Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Jeff Lobdell’s Secret to Success

Don’t recognize his name?  Jeff Lobdell is the owner of Grand Rapids gems like The Omelette Shoppe, Bagel Beanery, Beltline Bar, and Sundance Grill.  Yes, pretty much the only places in GR that I go for breakfast; and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  He is now involved in 14 different restaurants and gets calls all the time with offers for more.  He was born in Flint, MI, but grew up among the cherries of Traverse City.  His dad was in the fast food franchising business, so you could say he was born to own a restaurant.  His first taste was a job working as a busboy, which he said, “hooked me on the restaurant industry.”  That lead him to major in Hotel Restaurant & Institutional Management at Michigan State.  After that he worked at Cooker Bar & Grill, helping them open a couple restaurants.

Nugget of wisdom #1 for future entrepreneurs: “Work for someone else right out of school, so you can make mistakes with someone else’s money.”

In 1996, he decided to go out on his own and start his own business.  He started the Bagel Beanery (on Michigan St) from what used to be an abandoned gas station.  A couple years into owning the business, he found that starting a business from scratch was a lot harder than he thought.

Nugget of wisdom #2: Jeff recommends you buy an existing business if you can, rather than starting one from scratch.  This has been where most of his success came from.  One reason is that banks are more apt to lend money to a business with history.

In 2002, Jeff bought Beltline Bar, the owner was 63 and wanted to retire.  

Nugget of wisdom #3: Networking is key.  Jeff is a member of the Michigan Restaurant Association and has met a lot of his contacts in the industry though the organization.  That is how he heard about the Beltline Bar.

So. moving forward t0 2004,  Jeff bought The Omelette Shop, which started in Traverse City.  Now there are four; two in Traverse and two in Grand Rapids.  He also bought both Sundance Grills, Boone’s Prime Time Pub, and more recently Forest Hills Inn, bringing his total to 14.  Now we have come full circle.  Here are some final parting nuggets of wisdom from Jeff.

Nugget of wisdom #4: Jeff thinks coupons devalue your product, making it a place where people only go because they have a coupon.

Nugget of wisdom #5: “People who try to hold the reigns of the business too tightly do not allow it to grow.”

Nugget of wisdom #6: The hardest part about starting a business is cash flow management.  You will inevitably go over budget and you have to be ready for it.  A lot of restaurants stop paying their payroll taxes when money gets tight and go under when they are hit with the fines.

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3 Sure Fire Ways to Become More Awesome!

  1. Become Laura Bergells.
  2. If your scheme to achieve #1 fails, then Become Laura’s new BFF.
  3. If #2 fails or seems too hard, then find out when she is presenting in your area and go.  Soak up her awesomeness by proximity.

I had the chance to do #3 today and left the room feeling way more awesome than when I went in.  How many of us need to make presentations and dread it?  How many of us have sat through terrible presentations where the speaker gets up there and reads slides to us in a monotone?

All Laura wants is for your presentations to rock.  Her presentation in my Senior Entrepreneurship class today was about how to take your presentations (in our case for a business plan competition) from the 1980s to the 2009s. As she mentioned the techniques that were from the 80s that people still employ today, I kept thinking back to my own presentations.  How many of us have bullet points with key sentences from the speech we’ve memorized on the screen?  How many of us use cheesy clip art and crazy fonts to jazz up our slides?

Her challenge to us:  Try to make an entire presentation with NO BULLET POINTS.  Sounds crazy right?  The key point she made was that simplicity is the name of the game in 2009.  People can’t process what they are seeing and what they are hearing at the same time.  So try to keep your slide to a few key words and a few pictures (NOT CLIP ART) that get your point across quickly.

Want to learn more about how to make more dynamic presentations?  Visit her blog: http://www.maniactive.com/

Just another craicadelicious insight into the people that make Grand Rapids rock!

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