Biz Card Deciphered

“The way to do is to be.” Lao Tzu


Bob Front.PNG

Here’s an explanation of the terms and images on my Business card.

Flaneur

“One who meditates and observes life in the cafes and bars across the world.”

I feel this is a noble goal of mine as I near the end of my journey on the planet.

Being a “flaneur” may seem frivolous to some but for me it is an excellent way to contemplate the meaning of life. For some reason this goal reminds me of what Michel de Montaigne said of Socrates:

“There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.”

As for me, I’m hoping to improve my guitar skills and, perhaps, take up surfing.

D.R.O.M.P.A.I.W.R.O.Y.

I invented this acronym a few years ago. Translated it means, “Don’t rain on my parade and I won’t rain on yours”. When I retired I decided to associate with and surround myself with upbeat people.

In short, optimists. The acronym was partly inspired by some lyrics from the great Bob Marley who sang: “Please don’t you rock my boat, no ‘cause I don’t want my boat to be rocking”. In other words, bring me your positivity and relish the simple things in this life. The acronym is sort of the Golden Rule backwards - “Do unto others as you’d have them do onto you.” My philosophy is basically the same… only I’m focusing on being with happy and content folks. And, part of my bargain is that I’ll be like that (i.e. positive and upbeat) with others.

It’s amazing what a group of optimists can do together. I’ve seen the best results in my restaurants from Management Teams that inspire good attitudes among their staff. A motivated team helps to make a restaurant successful, profitable and turns the the following quotation into a reality:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

This optimism and our adherence to a Blue Ocean strategy (check out “Blue Ocean” online) has driven our restaurants to the top ten of Trip Advisor standings in our region.

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Metamorphosis

I used this idea as a metaphor for my multiple careers.

Career #1 - Golf

As a youngster I became quite proficient in the game of golf. When I was ten years old we lived on a golf course in Rosemere, Quebec. My summers were spent practising and playing every day with friends. I was lucky. By the time I was in my teens I started to win some local tournaments. At the age of nineteen I turned pro and dedicated myself to perfecting my game. Over the next fifteen years I played in many professional tournaments. I also played on the Australia PGA tour (1975) and the Canadian PGA tour (1976-1979). At the peak of my game I managed to win three regional tournaments and held four course records (only one still stands - a 63 at Cedarhurst Golf Club in Beaverton, Ont.). My best tournament on the Canadian tour was a score of four under in a three-day tournament. I came fifth to winner George Knudson who shot twelve under. My score was about as good as I could possibly play, yet I was eight shots behind the Canadian great Knudson! After a while I gave up my professional tour player aspirations and took a job as General Manager and Club Professional at Cedarhurst. Within two years I had it with my new job and accepted a teaching position at the School of Hotel and Food Administration, University of Guelph, in their Bachelor of Commerce program. (I had managed the University’s Faculty Club part time and, of course, I had my experience as a General Manager at Cedarhurst). As for golf, I continued for a few years playing as an amateur. However, by 2018 I had lost that loving feeling and found myself completely disinterested in playing and decided to quit the game completely in 2019. My only involvement in golf in the future will be teaching kids about the etiquette of the game and showing them how to play.

Career #2 - Professor

For eleven years (1981-1991) I became Professor Desautels teaching eight different courses to undergraduate students. Being my usual bored self, I studied for a Masters degree in Philosophy (graduating in 1984) at the same time. After ten years teaching I was ready to move on to the “real” world. I found the University to be more interested in administrative duties and publishing than teaching students - in my eyes, some of the best Professors were ‘weeded’ out because they were not suited to a bureaucratic system and tended to focus on teaching versus publishing papers (that no one would ever read). Despite twice being offered tenure, I resigned in 1991 and started my restaurant group, The Neighbourhood Group of Companies Ltd.

Career #3 - Restaurateur

In 1990 I inherited a bankrupt restaurant which I had sold in 1987 (it’s a complicated story). Due to my research while teaching at the University I learned about the resurgence of the brewing industry. So, I decided to convert the restaurant to a pub that only served micro-brewed craft beers on tap along with Niagara wines and Ontario sourced foods. The pub became a huge hit with sales climbing from $450,000 to over $1.2 million in only eight years. After over expanding and regrouping The Neighbourhood Group of Companies Ltd. now has five restaurants in Guelph and Kitchener grossing over $10 million in sales in 2019. It certainly was an interesting journey. My buy-local, sustainable philosophy was well ahead of the curve re consumer trends and was integral to our success. Along the way I was twice named Ontario’s ‘Restaurateur of the Year’ and in 2019 The Toronto Dominion Bank gave me an Environmental Stewardship award (one of only seven North American Community awards.).

In 2016 my son, Court took over at the helm of the restaurant group - he is astutely managing the Group to heights I only dreamed of in 1990. His crowning achievement was to get all our restaurants BCorp certified, making us one of the largest group of restaurants in the world that holds that certification. My prediction is that the BCorp movement will be the most important development in business in the 21st century. The good news about my son being at the helm of my business is that it freed me up to do my next love; writing. I'm also lucky to have my daughter Emily, who managed our iconic pub "The Wooly" , observing and commenting on all aspects of our operations and keeping us on our toes. She is also a veteran of the alcoholic beverage industry and ensures that we are up to date on trends in that part of our business.

Career #4 - Writer

One thing I always believed in was the Carl Jung concept of ‘Synchronicity’. Jung's idea is built around the belief that life presents us with “meaningful coincidences." The trick for all of us is to recognize when these events occur. The reason lots of people don't notice these events is because the coincidences themselves have no causal relationships. However, if you’re attuned to them I believe they often point to a new direction and/or open you up to a new level of understanding. As my Uncle Bruce says, nothing is as constant as change… so you accept that life is not under your control and merely accept what it sends you.

It seems my careers have all evolved by meaningful coincidences. As one example, when I inherited the bankrupt restaurant in 1990 I was more than ready to leave the university and express my values of “buy-local” and “sustainability” through a business lens - the timing was perfect, so I dove in!

Now I am experiencing a great deal of pleasure writing. First, I self-published the wine book, “WineSense - the Three Keys to Understanding Wine”, and have sold nearly 2,000 copies in bookstores and Ontario wineries. Second, I co-published a children’s book, “The Girl Who Loved Cheese”, with my first grand daughter Ava. At the book launch we sold over a hundred copies!

Now I’m concentrating on writing weekly Blogs (published each Friday with the help of my wife, Sue, and CAO, Louise McMullen) under the title of my prospective book: “A Book of Sayings - An Old Man’s Reflections and Lessons Learned for his Children’s Children." The content of this book encapsulates my views on achieving contentment, life philosophy, politics, love, entrepreneurship and humour. One day I hope it gets published.

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In conclusion, I must confess that my multiple career path has left me content.

Even though my golf career is long gone and my days of shooting par a distance memory, I still feel kind of satisfied with the thought - “It’s better to be a hasbeen than a never was.”

One of my literary heroes is Michel de Montaigne. The following quote of his gives me some comfort that my choice to change careers regularly was smart because the outcome has left me in a pleasant and, dare I say, happy moment in life.

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness”. Amen.