in my first year even before we opened. Essentially, we are nothing without great people because food is everywhere. The interaction that your guests have with your staff ultimately creates your customers coming back. I can’t touch everybody. There was a point where I did, but I don’t touch any customers anymore, unfortunately. People that feel cared about will care about others. We create a process that people who want to care for others have the infrastructure to do that. That gets complex fast or philosophical. How do you do that? It’s easy to say it’s hard to do. We’ve spent time looking at what is the first interaction with the company to your last interaction.
We had a conversation about this. Our HR manager’s job is the first time you have an interaction with the business to the last check you received from the business. What does that life cycle and what is your opinion of that life cycle after you get that last check, regardless if you were terminated, quit, resigned or whatever? If we can execute that, that’s a good thing. We’re not perfect but that’s the goal. Digging into that to what is your orientation? What is your training? How organized are we during that process?
Do you have a checklist? Do you know where you are? Do you know where you need to get? Do you know what has to happen before you get promoted? We only hire two positions at the company, a fry cook and a food runner, but we have twenty different roles. They all are promoted from those two positions. Anybody that comes in with ten years’ worth of experience either understands the value of that or thinks we’re crazy and will never work for us. That immediately sets our culture. Everybody knows every position. Most of our managers are promoted from within. We do occasionally hire managers externally but our success rate is nowhere near as high as internal promotions. We need to have that.
Is that something that you came to and experience? Did you guys set out with that mindset of internal promotion?
It evolved fast. Once you do it enough times and you have a few people vouching for management positions, you hire somebody from external, and then you realize they’re not good. It’s a little bit like the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t. When you hire somebody, you know nothing about them. When you’ve worked with somebody for a year, you know too much about them. It’s almost recognizing the too much that you know and be like, “I know all these good things about them.” Let’s play into that. Your mind messes with you. The grass is greener elsewhere where it’s not.
Before I move past the people, this is something that’s true, people naturally will get lazy. That’s how we all will default to if there’s no intention and effort made to oppose that. As owner and boss, how do you help people not get lazy within their roles? How do you go about that strategy?
It comes down to the few things that motivate people and that’s beyond their task. We have simple tasks. Accepting an order, putting the order in, cooking the order, dropping the order off which when you boil it down to that, it’s a mundane process. If you were to elevate that process and the influence you have on society and the culture during that experience, you can change the course of somebody’s life. If you start looking at those interactions as, “I’m going to change this person’s life,” or, “I have the ability done well to make an impact on this person,” you teach how to do that, the ways to do that and educating somebody about the world’s oldest brewery or beers that are made by monks that are supporting orphanages in Africa, or you’re able to start talking about this stuff that nobody knows, all of a sudden, you are a cultural center through the sausage.
Our purpose is to help people fall in love. You say that and you’re like, “Sausages help people fall in love.” The number of people that have met in the restaurants at our communal tables over crayon drawings and Duchesse de Bourgogne sour ale are infamous. We get messages and letters constantly from people like, “We met six years ago at your restaurant and we wanted to thank you. We come back every year on our anniversary.” There are at least a dozen of those out there. The missed encounters that happen on Craigslist and things like this.
There’s a community epicenter that happens around our restaurants which are created by our staff and how they greet. When you walk in the door, it’s our goal that you’re greeted warmly immediately. We have a timeframe. We have a line that might be an hour, but the second you walk in the door, we’re excited to see you, and tell you about our beer and duck bacon sausage. That’s the median we’re selling you but what we’re wanting you to buy is this feeling. Hopefully, you fall in love with our honey mustard or the person that you’re with.
To do a little sidetrack here, apparently, you have not fallen in love with sweet peppers and blue cheese. According to insider information, there are things on the menu items that you haven’t even tried out.
The only thing on our menu that I have not eaten, which is one of our most popular items, is our blue cheese bacon and walnut dressing or dip for fries. I’m not a blue cheese fan. I can’t do it. I’ve had it once, I thought it was terrible. I cannot stand that blue cheese profile and I love bacon.
Let’s circle back to this generation of workers. What have you seen in those years with people that you’re potentially hiring or this generation, or how the workforce has changed?
For the most part, I’m employing peer-age groups. Originally, I was 22 and I was the only manager besides my partner, and I was employing people anywhere from 25 to 50 or older. Joseph who’s a partner was only 25 or 26. We had never owned a restaurant. The credibility was a little low. At the same time, it was also 2008 through 2012. Every single person that applied had a four-year degree from one of the top institutions in the country. These were smart, hardworking individuals in a job market that didn’t exist. They were also applying with people that were 30 to 50 that didn’t have a job that was going into restaurants again, and had fallen on more difficult times. Their first choice was not to work in a restaurant. In addition to the more traditional workforce that LA has for service staff which were actors and creatives.
I remember at one point, every single person on our service staff had a four-year degree. The number of people that we could promote into management was amazing because they had business degrees from USC, UCLA, Berkeley and Stanford. It was amazing. That changed. We now have a creative workforce. I would say about everybody in our workforce is creative. It’s amazing talents that our staff has. There’s this undertone workforce mentality that I see which is a societal thing.
There are a lot fewer people that have the will to work hard. Our staff and what we’re looking for are people that break that mold. We’ve done an excellent job of finding great people that break that mold but we’re going through many interviews of people that aren’t willing to do certain tasks. That’s been a change in this idea that, “We are all equal but I’m not going to do that or that’s not my job.” We don’t have room for that mentality.
At the end of the day, it’s an entitlement to say, “I am above X, Y or Z.” That’s why I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this. I love the worldview that the Bible provides that God gives us. It’s that every human being is equal for two reasons. One, we’re created in the image of God, so you all have worth and value that no one can take away. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you look like, what you do, you have worth and value that no human can ever take away from you. Two, we’re all sinners that we all fall short and no one is better than the rest of us. In that worldview that God has given in the Bible, that’s how I operate.
I can see everyone and myself rightly. That helps us overcome the natural entitlement that we’ll always feel. Another great quote that I’ve been saying a lot is, “I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple.” We need those reminders because a lot of us in America have been given a silver platter of prosperity. We live in this incredibly prosperous age and country like never before. We didn’t choose that. It was given to us. Good or bad, it’s hard to say. There are good and bad things about that. It comes down to taking that individual ownership of what we have been giving and steward it well. What do you see as some of those other factors that have reduced or led to a loss of the will to work hard?
I was having a conversation with a customer. He’s a volleyball coach and we were talking about this old idea of a helicopter parent that has been protecting their kids from above, but now we have snowplow parents. This was a term that he created or which has not been watching out for problems but has been making sure that their children never saw a problem. They were behind the snowplow going and then they get to college or they get to their first job. They’re ill-prepared for any challenge or diversity. As soon as they have it, it’s like, “Poor me, I’m scared. I can’t do this. I’m crying.”
The number of people that are crying in my office because the job is hard or life is hard. Thankfully, it’s a little harder to get to my office now. Nothing to say, there’s nothing wrong with emotion or tears. That’s a real feeling. It’s the quick and the speed of life is so hard instead, this that and the other. You break down their life and it’s not that complex. They don’t have the emotional tools to handle that. As an employer, you’re giving or developing those tools on some levels that their parents failed to prepare them with. We see that a lot.
I’m a first-time employer, and restaurants employ a lot of people in either entry-level or first-time employment jobs. That’s why restaurants are amazing for society because you have a lot of interactions with people, you develop those people skills, you also have to learn to work hard and with others. If you haven’t prepared that in the early stages of your life, you’ll see it. Unfortunately, if you can’t overcome it, they either have to go learn it somewhere else or never learn it.
It’s always a combination of inherited tendencies and life experiences. It is an interesting age we live in but that’s a great message for all of us to strive to embrace. We needed to take ownership, be settled, be responsible, and work hard. There’s a great quote that Theodore Roosevelt said, “There’s no greater gift in life than the ability to work hard at work worth doing.” I love that. It’s true. I want to circle back because you talked about emotions and emotions are a good thing. You’ve had plenty of emotions on this journey. I remember reading in some research about a moment in time throughout the process where you were working from 6:00 AM to 1:00 AM or constantly going. You would get into your car and break down crying at times. Talk to me about those experiences and lows. What was that like?
We were touching on this earlier but building is hard, and then getting into operations becomes challenging. This was and has been, for the most part, my only job. I had done some things prior but for all intents and purposes, this was it. I knew how to work hard and was working as hard as I knew how to work. I was putting in 100 to 120 hours a week, 6:00 AM to 12:00, 6:00 AM to 1:00, not being able to sleep, whereas you had many things going through your brain. I know I’m working too much when I am dreaming about my work. I am forgetting things and then realize I forgot to drop off something that somebody had asked for. You’re waking up in a cold sweat because you forgot to drop off a dipping sauce to somebody that asked.
You’re remembering it at 3:00 in the morning. That’s when you know that you’re pushing it a little too hard. I went from 195 pounds to 160. I’m 6’2”. I should not be below 180 pounds. Even at 180 pounds, I’m underweight. My skin changed colors and my hair changed colors, not gray but funky malnutrition color. You always felt on stage and felt fake because you were building relationships. You’re constantly having the same conversations and bringing energy to everything. Things were never going right. You were running out of sausage, bread and you were racing everywhere. You were ten steps behind your whole waking hours. I remember getting in the car one day and being tired. I’m not an emotional person.
I don’t remember the last time I cried but I’m bawling. You’re like, “What the heck? I’m a mess.” I couldn’t even tell you why. Who knows? how I didn’t get sick or how other consequences didn’t come out of it, we ultimately found ways to survive, everything from having family members come in and help and things like this. There’s a level of it that you look back on and you’re like, “That was a crazy cool time.” You also look back and you’re like, “Why would anybody do this to themselves? This is the difference.” I look back and I look at where my life is now and I’m grateful for those times.
If you had to pick the lowest moment in your journey, what would be that lowest point?
It’s hard to pick a particular moment in that whole season during the first 3 to 9 months of the store being open. There was so much positivity going on. I had a baby on the way, the busiest restaurant in the city and everything was going well from the outside. I was beaten up. I remember like, “If this place burned down, I wouldn’t be that disappointed.” It’d be a big relief. You can’t prepare yourself for that process and you can’t talk about it either. I’d stepped away from any friend circle at that point. There was no time. I think you talked to Stan and I remember being at dinner with him, his wife and Christin, and not even being able to have a conversation because I was tired and couldn’t think. I was dead. Those were exhausting crazy times.
I remember reading about it in one of the articles I read or maybe we talked about it, but you made the comment that you have to have a certain level of ignorance to take on something like this. In order to be confident in what you’re doing, there has to be some manner of ignorance to help fuel and inform that confidence, that naivete. Talk to me about that concept and what’s a healthy level of ignorance is.
You get to my stage in the journey, you look back and you’re like, “I was an idiot. Why was I stupid?” At the same time, if you didn’t have that level of ignorance, you would have never taken the leaps of faith that you did. You couldn’t write down that we would be the third most Yelp restaurant in the country as part of your business plan. If I had written down our sales a quarter of what they became, people would have said I’m crazy. I believed and I love sausage and beer. Every restaurant that sells beer has people and every restaurant that has sausages even though it’s divey, people love that.
It’s going to be successful. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to be successful, we would be able to pay back the money we borrowed and life would go on. Now that I’ve had some big failures, that’s not the case and I’ve watched lots of good restaurants fail knowing that we beat the odds and had somebody looking out for us. We were ignorant, smart enough, and hardworking enough that we were able to figure it out. Timing and luck play into it too.
There is an acceptance of a manner of ignorance that’s involved, and that’s what faith is. Faith is not full knowledge. That’s a good thing. We do need faith in life and take those leaps of faith but they can’t be blind and they can be informed. That’s the best leaps of faith to take. There needs to be a manner of informed leaping. You mentioned the failures along the way. I want to talk about the Denver expansion and what led to the decision to close it. I got to read a good bit about that background but it didn’t go into a lot of that final decision. I would love to set the context for that. Talk about that decision and how you came to that decision.
Let’s take a quick step back to make sure. I opened a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles then Venice Beach. Both of which were wildly successful. The structure of our company was two partners that were honed 100% of the business and we had zero debt. We made a classic trap that we fell into that we were not going to open a failure. We believed LA was too small of a market for us to have another restaurant where we were already famous, known or established. We decided, “We need to go to a different city. We’ve got to go conquer somewhere else.” We looked at Portland, Seattle and Chicago. We found Denver and fell in love with Denver, which is an amazing city and real estate was cheap.
We had a great cashflow and we’re like, “Let’s do it.” Lots of challenges happened but there was a major failure there in our thought process of we should have done a better job of checking. We were overconfident based on our prior successes and that blinded us. It was the first time either of us had any substantial money, we both had extremely low overhead, we were both being paid little so the company was doing well, and we had a small infrastructure of staff. Our management team was small.
All that being said is like, “We can do it. We did it once. We’ll do it again.” That did not turn out that way. We had a lot of challenges which I won’t go into and I’ll get to the ending. We built a beautiful restaurant in Denver and lots of factors changed but we had zero business. I had a coffee shop that was 200 square feet that were doing more in sales than our 8,000-square-foot that restaurant. It was an energy suck and time suck. I had my third child. At one point, I was jumping from one Airbnb to another Airbnb with my wife and three kids. It was exhausting.
The other restaurants were doing well for a little while. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. After eleven months, we dumped all energy and resources into trying to get sales moving in the right direction and we couldn’t do it. We sat at the LA Athletic Club. I had already thrown in the towel. About 3 or 4 months before, I had said to my team, “I can’t keep doing what I have been doing. It’s not healthy. I have to give it a try.” Joseph, thankfully, stepped up and recognize that. He went out and gave it an amazing effort. He did a lot of cool things. He worked hard. We gave it all of our best efforts and it wasn’t going to make a difference. When we sat down, he flew out our CFO who’s our number one advisor. Joseph and I sat at the LA Athletic Club over breakfast because we had said, “We’re not going to talk about closing until after the New Year.”
New Market Niche: Faith is not full knowledge. You have to take leaps.
It was a four-hour conversation but the decision was made in the first five minutes. It was another several hours of reminiscing and coming to terms with it because there is a lot of consequences. Sitting at the table, Joseph booked a flight at 5:00 or 4:00 or something, we got everybody that was in the restaurant. The people that worked with us and were with us at that point were key contributors. A lot of them had been with us and suffering with if you would. We have believed in what we were trying to do. When you work that hard in the trenches with people, you have a good bond and let them know, “We’re going to clean the restaurant for the last time and we’re going to drink beer.” They closed up the restaurant. I still regret not going but somebody needed to be here. That was that.
It’s crazy. I love it though because there’s so much gold in there. We learned from our failures. One quote that is good from Ryan Holiday’s book that he mentioned in Conspiracy about overconfidence. Machiavelli said, “When overconfidence enters men’s hearts, it causes them to go beyond their mark. To lose the opportunity of possessing a certain good by hoping to obtain a better one that is uncertain.” That’s where we all naturally go. You’ve learned that through experience. What was the timeline like for that decision? How long did you guys give it before you came to that terms? What was that period of time like? In making that decision, how hard was it to overcome that sunk cost fallacy? I feel like that is one of the biggest barriers to closing down, stopping or ending any pursuit.
The restaurant was never busy. We had an amazing opening party in a blizzard of the night. We had 600 people in the restaurant, everybody in the city was talking about us and it was fun. I genuinely believed we were setting up to have our busiest restaurant. That was the last win of that restaurant. The first and last. Lots of factors went into it but literally, for three months, the weather was terrible. The industry within Denver had changed. Lots of excuses but they are reasons that played into the failure. When you look at a business, you have multiple divisions at that point, you’re jumping from fire-to-fire, and you’re no longer leading the business but you’re mirroring out little fires everywhere, it’s no longer a financial decision.
You’re now looking at this whole thing like there is the iceberg. We have a fire that we can put out or we have to turn and get away from the iceberg. That was essentially the situation we were in. We could put out the fire on Denver by closing the doors, allow us to turn away from potentially taking the whole company down and refocus, regroup. When you start looking at analogies like, “Lose the battle, not the war and things like this.” We’re extremely conservative in how we operate a business. We don’t use debt and we only build with money that we’ve saved so that allows for it to truly be a sunk cost. I’m glad that you brought that up because if that was debt, we would have been destroyed.
Our conservative nature of knowing the risk that we do have saved us in that front because we wrote it off. It was a hard thing to do but when you look at the global picture, you’re able to go back and rebuild. We are able to continue and rebuild the things that we had lost during that time. It took two years to redevelop our management team, re-instill our culture and our individual mentality. You become bruised internally after that. You don’t realize until you’re making decisions how much that process has messed with your head and your ability. You do need to move forward with faith on many things but still, you’re never going to know scientifically whether a decision is right or wrong, you have to go.
The bigger the failure, the harder the recovery a lot of times, individually or personally or internally. If there’s one thing that experience left you with, what lesson has that instilled in you or given you as you move forward?
I’m glad that we have these conservative principles and we’re going to stick to those. The business can operate on its own and its financial stack doesn’t get in the way of keeping it from being successful. I hate traveling for work. I used to think that would be no big deal, but getting on an airplane to go to work is not my goal. I remember nights where I wanted to sleep in my own bed so I get on a 10:00 or 11:00 flight to fly home so I’d be in bed by 1:00, and then I’d fly out at 5:00 AM. I did that a few times because I didn’t care. I was like, “I don’t want to go back to that apartment where it’s just a bed. I can’t do it.” I learned that about myself. I would also say that when you do have multiple divisions and you see leaks happening or cultural thing is changing, you got to go address them. You got to cut off what’s not working. The Denver restaurant was not working.
Thanks for sharing. It’s a lot to glean from that. It’s helpful. “Failure isn’t fatal, it’s the failures that we don’t learn from that might be.” That’s a great quote but I can’t remember by who. Before we move past the restaurant fully, one of the things that are crazy about the restaurant you started is that you pioneered a genre of restaurant. You guys were the first model of what a fast-casual restaurant could entail. Talk to me about what that experience was like? How did you create that environment or have a sense for that niche that wasn’t even in existence yet?
Let’s unpack that a little bit more before we dig into it. We started at a segment of restaurants that I call fun casual as opposed to this fast-casual. When you think fast-casual, I would say Chipotle or Sweetgreen or something like this fits in that genre, but this idea that you can go and celebrate your birthday party at a Chipotle is not generally what people are doing. You don’t make a reservation. We aren’t a reservation restaurant, but if you have a group of twelve or more, we’d love to get you in there. You’re going to stay for 3 or 4 hours, you’re going to have an amazing time. This idea of fun casual didn’t exist. This happened because we don’t have experience in restaurants.
We weren’t filled with the notion that this is how you do it. Everything we did, we reinvented or thought of. We’ve changed some things to fall more in line with good principles of operation through years of meeting people, talking with friends, and things like that. This segment that was created was extremely well-positioned for the environment that we are in where wages are going up fast. The dining experience is changing away from a service model into a counter model. We were the first ones doing the counter hybrid set up that you’re seeing a ton of now because it’s efficient. For food to not go up extremely high in price, restaurants have to figure out how to be more effective. We were well-positioned to do that.
What you mentioned is crucial. You didn’t have that prior experience that allowed you to see it with child-like eyes, to see anew without the culture that was in place before affecting your vision. I’m reading a great book, How We Got To Now. It’s all about these six innovations that shaped the modern world. It’s fascinating. The one that I’ve been reading was on sound. The guy who was the first pioneer of sound came up with a scene called Phonautograph. It was like a stenograph but taking sound waves and putting them on paper. He needed to take two giant leaps and he was only able to take one.
You don’t even know about the second giant leap you need if you don’t have that first giant leap. His first giant leaf was being able to move the sound to paper. The second giant leap that he didn’t understand at that moment was he need to be able to play that sound back or it doesn’t mean anything. You have to interpret or be able to read these lines on a paper that’s the sound waves. That doesn’t do any good for anyone. It’s interesting how innovation happens. It’s always one big leap at a time, but it’s people that are able to look horizontally, laterally and bring a new perspective into any industry or field. That’s a good example of what you guys were able to do too. This is going to be fun now because I want to dive more into who you are.
This is important. What most people won’t realize even from this conversation and most people don’t necessarily know unless they know you, is that you are dyslexic. Not only are you dyslexic, according to your dad, you are a 10 out of 10 on the scale to dyslexia. I don’t know if you knew this story but one thing that he mentioned is that when you saw a clinical pediatrician back in the day. You went in there at age 8 or 9, and when she pulled both your parents aside. She was like, “I’ve never seen in my entire practice someone with this level of dyslexia that he has.” Talk to me about this experience of having dyslexia. How did that shape you as a kid? What was that experience like growing up? How has that made you the person that you are now?
Being dyslexic has shaped my life. It’s not something you can hide in any way. I don’t think I learned to read at all until 4th grade but later on. I have kids and the teacher is saying, “He’s a little behind in reading.” “Behind in reading? The kid reads great. What are you talking about?” It still plays in my life. I’m like, “You’re such a hard teacher. He’s in 1st grade. It seems like he’s reading fine.” That being the case, there were times that were challenging. Kids are tough and they don’t get it. Dyslexics are interesting diagnoses if you would or learning opportunity.
As Paul Orfalea refers to, who was the Founder of Kinko, “It’s not a learning disability but a learning opportunity,” in the sense that you look at the world differently. You see everything from a different perspective than others. In general, speaking broadly about dyslexics, not necessarily myself, there tends to be a high IQ with a frustrated internal problem of you cannot figure out how to do or learn the way that the world tends to teach people. It creates a lot of issues internally because you’re smart enough to figure out there’s something majorly wrong, but yet you’re not able to overcome this thing.
Historically, a lot of dyslexics were referred to as dumb which if you take a smart person and call them dumb, they’re going to become depressed fast. Somehow, my parents didn’t give up on me. Half of everybody in jail are dyslexic, and half of the CEOs are dyslexic. You’re going one way or another. My parents had a ton of support growing up forever to figure out and learn how to navigate the world. I’d say my partner, which was my dad, is doing crazy things. The two of us together did some wild things. Some of which he did for me. Others, we did together. That allowed for me to not end up in jail. Where do you want to go? We can go a lot of places.
I want to hear a little bit more about how you see the world and how you learn versus how it’s commonly prescribed to you. How did you go about that process of living in that tension of constantly having that friction of, “This is what’s being imposed on you and structured, and that’s not what’s best for you?” Even understanding that consciously for you, when did that first start or how did you navigate that as you went through the education system as a whole?
God gave me some cool tools that I realized I had early on. When I want to, I can relate and conversate with anybody. As early as I can remember, I’m talking 2 or 3, I had this gift of being able to relate and have conversations. I don’t want to say it’s sneaky by any means but it could win people over and quickly become friends.
Talk to me about the story at Honolulu Airport.
You’re going to have to give me some more context.
Age five, Home Alone story.
You’re going to have to share this story.
New Market Niche: You do need to move forward with faith in so many things. You’re not going to know scientifically whether a decision is right or wrong; you just have to go.
Apparently, at age five, in the middle of Honolulu Airport, your flight is about to leave and all of a sudden Tyler goes missing and the whole family is freaking out looking for you. After 5 to 10 minutes of looking, your dad sees you walking and says, “Where have you been?” You say, “I was talking with this guy. He’s a businessman. He gave me his business card. We had a great conversation.” You were five.
Unfortunately, being dyslexic, I also had a bad memory. I don’t remember that at all. Those types of interactions are a commonplace. I remember doing it all the time. Whether I’d be traveling, I could talk with anybody about anything and would enjoy it. That has continued and is still a part of who I am but that gift that I was given to be able to communicate who I am and my thoughts verbally allowed me to be successful, which allowed me to build relationships with my teachers and professors.
I would venture to guess that I had at least a dozen teachers over the years that gave me a B when they wanted to fail me or should have failed me. Through untraditional means, I was able to prove that I shouldn’t fail and needed to move on or would allow me to do things that allowed me to be successful like turning the paper orally. I’d convinced TAs over the years in college that, “I can’t turn this paper and I won’t be able to do it but let’s sit down and let’s go get coffee. I will tell you everything that should be in the paper.” They would give me a grade. Whether or not they would lose their job if they got caught, I don’t know. That’s how I was able to get through school and overcome. We can dig into a whole bunch of other big examples that are more in the grownup world of how that still played into finding non-traditional ways to get through school.
Before we get there because I do want to touch on that, how do you support other people with dyslexia? For someone like me who’s not dyslexic especially in the younger, more formative years, what is important for supporting, fostering and helping people who are dyslexic not end up in jail but end up as a CEO on that spectrum?
It’s sad our system is broken for dyslexics. It’s getting better. The few things that I could give advice to parents if I’m being one and would be, if you’re working with a dyslexic, they need confidence because they’re going to get beat up. They’re going to be aware that they are different in a way that they can’t change. You’re not going to will somebody to write well or read. They can’t try harder. It’s not going to work in the traditional sense. If you play into that in any way and beat up that confidence again or say you got to try harder, that child is going to have a hard time. Not to say they’re not going to have to work hard and you’re not going to have to encourage them, but if you play into that idea that you’re not trying hard enough. I’m going to share some stories in a minute throwing people under the buses.
It’s going to be tough for them to will themselves or fight their way out of it because they are having nobody to anchor them that this is going to be a challenge, and it’s going to be a challenge your whole life. You’re going to have to work hard. It’s going to be different for you than others but you can’t use it as an excuse. You’re going to have to figure out other ways to get around. That played into the entrepreneurial lifestyle that I believed in. For me, I never wanted to work for anybody because if you’re the boss, your spelling is less important. I never pictured myself working for anybody because I was going to solve my own challenges.
Let’s talk about as you went through the education system and you’re experiencing these obstacles. You came up with some creative solutions. One of them was in college. Talk through your mindset in college because I find this fascinating. It’s something that could be helpful for people to know.
The creative things that I had to do to get through school like high school, before voice dictation was a thing, I had the first voice dictation software that existed. Before I had voice dictation software, I had a tape recorder that I would record my essays into and my dad would then type them up. That idea of verbally communicating my ideas and thoughts and then it gets put into a paper was the only way that it would have happened. Unfortunately, I was never going to learn how to pass a spelling test. It didn’t matter how hard, “I couldn’t read the word and you want me to spell it, you’re crazy.” I also had a lot of friends. Every morning, I would have the right friend in the right place to text me the right answer to the right quiz.
Whether I agree with the fact that I did that or not, that was the only way that I was going to get through school. It wasn’t going to words that nobody uses. I wasn’t going to ever learn how to spell. I wasn’t going to put energy. Once I realized how much energy I’d put in and I still get one right, and I spent six hours, I was like, “This is not for me.” Moving to college and how that continued to play out is thankfully, I only took college prep which is the bare minimum classes you had to take to qualify for a four-year university. Unfortunately, most of the people in my classes, including the teachers, did not believe anybody in these classes was going to go to college.
They were not the AP, accelerated track and no college units. They weren’t the hardest classes at the university, but they did qualify for the UC minimum. I remember going into my senior year that any of these top universities in the state would have got me in outside of Stanford. Stanford wasn’t going to talk to me. I was only interested in going to USC or UCLA. I was like, “These are the coolest schools in the world.” I love Southern California, I love the ocean, I love to surf, I’m a water polo player and a swimmer and these are the schools. I struggled with that decision before I had taken my SATs because I was told that I would have no problem getting in.
I’ve got peers that were challenged, struggling and stressing to qualify that took a lot harder academic careers that didn’t get into these universities that they wanted to. I was honored to be able to go but that’s the only way I got in. The problem is getting in is step one. I ended up choosing to go to USC for a handful of reasons but the primary one is to go to Marshall School of Business. You look at the course descriptions and the entrepreneur school within Marshall and you’re like, “These are the coolest classes.” Your professors started amazing companies. They run and do this because they want to share and teach the next generation of entrepreneurs. You can’t teach entrepreneurship but you can build the ideas that will increase the odds of being successful.
Here’s the challenge. You have to get into the business school and the business school could care less about the athletic department. Once I got into USC, I spent the next two years trying to get into the business school. I got rejected three times. Some time at the beginning of my junior year, I got a letter that said, “You cannot apply again.” Even though it clearly says you can apply as many times as you want. “It’s your academic interest to see a counselor immediately.” This is the idea of rejection over and over.
I finally was able to work this process, got a bunch of letters of recommendations and got a meeting with a guy named Tom Amalia who unfortunately passed away years ago. He invited me into his office and said, “Do you want to be in my program?” I said, “I love to be in your program.” “You’re going to work hard. You’re going to do a good job.” I was like, “I’ll do a great job.” He’s like, “Don’t let me down. You’re in.” He accepted me into the entrepreneurship school as a subcategory of being in the business school. The crazy cool thing was that gave me clearance to take every business class. For my junior and senior year, I built my own elective curriculum and was only taking electives for two years with no track to ever graduating. I had pre-recs and then I had electives.
The only reason I could get in these classes is I was an athlete and I could sign up for my classes a week before anybody else could. I could take the coolest classes in school, sign up first and wasn’t even in the school. When I refer to these crazy strategies and plans that my dad and I came up with, it wasn’t for him saying, “You made it further than I expected you to make. We might as well do what you want to do.” It’s a level of arrogance on my part of like, “They’ll eventually let me in. I’ll be that stubborn. You’ll let me in or they will not.” I had no degree applicable units and I couldn’t swim anymore. I had already stopped playing water polo because I disliked the coach. Not being the case, I knew I had to go do something else that I wasn’t going to get a degree. I was in six classes short if the business school let me in. Since they never let me in, all of those classes were electives but I took amazing classes. I got C’s. I struggled like hell to get C’s. I had a tutor for every single class and I worked hard to get a C but I did it.
That’s the spirit of what education should be. It’s not about grades, it’s about learning and how we can equip ourselves for what’s next. Much of education is a game of getting good grades. That doesn’t help you or anyone else. That’s where there’s this big gap in education that there’s not an easy solution for, but we need to be pushing for a solution. I love that story because it is unconventional as it should be. What did that experience from those classes from being able to take those electives in the business school gave you in your development, and even in starting the business or after that?
I wanted to take classes like Operational Management, Accounting I and Accounting II. I had to take Econ because that was in the process of trying to get into the business school. I didn’t love Econ, but taking those classes and struggling through them have played into, “I knew enough to learn how to read a P&L, know how the numbers connect, and all the financial statements.” The tax side of things was less interesting to me but the corporate accounting was amazing stuff. I had no intention of ever learning how to build a full financial statement. I know how to read them, how to see what’s the problem and where we need to focus.
I got all those things and that’s what I wanted. I’m going to hire a smart, great person to build these financial statements, but I’m going to have to interpret them and how to activate them onto the business. That was my goal in creating this own program. I didn’t know what it was going to be one day for me. It happened to be restaurants. I love restaurants, but I love business in general. It didn’t matter to me building something fun and cool that involves people. I’ll be fine.
What pivots or shifts do you see is necessary for education to improve or to change in a healthy way?
We need to explore what we’re doing. Classrooms need to be rebuilt or restructured in different shapes. We need to get more creative in how we’re presenting the information. We need to incorporate more technology. The classrooms since you and I have not changed. The front office of a school has not changed in many years. An underperforming teacher that doesn’t care anymore can’t be fired. The fact that our schools are run by the government is retarded. That is the wrong approach. We have many smart businesses and companies in the world, charities and churches that should be running our institution.
You’re seeing a lot more of that. All the reform is coming from the private sector of people that are saying, “We’re going to do this differently” and pioneering them. That’s already happening and will continue to happen more.
Our government isn’t set up to run businesses. Schools are businesses and their product is successful people. If we were to put that into the churches, charities, nonprofits, and use all the same funds but distribute it in different ways, different types of programs and allow parents to put their kids in the type of school that’s best suited for that type of kid. I had that privilege because we moved to Hawaii and I went to a school that specialized in dyslexics. I took two years off school and had nothing but tutors in a program called Lindamood-Bell. Those were the privileges that I was able to receive through a curated program but that’s not available to many people.
I want to touch on a few more things before we’re done. One of the other things that have been a common theme that I heard from other people is that you have a sixth sense. You are incredible at meeting people and being a good judge or having a good analysis of their character of who they are as a person. This started at a young age. Your dad was floored at your judgment or your evaluation of other humans, being able to know who’s a good guy and who’s not a good guy in a short amount of time. What would you say has contributed to that? How does that work or operate for you?
New Market Niche: The spirit of what education should not be about grades, but about learning and about how we can equip ourselves for what’s next.
It’s going to be a hard thing to articulate or teach. I have had the opportunity and create opportunities to meet a lot of people. Through these conversations and thoughts, maybe it’s not healthy but I’m quick to tee somebody up and categorize them as, “This is a person that is going to make good decisions and I need to bring close.” The flip side of that is, “This is a person I need to be careful of and I should not bring too close. This is a person I need to make sure I keep right next to me, whether for them, for me or just by nature. This is the competency that I’m missing and this person has it to get us through whatever challenge we’re in.”
On its face, you’re a judgmental jerk. I don’t look at it that way. I’m not necessarily sitting intuitively pondering people. There’s a level of I need to look out for the people that I can influence and can influence me. I talk with my son a lot about this like, “Choose your friends.” I don’t know if you heard it but you’re the average of your five closest friends. If you look at your friends and you’re like, “These are the people that have influence in my life? No.” If they’re not like, “I’m the average of these guys.” That’s amazing. Thankfully, I have an insane group of friends. If I was to say, “Maybe I’m not even the average.” I’m hopefully not bringing down the average here.
That’s a good point. You shouldn’t be the one bringing down the average of your five.
That’s about all you can invest into. Either you’re praying for them, they’re praying for you or you’re talking with them, and you can call without a reason. They’re truly going to look out for your interests, want and cheer for you. I talk about that a ton with my son who’s at a point in his life where he has choices. It’s like, “You can be friends with a lot of people but make sure whoever you let close is not going to lead you astray.”
I’d love to touch on those two topics you mentioned, which is faith and family. Let’s start with faith. What role does faith play in your life?
Everything, I hope. I’ve been a Christian since I was a sophomore in high school. I would say that the Bible is full of what the world has adopted as its moral compass but it’s more than that. I would say all of the moral compass things I got to know where they come from as opposed to it being Jesus pulled out of it. I can’t say exactly if it guides everything. It guides my decision-making and more so as years of wisdom go on, the way I look at my perspective changes, and what are the things that you have to do or Jesus has set up by design. There is a level of discipline that needs to come into that, how does that affect you and change you. I can’t specifically tell you, but I would hope that somebody could look at my life and be like, “This person is doing it a little differently than the world.”
What kind of season do you see that God has you in? What is He growing you in this season most?
It’s weird. One of the things that I’ve always felt called through the last several years is supporting people in ministry. It’d be financial at times but more so on the operating side of things. Having those conversations about leading people, they have the same job that I have, but they’re doing so in a different context, learning from them, teaching each other and discussing that stuff. I keep being put into randomly from the outside, positions where I get to meet and discuss with amazing people that have huge impacts on tons of lives and are in full-time ministry. Being somebody that’s not called to full-time ministry as an occupation. It’s where I see learning like, “How do I do that part well?”
It’s important. It’s fun because God has called us to different things and He gifted us in different ways. It’s such a blessing. I love hearing that from you. You got married when you’re 22, you had your first kid when you’re 23, and you had four kids before you were 30. That is incredibly unusual in nowadays American society. I’m sure you had have been one of the first out of your friend group or peer group to get married, and to have four kids before 30. I can’t imagine you having any friends that have done that. How was that going through before your time in a sense?
It’s crazy to think back because when I was getting married, people thought I was crazy but all my friends knew that that’s what Tyler was going to do. The same group of friends is like, “He’s married. Now he’s going to have kids.” They’re not thinking about that. To me, it was always in the cards. I didn’t see the world happening to me any differently. It’s not like I set out to do that. As it was going, it felt right and felt like I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to but because that’s what I was supposed to do. I’ll be an empty nester before I’m 50, which doesn’t sound fun. I want to get back to working hard again if that sounds crazy. I’m at a point in life where I’m working hard but I have to work hard on a lot of things. I’ve also been to a point where I can have a little more flexibility which hopefully, I’m not taking for granted in any way. I value that time in raising kids a lot.
How do you think about that work-life balance? With four kids and owning a business, that’s an insurmountable task.
I was given the capacity to handle a lot. I do get concerned that one day I’m going to explode. At times, I have felt that way like, “This is all going to implode. Have I built a house of cards here? Have I taken too much on? Am I doing this by my own will?” There are times where I have to pull back and I have pulled back. I’m running a business, I have a team of 100, I’ve got four kids and I’m involved in all of these other things. I’m getting a Master’s in Science of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at USC. I have this amazing community group that we host at my house that you run.
All these little things are commitments. You do get overwhelmed but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. You get up and do it again. You got to look at each day as a new day, do your best and go for it. There are certain things I’d like to change. Sometimes, I have stressed the family structure at times. That’s when I realize. I may be fine but this crew is not ready for it or we’re going too quick for my team. I’ve got a cool little team that can handle a lot. My four kids are raised in an active, busy, keep-up lifestyle. I do need to be cognizant of Christin and the four of them. I want them to learn not to be lazy and complacent. We can be busy, have fun, play hooky, go skiing and whatever other fun stuff. When it’s time to work, we also can’t be lazy.
That’s important for everyone especially in a family. It’s not assuming your capacity on to other people, not expecting what you expect of yourself of others who are differently wired or gifted especially in a family. I can imagine that being a real hard, fine line to tread or to be cognizant. One of the things that I’ve heard other people say and I have experienced as well, and I am impressed and blown away by, is the way you and Christin approach parenting. One of the things I respect a ton about seeing that is the level of respect that you give your kids, even at such a young age, is more empowering than most parents and how they operate. You treat them more even at age 7 and 9 or the different ages. You’re treating them much more like adults than the majority of 7-year-old, 5-year-old or 9-year-old. Talked to me a little bit about your philosophies for your framework of parenting.
There is no right way to parent but there is my way to parent. There are definitely wrong ways to parent. For Christin and I, we’ve had to develop, read and learn how we are going to be mom and dad, and what does that look like. I’ve also managed a lot of people and see the results of what happens if you don’t do a good job, if your parents either didn’t care in the right ways or cared too much that it handicapped them. Having four kids also allows you to see your mistakes and make adjustments as you go. If you do it once, you don’t have the opportunity to learn. I am a parent similar to the way I manage although I don’t spank my staff.
The expectations for our kids are clear and we hold them to that standard. We do the best we can to make sure that our standards are not moving, that they know our standards, and if they choose not to uphold our standards as children, there are consequences. We are extremely loving and give them a ton of freedom within their circle. They know how far they can go to the edge of that circle. They know the second they step outside that circle, they have to understand that there are consequences in life for bad choices. We all make bad choices and we all deal with those consequences. I think it about eight months, most kids are aware of either subconsciously or consciously that they are choosing to make a choice that is not allowed, whether that be as simple as an eight-month-old boy that wants to play with a candle which you think it’s funny and cute, which it is.
There’s nothing wrong with playing with a candle. If you don’t learn what that candle is capable of doing at eight months, you might have a problem when you’re two. You sneak off and burn a house down or something. We have parented this way early on and I’m proud of them. They’re disciplined but also fun, outgoing, energetic and great with people. They know their expectations. All that to be said, kids are kids and we’ve prepared them quickly to go out and be on their own. The world we live in at LA is not necessarily the safest for kids.
Somebody zoomed by me in the middle of the road with a two-year-old right next to me in front of my house. She was a 60-year-old woman in a Mercedes. I almost broke her window. She was close to me that I could hit her car. You have to be cognizant of the real world that people are not going to help you in this process. The idea of getting your kids prepared for the world as our job as parents are not to protect our kids. It’s to get them ready for the world. To teach them who Jesus is and what our role as believers are in the world. It may not be easy. I tell my kids this all the time that the world is not easy, it’s not fair, and nothing is guaranteed to you. It’s a big game and you got to learn it.
Life is a gift. Those are an amazing framework and such a helpful thing to know from. I have learned a lot so keep it up. A couple of one-offs and we’ll close. What truth do you have to preach yourself most? What is the most common self-talk for you?
Patience. Having four kids, being a husband and never wanting to make anybody around me feel like I’m busy. We’re all busy. That’s the buzzword of the century. When you look at people’s lives, they’re not that busy. To have the patience for things that are stupid or to me, they’re stupid, but to the people that are troubled by it, it’s a big deal. To be patient, meet them, and help them see that what’s going on around them is overcomeable. You can’t tell somebody it’s overcomeable, but to be patient and to not get jaded into like, “Are you joking me? I don’t have time for this.” If I can be patient, help or work with them and for myself that what’s going on is overcomeable. This is going to work out. This isn’t the end. Honestly, I’m not relying on myself. I’ve been well prepared. I have a lot of gifts and will but I can’t do it. It’s out of my control. I’m reminding myself to do my best, make decisions, surround yourself with great people but at the end of the day, it’s out of my control.
It’s something I’ve been telling myself a lot too. God brings the fruit. We can’t force fruit to come. We can do our best, we should and need to. Submitting to that is huge. What you mentioned about being busy, it seems like that is such a common theme because we’re being filled and we’re filling our lives with things that don’t matter like our phones and social media. It’s constantly bombarding us more than ever before. It feels fuller and busier than ever before but we’re getting less done so we aren’t that busy. It’s because we don’t have the discipline or control over our time as much that we feel busier. It’s interesting. Do you have any cornerstone habits?
I listened to a few of your great podcasts and I heard this question, I’m like, “I’m probably going to be asked that question.” Prayer would be number one. After that, things may become rituals as opposed to habits like coffee and things like this. Being with that crew of 4 or 5, those are my habits that I know as silly as it may feel at sometimes, you don’t have time to get up or you’re up late. I bailed on them. That’s a big cornerstone. You don’t realize that in the 1 or 2 hours that you are there, but over the course of years, you realized, us making that time together has grown and made a big impact. I also have a handful of people that when I’m overwhelmed with a challenge, we’ll call and shoot the breeze with. There’s so much insight from people that have been there and done that to give you perspective. These aren’t cornerstone habits.
In essence, they are, honestly. They’re just a different genre. Those are awesome. If you were to give a TED Talk, what would you speak on?
I would like to prepare a TED Talk directed at Millennial parents. Taking the things that I’ve learned as an older end of the Millennial spectrum, having kids young, having a non-Millennial mindset and shaking of saying, “If you mess this up, as you are becoming a homeowner and a husband or a wife and a parent, the consequences are going to be devastating.” I don’t know what I would say yet, but I do have a lot of scattered thoughts in that.
That would be a good talk. Here’s the tough one. What do you believe to be true that you wish everyone else believed to be true?
It would be nice if everybody believed that Jesus was who He said He was because we would have some common ground to realize that all of these things that He’s taught the world that nobody gives Him credit for, and these principles to live life by to have a fruitful, non-depressive life. We wouldn’t see all of the anxiety and challenges that our world is facing as we have attempted to strip a lot of that out of society and say, “Live by these principles.” Do what makes you happy and see how happy you are in a few years. If that was a common ground or when you look at some of these other areas of the country that aren’t LA, you start seeing more of that which is cool. I’ve never lived in that setting but I’ve gone to these places and be like, “It’s a little different here. There are a lot of happy people that are positive.” You realize that’s a common thread.
What books have you gifted to others most and why?
Most of the books that I have gifted is The One-Minute Manager that I’ve bought 100 copies of. I teach a leadership class at the company and that is the book you have to read before you start. It strips down management into a story about a young manager pursuing what does it take. He meets a bunch of bad managers and meets the guy that walks him through. It strips it down to too simple but it’s a great starting point. The premise is to learn praising and redirecting. If you can praise and redirect somebody well, you are on the right track.
There is a right way and a wrong way or less effective ways and it takes practice. The other book would be The E-Myth and The Oz Principle, which is this idea of don’t operate below the line and how do you get above the line. It’s what it refers to but it compares it to the Wizard of Oz. You have all these characters who believe they don’t have something that they need to be successful. This mythical person Oz says, “Here you have it.” All of a sudden they believe they have it and they can do it, which is a great one for teams and group dynamic. I signed a few years ago Leaders Eat Last and the first chapter is amazing. The whole book is great but all of his books have the same vein. He keeps getting paid a lot to write books so good for him.
Beyond those, are there any books that have had the biggest impact on you?
Wild At Heart, have you even heard of it?
You’ve also had all sorts of books that I’ve never even heard of. That one is right up your alley. That one I should read. There’s a handful by others. They have an impact on your life when you read them. You don’t know how they’ve influenced you, and you move on.
If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say in it and why?
Don’t get stuck at your desk. Get out, go do something and meet somebody new. As you start getting onto those operational, things start taking off and you’ve done it for a while, you’ll forget how you got there, you got there through communicating and being in the mix. I have to do that in different ways now that I have four kids and my life is different. To continue to be out there, meeting people, involving yourself and not getting complacent with that. How does that come in a text? Go meet somebody new.
Tyler, thank you for coming on. Where’s the best place if people want to reach out and say hi? Where can they find you?
I have a private Instagram account. I never check LinkedIn. I haven’t logged in to Facebook in a few years. I say these things because I’ve been toying with this idea of creating a new public Instagram handle. I have it, it is still private. Anyhow, I would say email me. It’ll get to my inbox and I will do my best to reply, but it’s Tyler@Wurtskuche.com.
One of the other things that people said is you’re a contrarian. Not having social media or much of a social or public presence is contrarian of you, but it’s refreshing. Keep it up. Thanks, Tyler. For all of you, we hope you have an up-and-coming week.
About Tyler Wilson
Tyler Joel Wilson grew up in Santa Barbara, California as the oldest of four siblings. At a young age, Tyler was diagnosed with dyslexia, leading his family to travel around California and Hawaii to best support his development. Being born into an entrepreneurial family, Tyler began his first business at the age of five, selling his Grandpa’s oranges on the street corner, making up to $100 a day. As a high schooler, at age 15, Tyler began his first real business – Turtle’s Frozen Drinks, renting out margarita blenders for private parties throughout the Santa Barbara area.
Through his athletic accomplishments in both water polo and swimming, Tyler was accepted to the University of Southern California.After finding a way to enroll in USC’s Business School, Tyler left USC four years later with no degree, but having a business education that would allow him to push forward his professional goals.
In 2008, at 22 years old, Tyler co-founded and opened Wurstküche in downtown Los Angeles with his cousin, Joseph Pitruzzelli. Selling exotic gourmet sausages paired with Belgium and German beers, Wurstküchequickly established itself as one of the top restaurant destinations in the city. Tyler and Joseph opened a second location in Venice, CA in 2011.
Now, Tyler regularly speaks on entrepreneurship across the country, including on the USC campus to both undergrad and graduate students. He also mentors high school students interested in business.
Tyler currently resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and their four children.
Follow us on the Socials!
Check out our YouTube!
Leave us a Rating/Review!
SUPPORT US ON PATREON!
Send us an email – email@example.com