Kitchen king dishes out worldly advice

REBECCA STEVENSON
Last updated 05:00 08/04/2013
Entrepreneur John Palino
Fairfax NZ

WORD FROM THE WISE: Entrepreneur John Palino says the most successful people have learnt from their failures.

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His sometimes blunt advice helped turn around floundering Kiwi cafes and restaurants on TV but he never strayed into Gordon Ramsay's abusive style.

Mild-mannered American John Palino was the host and co-creator of TV3's top rating series The Kitchen Job and has had plenty of experience to draw on.

He started in the hospitality business at 13 working in his dad's restaurant. His first paid job was as a bartender. He's owned a restaurant near Park Avenue in New York and his eateries in Auckland included The Viaduct Grill, Starks at the Civic, The Soup Kitchen and Sal Rose. He also sells his own branded pizza dough and is the founder of a specialty foods market in Connecticut, called SoNo Marketplace, which boasts a "piece of New Zealand" in the shape of Palino's Flat White Coffee Company.

Palino said he worked hard for others for 10 years learning everything he could.

"From each business I learned something new. One of my biggest beliefs is to never stop learning."

Name one thing you've learnt while in business and from who?

I learned from Joyce Steins who owned a well-known restaurant and club in New York, Cafe Iguana. She touched everyone who entered her establishment and she taught me to never judge a book by its cover - you never know who that person may be. Treat your guests or customers the best you possibly can.

The first job where I became general manager, at the time I didn't have the experience really to do the job, so I needed to hire assistants who hopefully knew much more than me. I hired two managers that were very experienced. We did very well and I learned to surround myself with great people.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

1. Networking. It's not just to bring more people to your business, rather meeting people that may have advice or be able to help you in the future. Keep in touch with them and build your network of professionals.

2. Have a strong focus on what your idea is. Become an expert on your core business and work at it.

3. Failure may happen at times. The most successful people have had failures. What you have learned from that failure is the important thing and how you handle your future businesses.

4. In business, think how can I serve and truly add value to people's lives? How can I make a difference?

5. Surround yourself with great mentors.

6. Remember you are on a journey and enjoy it. Help people and make their lives better.

7. Act now every day and most importantly, never stop learning.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur?

The biggest for me is that I never started a family. Owning a new business you need to be there at least 95 per cent of the time. Face it, the business is you. As an employee you can walk out the door and leave everything behind. When you run your own business you take the work home with you, you have very little time for family if you even begin one.

Are you prepared for failure?

You better prepare yourself because the moment you decide to become an entrepreneur, you have taken a leap.

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The biggest challenge you will face in business sometimes comes from your personal life. I have faced family illness, I have been robbed, I have handled crucial business problems, and I have been backstabbed by business associates. You solve the problems and you learn from them.

What has been your biggest disappointment since you started your business?

There is one thing that is hard to fix, and when it happens it becomes a huge disappointment that you have little control over, which is picking the wrong partner. This has surely been the biggest disappointment for me. This is also one of the most popular reasons a business will fail even when it is doing well.

What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

I am passionate about our city and politics. Although I would be a very unpolitical politician I would love to get more involved and keep Auckland as the wonderful place it already is to live.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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