Vision For 2022, And A Hunger For BBQ
David Anderson is the founder of Famous Dave’s, one of the largest BBQ chains in the U.S., with over 125 restaurants across the country.
Like many of the companies we’ve been examining this month, Dave’s origin story has a humble beginning. School was a struggle for him growing up – he was failing all his classes. Then a teacher came along and changed everything.
You would think that it was some BBQ chef who showed up and gave him some secret recipe, but it was actually an art teacher who made the biggest impact. One day, he set Dave aside to talk about all his failing grades. He said, “Dude,” (I’m paraphrasing here) “I know you are no good at school (including art) lol, but you have a very unique perspective in life. You see things differently and that’s going to take you a long way.”
Have you ever had a teacher like that?
For me, it was Mrs. Thomas my English teacher during my Freshman year. All of my teachers saw me as a troublemaker and a goofball who didn’t care much about anything. She thought I was actually funny and loved my writing. I was an energetic kid – and that energy expressed itself in other ways, like being the class clown. She just laughed along with the kids and allowed me to have my spotlight. She didn’t realize, I was already in training for all the relational connections through humor I would make through BOS Media! Who knew being funny would be an important characteristic in business?
That’s why I love Mrs. Thomas. Where other teachers saw a problem, she saw potential. The same qualities that I was using to disrupt class could also make me a leader.
It was a very similar shift in mindset that shaped Famous Dave’s life. For years, he tinkered with his own recipes for sauces and sides, before finally opening his first restaurant in the last place anyone would think to find a BBQ joint: Hayward, Wisconsin. But he trusted what he saw, and sure enough, the business started to grow.
Once the restaurant had become a success, Dave invested a lot of corporate money to train his employees – I’m sure he looked at them and saw himself at a younger age, just needing someone to believe in what they could become. His executive board was concerned about all this spending and confronted him, like “Hey, why are you training all these people? What if they take all this knowledge and LEAVE for a better job?” He chuckled and said, “But if we don’t train them, what if they don’t learn anything…and they STAY?”
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Robert Kennedy: “Some see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” What if we had that perspective about our own dreams for this year? Or more importantly, what if we had that perspective about the people around us? What might they become if we believed in them?
Here’s to seeing differently. And as Dave says, “May you always be surrounded by good friends and great barbeque.”