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Social Networking Isn’t So Social

“Social Networking Is Not Very Social. It’s very easy to compile a list of friends and contacts through social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn and think that you’re well connected. I much prefer the power of picking up the phone and dialing a number rather than texting or even e-mailing someone. In business it’s all about the connections and I know of no better way to connect with someone (aside from face to face) than picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hi.'”

Say “No” and Mean It

This article shares some ideas you can use to make sure you don’t find yourself doing something you’d very much prefer not to do.

How can you confidently respond when someone makes a request you’d prefer not to accommodate?

The question has just been posed.  Pause.   Was your inclination to say yes, even though there’s a voice deep down saying “no.”   Well, let’s raise the volume on that voice.

What possible reasons could there be for saying no?

  • It’s beyond your means?
  • It’s beyond your comfort level?
  • You have no interest?

Identify all the reasons you have for saying “no.”  Identify which stem from a lack of confidence, versus a sincere disinterest in fulfilling the request.

What would happen if you said yes?  Perhaps:

  • You would be considered a teamplayer
  • It would make your boss happy
  • Your visibility with higher-ups would be improved

It’s comes down to a simple cost/benefit really.

Would the discomfort involved in saying yes outweigh the benefits of possibly going along with the request? 

Or, do the benefits outweigh your temporary discomforts?

The role of guilt

Saying “no” is hard for many of us.  Guilt often comes into play.  Whether this guilt has its foundation in religion, a proper upbringing, or a worldview that simply says “it’s not nice to say no”, we often recognize it and make decisions we’d rather not be making, based upon it.

Saying “NO”

You’ve made the decision, after scientifically weighing the results of your cost/benefit analysis, do honestly say “NO”.   Well, go ahead and say it clearly, and self-assuredly…in the mirror.  Look yourself in the eye, and do it.  Just say “NO.”   Say it like you really mean it, and then say it again as you would to whomever made the request of you.  When you pretend you’re speaking to the person who made the request, does it come out differently?  Practice and experiment with different ways to say “NO” until you find one you’re comfortable with.

Then go, and say “NO.”

 After you say “NO”

 If you’re used to giving in to others, then guess what?  After all that practice, you may just be surprised to find that they are not willing to accept it!  They may push, rephrase the question, or make a new, not altogether different, request.  Be prepared for this!  Know your boundary—what ARE you willing to do?  Revisit the questions you asked yourself before—what would happen if you said no, or yes?   If you are serious about saying “NO” then stick to your guns.   Tell the individual making the request that you would appreciate it if they respected your wishes, and ask them to refrain from pursuing it further.  If you are comfortable expressing your “reasons why” then do so speaking from your personal perspective.

 Tips on how to say your ”NO!”

 1.   The “Wet lettuce NO”

 If you are going to say NO, you must say it in a way that means NO!  Saying NO in a quiet, unassuming voice is like a hand shake that is floppy and limp.  By saying NO in a non confident manner it will make you feel as though you have got to convince the other person about your decision and the reasons why you have said it!

 2.   The “Mr Angry NO”

 This is at the other end of the spectrum in how to say NO.  It is done in an aggressive manner and usually said with contempt.  It is not an effective way to communicate your NO.  Here are a couple of examples:

“NO. I’m not doing that rubbish. You’ve got to be joking aren’t you”
“NO. I wouldn’t lower myself to do that piece of work”

3.   The assertive NO

This is the best way to say NO!  In a firm, yet polite voice say: “No. I will not be able to do that for you”  Also, if you want to say the reasons why, keep it short and sweet.  “No. I will not be able to do that for you. I will be having my hair done at that time”

 4.   Use effective body language

When saying NO remember the power of non-verbal communications.  Look the person in the eye when you say the NO.  Shake your head at the same time as saying NO.  Stand up tall.  Use a firm tone in your voice.

 5.   When all is said and done

Don’t forget that when anyone asks a question of you, you are perfectly OK to say, “Can I think about that and get back to you.”  No-one should be pressurised into giving an immediate answer, even if the delay is only a couple of minutes. It will give you some time to think it through and to gather your thoughts.  It will also give you some time to think about how you are going to say it, the words to use and your body language.

Saying NO exercise

Practice makes perfect as they say!

What I would like you to do for the next 7 days is to start to say NO more often.  So whether it is the double glazing salesman, the cold call, “Would you like fries with that” or the shop assistant – practice saying NO to one person for at least the next 7 days.  You will be an expert come the end of the week!

What will happen?

  • You will feel much more confident and proud.
  • You will find that practice makes perfect—the more you confidently say “NO” the easier it becomes.
  • Others will respect your wishes and take you seriously the first time you say “NO.”
  • You won’t find yourself doing things you never wanted to do in the first place.
  • You’ll have more time to focus on the things you do want to be involved in.
  • The list goes on from there…

Up Close with Diana Williams

Recognize Any Of These People Working For You?

All successful managers learn how to shift their leadership style to work effectively with different types of employees.  While most people fall within the “normal” range of behaviors (whatever that means!), some have characteristics that are rather extreme.  When confronted with these behaviors, managers sometimes aren’t quite sure how to respond.  

In this series, we will look at several types of employees that present specific management challenges.

How to Spot Them:  Slackers seem to fall into two categories: Obvious Loafers and Sneaky Slackers.  Obvious Loafers are easy to identify.  They can be found lingering in the break room, openly surfing the net, or parked in someone’s cubicle for a lengthy chat (which proves that slacking off can be contagious).  Sneaky Slackers are harder to spot.  They may find legitimate reasons to leave the office, then take time to run lengthy errands.  Or to avoid tasks they don’t like, they spend unnecessary hours on work that they prefer.  And they only web surf or make personal calls when no one is around.  Both types often take excessive “mental health days”.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  Reasons for slacking off can vary.  Some people simply never developed a strong work ethic, possibly because they lacked good role models.  Others were constantly indulged as children and never made to take responsibility.  Resentful slackers have a chip on their shoulder and are trying to get back at their employer.  And some unmotivated employees are simply in the wrong field.  They don’t like their job, so they have trouble bringing any energy to it. 

Preferred Manager:  Slackers love managers who leave them alone to do whatever they want.  They prefer to have as little supervision as possible.  They adore bosses who are afraid to address performance issues.

 Developmental Challenges:  Slackers need to grasp the basic concept that a paycheck represents an investment by their employer.  The employer has the right to expect a certain return on that investment.  Therefore, the employer “owns” the employee’s work time and reasonably expects that the time will be used for the employer’s benefit.

 How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Clearly define specific objectives for the employee to meet.  (2) Set regular times for feedback and follow-up to insure that work is actually getting done.  (3) Address unfinished projects or missed deadlines immediately.  Insist that work be completed.  (4) Insure that the employee observes scheduled work hours.  (5) Be a regular presence in the work area so that you know what’s going on.  (6) Make a clear connection between productivity and rewards with all employees. (7) Praise productivity, progress, and punctuality.  (8) Address performance issues as soon as they arise.  (9) If you sense that the employee is totally unsuited to the job, see if a more appropriate position is available. 

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Accept shoddy work or tolerate lame excuses.  (2) Allow slackers to work at home or put them in remote locations. (3) “Reward” laziness by giving difficult tasks to someone else.  (3) Put off discussing performance problems.  (4) Give undeserved performance ratings. 

Space Cadets

How to Spot Them:  Space Cadets frequently seem to be thinking of something else.  Regardless of the topic being discussed, they are usually on a different wavelength.  They make seemingly off-the-wall comments in meetings and may start discussions in the middle of a thought.  Others often aren’t sure how their comments relate to the subject at hand.  They may come up with ideas that, at least on the surface, seem rather impractical.   Space Cadets are usually genial people who have little interest in power or control.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  Space Cadets tend to be very abstract thinkers who are more focused on ideas and possibilities than on facts and action steps.  Their thought processes are not linear, so their conversations and actions do not proceed in a step-by-step fashion.  However, their talent lies in seeing associations and connections that others may miss.  Because they don’t think like other people, their communications are sometimes confusing.  They are usually more focused on the future than the present.

Preferred Manager:  Space Cadets prefer managers who will listen to their ideas and appreciate their insights.  They are also happiest with managers who do not force them to do mundane tasks, like filling out forms, and who leave them alone to follow their interests.   

Developmental Challenges:  To work effectively in most traditional organizations, Space Cadets must learn to focus and to communicate more clearly and concisely.  They also need to develop a better tolerance for tasks that they don’t like to do.  This means not putting off the more mundane activities that they tend to avoid.  They tend to be most excited about the beginning of a project, so they must learn to follow through.

How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Clearly define expectations in terms of results that must be accomplished.  (2) Help the employee break down large projects into smaller implementation steps.  (3) Set regular times for feedback and follow-up to insure that work is on track.  (4) Explain why more mundane or tedious tasks are important.  (5) Provide feedback to encourage more concise verbal and written communications.  (6) Stress the importance of organized presentations.  (7) Take time to understand the Space Cadet’s ideas, as they often have benefits that are not immediately apparent.  (8) Pay attention when the Space Cadet brings up long-range concerns, because they often have an uncanny ability to anticipate the future.  (9) Provide opportunities to be creative. 

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Let the Space Cadet work with no supervision.  (2) Delegate projects without specific interim feedback points.  (3) Stop listening because the employee’s comments are hard to follow.  (4) Dismiss the employee as being an airhead. 

Power Grabbers

How to Spot Them:  Power Grabbers tend to get into power struggles with their bosses.  So they often act like they’re managing you, instead of the other way around.  These are the folks who just naturally take over a meeting or quickly step into the lead role on a project.  They like for people to know about their accomplishments, so titles, perks, and public recognition are important to them.  Because they don’t like to be “managed’, they may resist direction or ignore your instructions.  Their career goals always involve promotion.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  Power Grabbers have a high need for control and don’t want anyone else directing their actions.  They are very status conscious and are motivated by competition and public recognition.  They view life as a game where they are always playing to win.  A strong fear of failure often lies behind this bravado.

Preferred Manager:  Ironically, Power Grabbers prefer either wimpy bosses or high-powered managers.  They like the fact that spineless supervisors allow them to do whatever they want and leave a power vacuum for them to fill.  But powerful managers are the only people they really respect.

Developmental Challenges:  For long-term success, Power Grabbers need to realize that their high need for control tends to alienate other people.  The more obviously they strive for power, the less people are likely to trust them with it.  They also need to recognize that involving and engaging others often improves both results and acceptance.  They must learn to function as an effective member of the team, not just the leader.

How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Define clear targets for success.  (2) Identify the collaborative relationships that must be developed to reach these targets.  (3) Include collaboration as a factor in performance appraisals.  (4) Explain the specific reasons why involvement with others is important and how it will improve results.  (5) Help Power Grabbers understand how their drive for control may actually interfere with their success.  (6) Allow autonomy and independence, but set clear parameters and follow up regularly.  (7) Recognize the Power Grabber’s leadership strengths and use them appropriately.  (8) Provide public recognition for accomplishments.  (9) Reward leadership maturity with leadership roles and provide leadership coaching. 

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Give up and give in under pressure.  You must be comfortable using the authority of your position when necessary.  (2) Get sucked into power struggles and useless debates.  Know when to cut off the conversation and make a firm decision.  (3) Avoid interaction because you fear confrontation.  This will leave a power vacuum that the Power Grabber will happily fill.  (4) Act like a wimp.  Power Grabbers only respect people who are comfortable using power.


How to Spot Them:  Loners are quite easy to spot.  Just look for an employee who prefers to spend the day working on the computer and talking to no one, who never wants to attend conferences or workshops, and who eats lunch alone while reading the newspaper.  Don’t bother to search for them in meetings, because they look for any excuse to duck out. 

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  People vary greatly in their desire for interaction with others, and Loners are at the far “low” end of that continuum.  At work, their enjoyment comes from focusing on solitary pursuits in settings where they can concentrate and are seldom interrupted.  They don’t dislike people – they just don’t find social interaction to be a very enjoyable activity. 

Preferred Manager:  Not surprisingly, Loners prefer managers who leave them alone.  Once they understand what is expected, they will happily go off and tackle the task independently, not communicating with anyone until the work is done.  They like managers who will let them do this.

Developmental Challenges:  Loners need to understand that sharing information and including others in projects can actually improve results.  They need to realize that, although they may be highly competent, there are ideas and perspectives that may never occur to them.  They also need to learn that other people may interpret their task-oriented behavior as rude and unfriendly.

How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Set clear expectations for necessary collaboration and communication with colleagues.  Follow up to be sure that it happens.  (2) Explain the specific reasons why this involvement with others is important and how it will improve results.  Don’t assume that this is obvious.  (3) When collaboration is expected, suggest possible approaches and agree on a strategy (group meeting, individual conversations).  Otherwise, Loners will do it all through email.  (4) Help Loners understand how their behavior may look to others.  Just as they may view “friendly” behavior as “pushy”, others may see “independent” as “cold and unapproachable”.   (5) Provide enough autonomy.  Although they must learn to interact, Loners will do their best work alone.

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Give in and allow Loners to shut out colleagues or avoid necessary meetings.  (2) View the Loner as deviant or dysfunctional.  There’s nothing wrong with preferring independent work.  (3) Assume that Loners will enjoy social activities if they are forced to participate.  They may reluctantly attend, but it will never be their idea of fun.  (4) Ignore them because it’s easy.

Drama Queens (or Kings)

How to Spot Them:  Drama queens thrive on excitement and attention, so spotting them is easy.  You can hardly miss them!  For Drama Queens, a calm, peaceful workday is just not very rewarding, so they try to spice things up with dramatic pronouncements, juicy gossip, ominous rumors, personal traumas, or emotional breakdowns.  When talking with others, they are expressive and animated.  You never have to ask how a Drama Queen is feeling, because you can tell simply by looking at them.  More subdued coworkers find Drama Queens exhausting and try to avoid them.  Managers can expect Drama Queen employees to drop by frequently to share their latest family crisis or coworker conflict.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  Many Drama Queens seem “hard-wired” to thrive on emotional stimulation, regardless of whether the emotions are positive or negative.  When their work environment doesn’t provide enough excitement, they will try to create some.  As one Drama Queen said to her husband, “We haven’t had a good fight in a long time!”  For some Drama Queens, the goal is to get attention.  These employees are actually rather insecure and only feel important when everyone is focused on them. 

Preferred Manager:  Drama Queens prefer managers who will spend time listening to their stories, sympathizing with their troubles, and getting involved in their crises. 

Developmental Challenges:  True Drama Queen behavior usually indicates an immature personality.  For long-term success, these employees must learn to broaden their view of the world, direct their energy towards work-related goals, and contain their emotionality.  Some Drama Queens get misdirected into the wrong profession and need to find work that better matches their personality. 

How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Work with the Drama Queen to agree on useful work-related goals.  Identify tasks and projects that will make productive use of the Drama Queen’s high level of interpersonal energy.  (2) Arrange regular meetings to discuss progress and challenges.  Face-to-face interaction is much more effective than email in motivating these employees.  (3) Be willing to spend some time (but not too much) engaging in conversation not directly related to work.  Drama Queens love an audience for their stories.  (4) Help the Drama Queen understand how excessive emotionality may turn off coworkers.  Clearly define appropriate workplace behavior.  (5) If the Drama Queen’s personality seems to be a dreadful match for the job, assist with or arrange for some career counseling.

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Reward inappropriate behavior by listening to endless stories or responding to constant complaints.  (2) Allow the Drama Queen to waste coworkers’ time with extended gossip or gripe sessions.  (3) Give in to unreasonable or inappropriate requests simply to make the Drama Queen shut up.


How to Spot Them:  Challengers are programmed to be oppositional.  When presented with a proposal, suggestion, directive, or idea, they automatically point out flaws, obstacles, and potential problems.  Challengers are not at all reluctant to disagree with the boss.  In fact, they rather enjoy challenging management, because they feel it establishes their independence.  They resent authority and never show respect just because the person has a title.  Challengers relish debates and don’t care if their views are unpopular.  In meetings, they often get into heated discussions with coworkers and adamantly hold to their positions.  The Challenger’s focus is on winning the argument, not resolving the problem.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  Challengers have a high need for control.  When they feel that others are attempting to constrain or direct their behavior, they become rebellious.  Early in life, they may have learned to get their way by throwing tantrums or intimidating others.  As adults, they have never adopted more mature or effective strategies.  They view themselves as strong and independent.

 Preferred Manager:  Challengers prefer weak managers who easily back down in the face of opposition.  They want to work for someone they can dominate.  However, this is absolutely the worst type of manager for them to have.

 Developmental Challenges:  To develop and mature, Challengers need to understand that their rebellious behavior will eventually derail their career and prevent them from achieving their goals.  They must learn to focus on long-range objectives and engage in collaborative problem-solving.

 How the Manager Can Help:  (1) Learn about the Challenger’s career goals.  Point out how this behavior will interfere with accomplishing them.  (2) Turn arguments into problem-solving discussions.  Help the Challenger learn these skills.  (3) Listen and respond positively when the Challenger presents views in an appropriate, non-confrontational manner.  (4) Include the Challenger in projects where collaboration is required for success.  Provide feedback during this process.  (5) Help Challengers understand that while they see themselves as strong and independent, others may view them as difficult to work with or hard to manage.

What the Manager Should NOT Do:  (1) Be intimidated by the Challenger’s forceful behavior.  (2) Give in or change plans just because the Challenger is unhappy or insistent.  (3) Get “hooked” into endless debates and arguments.  When it’s time to end the discussion, just end it.  (4) Allow the Challenger to hijack meetings by dominating the discussion.


How to Spot Them:  The main characteristic of Clingers is dependence.  They like clear instructions, ongoing communication, and frequent positive reinforcement.  They tend to be uncomfortable making independent decisions, because they are afraid of doing the wrong thing.  They will therefore ask for information and clarification until they feel completely certain about what is expected.  Clingers are reluctant to express disagreement because they fear making others angry and losing their support.  As a result, they sometimes withhold their opinions or harbor resentments that they never express.  Because Clingers are loyal, conscientious, and eager to please, managers usually view them as reliable and helpful.  But these employees will not realize their full potential unless the manager encourages independence.

What’s Behind Their Behavior:  The Clinger’s main need is to feel safe, and they believe that safety can be attained through attachment to authority figures.  Their primary emotional driver is fear: fear of making mistakes, fear of losing support, fear of disapproval, fear of being disliked. 

Preferred Manager:  Clingers want to work for a strong, friendly leader who offers consistent support and guidance.  Frequent communication with the manager is very important to them.

Developmental Challenges:  To develop and progress, Clingers need to become more confident of their abilities, more willing to express opinions, and more comfortable making decisions. 

How the Manager Can Help:  The manager needs to gradually increase the Clinger’s comfort with behaviors that feel unsafe.  (1) Ask for the employee’s opinion and express appreciation when opinions are volunteered.   Use their ideas when possible.  (2) Be understanding about normal mistakes and stress that the goal is to learn from them.  (3) Delegate decisions, but do so in small steps.  Express appreciation when independent decisions are made.  Gradually enlarge the scope of delegated tasks or projects.

Making the Inc. 5000 List

Inc 5000 2010 List

Inc 5000 2010 List

Of all the restaurants in New York City, Bogota Latin Bistro does a pretty great job of getting itself media attention. Bogota has been featured in numerous press, both print, television, radio and digital. Hard as it is to believe, I don’t pay a public relationship firm to get me in the press. The press seeks me out and I give them what they want.  The press seeks the path of least resistance.  They want a story that’s already there and they want someone who can easily tell it.  That’s us. We have a great story. It’s the proverbial story of the little engine that could (and did).  Ours is the story of Two guys who wanted to open a restaurant with no money and little experience but lots of faith, determination and discipline. Throw in hard work and a continual investment of time, energy and money into a passion for latin culture and it’s food.  Throw in the fact that my business partner and I are also life partners with twins on the way, the story only gets better.

Inc. 5000 Applicant of the Week:  Bogota Latin Bistro

Talent Management

Talent management refers to the skills of attracting highly skilled workers, of integrating new workers, and developing and retaining current workers to meet current and future business objectives. Talent management[1] in this context does not refer to the management of entertainers. Companies engaging in a talent management strategy shift the responsibility of employees from the human resources department to all managers throughout the organization [1]. The process of attracting and retaining profitable employees, as it is increasingly more competitive between firms and of strategic importance, has come to be known as “the war for talent.” Talent management is also known as HCM (Human Capital Management).

The term “talent management” means different things to different organizations [2][2]. To some it is about the management of high-worth individuals or “the talented” whilst to others it is about how talent is managed generally – i.e. on the assumption that all people have talent which should be identified and liberated.[citation needed]

Hiring the right people is one of my biggest challenges in being an entrepreneur.  While there are plenty of great candidates out there, many of them are already employed and many of the rest are simply looking for a job and have no interest in either the restaurant industry as a whole or have no idea that they were hired by the Company to assist with business objectives.  Our main objective is not to to add fat to the payroll. Let others do that. My main objective is to promote the mission of the restaurant, move our agenda ahead and make a profit for the business.

An Entrepreneur’s Best Friend? The Brooklyn Public Library

Moomtaz Coaching / Bogota Latin Bistro / Farid Ali Lancheros / George Constantinou

Farid Ali Lancheros and George Constantinou are advocates for the Brooklyn Business Library

BPL: How and why did you decide to start this type of biz?

George Constantinou: I always had a dream of owning a radio station or a restaurant. Call it fate. Once I got laid off from my Internet job in 2001 and a friend of mine gave me a lead for a bartender position at Night of The Cookers restaurant in Fort Greene. I started off waiting tables, and within three months I was the general manager. It just felt right, and right away my plan was to someday open up my own restaurant. Definitely without the experience, we would have made lots more mistakes.

I learned:

* How the ship runs
* Customers come #1
* Food is an important aspect of the biz
* Ambiance (lighting) is key
* Music has to match the mood
* Staff has to be on top of their jobs
* If any one thing falls out of place, that’s the end of it

Farid Ali Lancheros: The idea of owning my own business never occurred to me until my partner came along and sold me on the idea. Owning your own business was something other people did. I came from a family of people who worked for others. And I also subscribed to that mentality until George not only challenged my thinking, but persistently presented me with the idea of being an entrepreneur.

The reason I finally acquiesced to the idea of a restaurant stemmed from George’s extensive experience in the business. Because I knew nothing about business, I felt confident that I would be able to go forward one step at a time with someone who had experience and the courage to do it. In life, there are opportunities that present themselves only once, and if you’re not aware of them, they pass you by. This was an opportunity that kept presenting itself over and over again. I started to believe that maybe it was an opportunity that not only was being presented to me from a higher plane, but that it was most likely meant to come to fruition.

Having said this, I do love dining out and I do enjoy gathering friends and family together and sharing a meal. I enjoy the intimacy that great food brings to an occasion and I love being taken care of when in a restaurant. I know how I enjoy being treated when I’m out and I’d love to be able to offer that to others, and hopefully, become successful as a result. I currently work in an office where there’s little communication among my coworkers. It’s just me and a computer for eight hours a day, which is very isolating. Working in a restaurant will permit me to be around people where I can access aspects of myself I enjoy in the context of work and a fun dining experience.

BPL: What were the first steps you took to get started?

 GC: I went to Barnes & Noble to buy a restaurant book and at the time there were no opening up a restaurant for dummies type-books, which I had wanted. I came across a few books and eventually I bought a book called Starting a Small Restaurant by Daniel Miller. The book had a certain grassroots charm that I like. I finished the book in two days and was “hungry” to start my business.

I also started looking at restaurants with a different eye and started telling all my friends that I was opening up a restaurant. I created a menu and was so excited by it. Some of the early names I chose for the place were Feta, Octopus and Tamarindo.

We really wanted to have the restaurant in Fort Greene but there was no space available and the next step was Park Slope. We saw there were lots of restaurants opening there and had an early tip that it was a hot area.

In early 2003 I was going to the business library on a weekly basis to look at the notices of events on the bulletin board. There was a seminar that announced a business plan competition. It felt right to enter. I felt like we were going to win from the beginning. The competition made us “rev up” with the biz plan. We had the content, but needed to shape and mold it to what it is now. The competition gave us the discipline to do that. And then we won. Landlords were impressed that we won, so winning did affect some people. But it didn’t make much difference to banks.

We kept trying to get funding. Really, it boils down to who you know. If I owned a home, we would have gotten a loan much sooner. Having a biz partner helps. We had an excellent credit rating, but that wasn’t enough for opening a restaurant. Different industries are treated differently by banks.

FAL: One night I was lying in bed flipping through a local Brooklyn newspaper and I saw an ad for WIBO (Workshop In Business Opportunities), a 16-week business/entrepreneurial workshop that covered all the basics of how to start up your own business. I read the ad over and over again and started thinking. I called up George that very evening and said, “Listen, I’m not saying that I’m going to go into business with you or that I’m even interested. BUT, if you’re willing to take this course with me, I’ll entertain the idea. I’m not making any promises.” He agreed and it began from there.

That step led to the Brooklyn Business Library when one of the librarians visited the class. The library then led me to many free or low-cost classes that are available throughout the city for budding business people. I discovered a treasure trove of information, websites and organizations that assist people who are interested in going into business for themselves.

Winning the biz plan competition took us to another level. We met people we would not have met before. Part of the prize was in our obtaining marketing and legal services that were very helpful. The Neighborhood Law Project assists entrepreneurs in getting a biz off the ground. They loved the fact that we won the contest.

BPL: What Brooklyn organizations and resources would you recommend to others looking for help and assistance in starting a new biz?

GC: I would definitely recommend the Brooklyn Business Library. From day one when I received a tour of the many resources, I knew I would spend the first half of my start-up process in the library researching for my business plan and signing up for entrepreneur classes. (The bulletin board is a great resource. The first thing I would do when I entered the library is check out the bulletin board.)

The NYC Business Solutions Center at the Chamber of Commerce has also been very helpful. Fred Graves is a very resourceful individual.

In addition, Business Outreach Center, Boricua College, BEDC and the Pratt Area Community Council have also been very helpful.

FAL: I always encourage people to make frequent visits to the Brooklyn Business Library and to get to know their librarian. I would not have known where to get started if the library wasn’t there. One of the things the library has are flyers with information on classes, seminars, etc. Those are really helpful.

I would also encourage folks to speak to any and every organization that is out there who may be able to either provide you with some direct assistance or guidance, or lead you to someone else who can. Organizations that I would suggest include the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, Business Outreach Center, CAMBA, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the New York Small Business Solutions Center and SCORE.

BPL: What methods have you used to get the word out about your biz? How did you select these methods? Which do you think is most successful and why?

GC: Sending email updates to friends has been key. We have involved them in our start-up process since day one. We have a blog on our website that keeps our friends and prospects updated on what’s going on with Bogota.

For restaurants, word of mouth is key. Networking was something we did early in the process. We joined the Chamber of Commerce. We learned the art of getting biz cards, the importance of showing up at meetings and then the importance of exchanging biz cards. Today have collected about 1050 email addresses through our various networking techniques.

It’s also a good idea to meet other restaurateurs. Go out to eat in their restaurants. I was nervous at first to do that, but in actuality they want to help someone out.

FAL: We are making sure we tell everyone we know that we’re starting a restaurant. Wherever I go I mention it to people and I hand out my business card. I also belong to a lot of organizations as a volunteer. I am a member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. I attend numerous networking events and do speaking engagements.

I meet literally hundreds of new people every month and each person I meet is a potential customer. That’s something I learned from WIBO. Everyone is a potential customer. I also make sure I mention it to people in the building I live in and to coworkers at my present job. We also have a website with a blog that chronicles our journey. It makes our friends feel as though they are a part of this.

BPL: What is the best thing about being in biz for yourself?

GC: Creativity. Being your own boss. The power to run a business the way you want to run it. The start-up phase is very exciting and I can’t wait for opening day. I know that it will be one of the biggest days of my life.

FAL: The opportunity to be creative and to know that I am responsible for my own destiny. I love discovering aspects of myself that I never fully tapped into (such as faith, trust and courage) and being able to overcome the ones (such as fear) that have kept me from seizing many opportunities that have passed me by in the past.

It has been important to take a look at how I use my time. “Am I spending time effectively – filling mind with information about the field that I’m getting involved in? Is the time that I’m spending being spent in a worthwhile fashion?”

BPL: What do you think is the most difficult aspect of being in biz for yourself?

 GC: Bills, bills, bills. Paying bills and being responsible for every aspect of the business. As manager of a restaurant, you run the business without the stress of paying the bills. I can do my job and go home at night and sleep without financial stress. It is easy for me as manger to say the light switch needs to be fixed now or the wall should be painted ASAP without thinking of the bigger financial picture. As owner, I now have to plan and strategize which expenses get top priority. I know once the restaurant opens I will sleep differently.

FAL: Being responsible for much more than I am when you’re working for someone else. Every decision I make has an impact on someone else.

BPL: If you were to do one thing differently in starting your own biz, what would it be?

 GC: Not sure. It has been a journey filled with ups and downs and I needed to experience the downs to fully appreciate the ups. I needed to make mistakes to learn not to make them when my business was open.

FAL: This road has been what it’s been. I trust that everything that has happened so far was meant to be the way it was. If things had been different, I would not have learned the lessons I was meant to learn or have met the hundreds of incredible people I’ve met along the way.

BPL: What’s the one most important piece of advice you would give someone else about starting a biz?

 GC: I have a lot of advice.

Do it and don’t give up. There will be a lot of ups and downs – rejections and excitement. One minute it all makes sense and the next you have no clue. But just move forward one step at a time and it will work out.

You have to believe in yourself and make yourself do things you are uncomfortable or scared to do. Be gentle to yourself. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move ahead.

Ask for help, there are people out there to help you. I have met so many great restaurateurs that have opened up themselves for questions, etc. and sometimes I would not want to call them because I thought I was bothering them. I made myself get over that because you have to in order to move forward. I can’t spend anytime being blocked, I need to spend my time furthering myself and my business.

FAL: I would say, ask for help. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. There’s so much help out there available. Have faith.  You have to be patient. Learn that hearing no is part of the process. You don’t have to give up.


“I Don’t Do Voucher Discount Programs”

Bogota Latin Bistro: New York's Best Colombian Restaurant

Bogota Latin Bistro

Yes, I am a restaurant owner and ‘No’, I have not participated in any voucher programs. I recently attended an event sponsored by Culintro here in New York City discussing voucher discount programs. I wanted to know if these programs worked for any of the panelists in attendance and what their view on them were. I left unconvinced that vouchers would be beneficial to my business.

As expressed by one of the panelists representing Tribeca Grill, I don’t feel like sharing a piece of my pie with anyone at the same time that I’m discounting my food and, in my estimation, cheapening my brand, in exchange for exposure when I feel the best exposure I can get is from doing all the right things right here within my walls.

I believe that these vouchers work well for start ups and possibly for new concepts but I’m already sitting on a restaurant that people have no problem patronizing and paying full price for in exchange for the great food, drinks and service we offer here. Bottom line: we offer a great value here as it is. We have an atypical restaurant: we defy the odds of most places. We could easily be busy (and often are) on Mondays and Tuesdays when most places have employees standing around doing nothing and going home with empty pockets. Do the right thing inside your walls, stay on top of what the competition is doing, treat your guests correctly, hire the best, train them, surprise and delight guests inside the restaurant through specials, freebies (we call them ‘promo’s”’), keep the place clean (especially the bathroom), reach out to them via Facebook and Twitter (as we often do), make them feel absolutely welcome when they walk in the door and absolutely appreciated as they walk out. Do this, among a host of other things (and I can assure that the MAJORITY of restaurants in NYC don’t do half the things I’ve mentioned here) and you’ won’t have to resort to voucher programs. Running a restaurant is hard work. It requires a huge investment of time, energy and money to stay ahead of the competition. If you can’t play with the big boys by doing all or most of the right things, then voucher programs might just be for you.

6 Factors To Consider When Contracting, Hiring, Promoting, Demoting or Firing

American Success Story

Bogota Latin Bistro founders  F. Ali Lancheros and George Constantinou

Six Key Factors I use when Contracting, Hiring, Promoting or Considering Dismissing:

  • Like: “Do I like this person?”
  • Trust: Do I trust this person?”
  • Respect: “Do I respect this person?”
  • Integrity: “Does this person have integrity? Do they mean what they say and say what they mean?”
  • Intelligence: “Is this person intelligent? Do they offer ideas and solutions? Do they understand concepts and values important to me and my business?”
  • Energy: “Is this person dynamic and growth oriented? Can they keep up and/or lead with the growth demands of my company?”

If they pass all six, I keep them around.


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