How This Entrepreneur, at Age 32, Has Already Built a Thriving Restaurant and Entertainment Company

Image credit: Joliet TV | YouTube

One of the things I find deeply fascinating are the backstories of incredibly successful individuals. We know them for the accolades they receive for their success and for their public profiles. But when you dig a little deeper into those stories to find out makes them tick, you often discover a wealth of knowledge that will help guide you along your own journey.

You may initially label these people as “lucky” and wish that you too could attain their level of success, but it’s not just their success where you should be looking . . .

Instead, what all highly successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, athletes and all others at the top of their game possesses is an unwavering desire to be the best, master their craft, relentlessly fight until they get to where they want to go and never stop learning and getting better.

I recently had the great fortune to sit down with one of these individuals, Carmen Rossi. Rossi is an attorney and extraordinarily successful restaurant entrepreneur who’s relatively young, at age 32. He is the founder of the Chicago-based company, 8 Hospitality Group, a restaurant, hospitality-development and management company that has 900-plus employees. It specializes in food and beverage marketing, branding, promotions, public relations and operations.

8 Hospitality Group, Rossi told me, sees food and beverage as a lifestyle that is maintained through valuable experiences and mutually beneficial relationships with the community.

I spoke with him further about how he was able to achieve entrepreneurial success at such a rapid rate. An attorney by trade, he built one of the most dominant hospitality companies in Chicago — one that continues to expand and reach new heights. Here are four key things that Rossi attributed his success to, attributes that I think could greatly benefit others on the entrepreneurial and professional paths.

1. Move past the fear.

In my work as a keynote speaker and consultant working with some of the biggest brands in the world, I have concluded that one of the biggest reasons why so many organizations and individuals stay stagnant and never experience major breakthroughs is fear. When Rossi earned his law degree from Northern Illinois University and later discovered that he wanted to take a chance in the hospitality market, with no background in hospitality management or culinary arts, he was initially consumed with fear.

“The biggest thing for me in that moment was that I had to move past the fear. I was absolutely terrified, but I was willing to bet on myself, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made,” Rossi told me.

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I ever received which has positively shaped my life is to “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Fear is a common emotion, but the best of the best fully understand that once they feel the fear, they don’t let it paralyze them from taking action and going after what they want.

What are you fearful of right now? Write down that fear and then take the time to put in your calendar what your next course of decisive action is going to be. As Rossi put it, “You can’t build anything of great value and achieve lasting success if you let fear be the driver of your life.”

2. Be “pro” community and government.

When I asked Rossi what he saw as separating him from everyone else, he mentioned his philosophy of being pro-community and government. “The hospitality industry is a great way to engage the community and make a positive difference in the local government,” Rossi said to me.

The takeaway here, he said, is how he decides on new concepts, how he’s always thinking about how he can actively engage the community and positively influence civic and social issues within that community. “You see a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses trying to find ways to shortchange the government,” he said, “but I have found that the more I can get involved and make a difference in the local government is where the real change and success lies.”

How has this philosophy paid off for Rossi? Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel appointed him as commissioner on landmarks while Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner selected him for a member of the Illinois Economic Development board. Even if you yourself have no desire to get involved in politics in any capacity, making a positive difference in your local community and being “pro-government” can catapult you to business success just like as it has for Rossi.

3. Be a “craftsman.”

The one specific mindset that has been a huge driving force in my success, first as a professional athlete, and now as an entrepreneur, is the mindset of a craftsman. By that, I mean becoming a lifelong learner of your craft, committing to never stop growing and relentlessly searching for ways to maximize your potential and get better at what it is you do.

Rossi said, “When I travel and go to other cities, I am constantly looking for ways to adopt new concepts and refine my approach and what my next move will be.” He continued, “I guess you can call it ‘obsessiveness,’ to a degree, but I think that all entrepreneurs need to have a healthy amount of obsession if they truly want to succeed in the long haul.”

One of the best decisions you can make that will take your performance and professional success to the next level is to commit to a never-ending development of yourself and your craft.

4. Don’t let crisis define you.

“I think a huge determining factor in whether someone has the guts to be a successful entrepreneur and win in business is to never give up the fight and break stride after you repeatedly get hit in the face and knocked down,” Rossi said to me.

Besides fear, I think that the inability to move past failure and keep standing when the going gets tough is what holds many back from living their absolute best life and tapping into their full potential.

It’s important to note that I am not talking just about adversity in business, but about life in general. Life will always throw you curveballs and unexpectedly take your breath away at times, but the one thing you control is how you respond. “I have had a great deal of struggles and adversity throughout my career, but one of the hardest things that I ever had to do was continue to move forward when I lost my mother unexpectedly. It crushed my entire world, but I knew that I couldn’t let this crisis define me or get in the way of my grand vision,” Rossi said.

Already, they’ve helped shape Carmen Rossi into the successful entrepreneur he is today, allowing him to build a thriving organization that is taking over the Chicago hospitality market.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Ways to Decrease Stress and Maximize Performance

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Stress is one of the biggest factors holding people back from creating transformational breakthroughs in both their personal and professional lives. If you don’t know how to handle stress, it could become the factor that, at first, keeps you from performing at your absolute best, and ultimately — if not addressed — kills you.

This threat is widespread, of course, because, in the business world, the demands, obligations and expectations entrepreneurs face to continually deliver exceptional results, seems never-ending. Not to mention that, when you combine all of the different personal obligations you face, you begin to see why stress so often is called the silent killer.

Certainly, there are many different strategies that highly successful people use to deal with stress and not let it get the best of them. But I thought that instead of citing the experts, I’d share four particular things I personally pay attention to on a daily basis. All have greatly helped me to decrease the amount of stress in my life.

And while, initially, they may seem simple and just plain common sense, remember: What’s common sense isn’t always common practice.

1. Maximize endorphin production.

Nothing has positively benefited my life more than getting into the habit of having a workout during the course of my day, especially when I have a lot going on and feel stressed out.

One of the quickest and surest ways to diminish the negative side effects of stress is to get your sweat on. When you partake in some sort of physical activity during your day, your body releases endorphins, which end up triggering a positive feeling in your entire body. Not only will you decrease your stress by getting a workout in, but you will be lightening your mood and setting yourself up for a more productive day.

Personal experience: A few months ago,, I was completely worn out and on the verge of burnout. I was traveling all the time and giving the upper hand to my excuses as to why I wasn’t working out and taking better care of myself.

After three weeks of feeling miserable, I knew I had to do something fast. It didn’t matter where I was in the world: I made a commitment with myself to get two workouts in each and every day. So, I did a quick workout first thing in the morning to jump-start my day and then another workout later, which usually consisted of cardio at the end of the day.

This was the exact same routine I’d used when playing professional football and college football. Even though I was no longer an athlete, this routine of maximizing my endorphin production twice a day worked exceptionally well. I started to feel a whole lot better about myself and noticed positive changes in my work.

The message here is, you don’t have to get in two workouts each and every day like me, but you should make it a priority to maximize endorphin production at some point during your day. I have found from personal experience that one of the most efficient ways to increase productivity, reduce stress and spark creativity is to just get moving.

2. Learn how to say “no” more often.

As an ambitious and highly motivated individual, I find that one of the hardest things to learn over the years has been to say “no”more often. When you are looking to take your life and business to the next level, saying “yes” and agreeing to every little opportunity that presents itself is almost second nature.

But the fact of the matter is that many of the daily obligations and opportunities we agree to aren’t going to move the needle for us. Of course there are things that need our attention, as the day goes on, which we didn’t plan for, but I advise planning your day the night before and never having more than five tasks on your daily to-do list.

What this simple habit does is force you to zero-in on what matters most for that particular day that will give you your biggest return on energy and time.

Personal tip: Another key strategy that has helped me say no no more often is having in front of me at all times a list of the three biggest priorities that will impact my business the most. When a decision is needed or an opportunity comes knocking, I glance at those priorities — an action which then guides me, on where my time and energy will go.

If the opportunity doesn’t include one of those three things on my priority list, I will decide whether it needs to be delegated to a team member or if another course of action needs to be taken. Learning how to say no more often is a game-changer.

3. Go make someone else’s day.

One of the main reasons why a lot of us get easily stressed and let anxiety and worry take a place at the forefront of our lives is that we get too caught up in our own little world. Yet, there is so much more to life than what we ourselves are experiencing.

When I notice that I’m feeling stressed and that my daily workload is getting the best of me, I make it a habit — and it’s one that brings me great joy– to go make someone else’s day. For you, this might involve calling up a friend and asking how his or her day is going, lending a listening ear to someone who has it much worse than you do or giving back to the local community.

There is no right or wrong way on how to make someone else’s day, but the next time you feel stressed, I challenge you to explore different ways to be of service to someone in that particular moment.

Personal tip: I keep a stack of cards next to my desk, and not a week goes by where I don’t write a thank you note to someone that I am extremely grateful for. My grandfather always used to tell me when I was younger about the significance of handwritten notes, and I haven’t forgotten that advice to this day. Want to instantly elevate your well-being? Go be of service and make someone else’s day.

4. Monitor what you put into your body.

One of the first things people turn to when they’re stressed is junk food. Indulging in your favorite treat from time to time won’t harm you, but when you consistently fail to fuel your body with the right food, you’ll lose your chance to achieve a level of peak performance.

According to Mark HymanNew York Times best-selling author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, eating whole, real food restores balance and reduces the negative effects that stress has on your body. Replacing harmful substances such as caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars with clean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats helps regulate your hormone levels — including the stress hormones.

Personal tip: I tell people all the time that one of my best decisions for elevating my performance and decreasing stress levels was getting my blood tested to see what my deficiencies were, then hiring a nutritionist to show me how to fuel my body to fill those specific needs.

After one month of changing my eating habits and getting rid of the junk, I felt like a new man, able to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time than what I’d previously achieved. You can have all the success in the world, but if you don’t have your health, that success means absolutely nothing. So, make your health and what you put into your body a priority. Use the four strategies I’ve described.

And, don’t let the hustle and bustle of life and negative side effects of stress be the reason why you don’t begin the journey of living your best life. Today.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Turn Crisis into Clarity and Ignite Growth

Image credit: Gibson

One of the most challenging and daunting tasks any leader will face is learning how to successfully lead through change and not only survive extreme adversity but still create massive growth.

In life as well as business, there will be times when negative, perhaps unthinkable, situations arise, and we are forced to think fast and make our move.

Often, people in these circumstances fall victim to curling back up in their comfort zone and avoiding further discomfort, by any means necessary. But in business, this becomes a tragic formula that over time can force an organization, regardless of size, to close its doors. As an entrepreneur and leader of that organization, you must not only be obsessively good at putting out fires but at figuring out how to turn crisis into clarity and the ignition of tremendous growth.

As a former professional athlete, called on to perform under intense pressure and turn negatives into breakthroughs, I learned what separates an average player from a great one. The same exact characteristics are needed to win and thrive in business.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Tim Leman, chairman and CEO of Gibson, an Indiana-based insurance, risk-management and health-benefits advisor. Tim has an amazing passion for leadership, and his track record of success shows it. Under Leman’s leadership and guidance, Gibson has endured a lot of rapid change in the marketplace and has risen to become one of the top insurance agencies in North America.

Leman is also the author of the book rEvolution, the powerful story of his  transformation from a first-time CEO to head of a thriving professional services firm. rEvolution provides personal insights and practical guidance on how to utilize a business crisis to bring about change, evolution and growth.

Leman and I discussed his evolution as a leader and five key leadership traits that helped him turn crisis into clarity and ignite growth.

1. Resilience

All great leaders, regardless of industry, are extremely resilient and never quit at the first sign of trouble. In 2009 and 2010 ,when the recession was in full swing, 10 percent of Gibson’s workforce was laid off.

“We were in financial turmoil and it would have been so easy to give up and sell in that moment of time,” Leman told me. Even though giving up and selling the company would have been the easiest route, Leman remained resilient and didn’t give in. “Without dogged perseverance and a tenacious personal belief system I wouldn’t have made it,” he acknowledged. “You have to survive to even have the chance to evolve. Don’t give up the fight.”

I couldn’t agree with Leman more. The best leaders, teams and organizations never give up the fight regardless of how tough things are at the moment. So, get connected to your personal belief system just as Tim Leman did. Why do you do what you do? What’s your long-term vision? How do you want to be remembered as a leader?

In order to build a great company and successfully lead through change, you must become the most resilient person you know. Don’t give up the fight!

2. Introspection

Being introspective doesn’t happen right away for a lot of leaders. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to constantly place the blame elsewhere and never look within to question your own actions and beliefs.

“What changed for me was getting crushed in my ‘360’ reviews [employee and supervisory feedback], which started the process for me of looking within and then wanting to change for the right reasons,” Leman told me. “The best leaders are always looking for ways to maximize their efficiency and be better more of the time. One of the best ways to do this is to make it a priority to take a weekly or monthly review of your leadership style and ask yourself how you can become a more effective leader.”

Leman added, “The ability to self-correct is critical to improving your leadership style. Leaders without followers can’t drive change. Become more self-aware or find others to help you.”

3. Adaptability

The market and world we live in is constantly changing, which means that as leaders we must be more adaptive than ever and willing to change, as well. And change is hard; change is extremely uncomfortable. But it’s an absolute must if you are looking to create extraordinary breakthroughs.

Leman said, “Nothing is static these days, and you can’t afford to be, either. Transform or die. It’s a message that you have to be communicating to your team all the time.” He went on to say, “The more prepared your team is to live in a fluid and evolving world, the easier it will be to implement necessary change in your organization.”

Be adaptive and willing to step out of your comfort zone. Some of my own biggest breakthroughs in business have taken place when I forced myself to get uncomfortable. You will never experience greatness in anything if comfort is what you seek.

4. Collaboration

“Collaboration is about input and influence versus coercion. Your people want to be heard, understood and most importantly, actively involved,” Leman said to me.

The greatest leaders and coaches in the world will be the first to tell you that the success they are experiencing is because of the people they have around them. Not only have they done a great job of creating more leaders and positioning themselves around the right people, but they have also created a collaborative culture where everyone is in tune with what is going on.

To give you a perfect example of what this culture may look like, Leman decided that he wanted to be 100 percent transparent with his employees and start sharing all the financials with them and where the company was headed. This authentic approach did wonders for him as leader, and he was able to create a culture based on trust and honesty. Authenticity is a quality that will always help a leader prevail.

5. Clarity

One of the most fascinating things about the work I do as a keynote speaker is to experience firsthand the disconnect between management and everyone else within an organization. Before each and every speaking engagement, I spend a great deal of time with the leadership and then with some of the other employees.

And it’s always amazing to me to hear leadership describe the company’s vision as one thing, while each employee I talk to says something completely different. Great companies don’t have this disconnect: Everyone within the organization is very clear about what the vision is and what’s required of him or her each and every day at work. “No strategy or tactic can trump organizational clarity,” Leman said. “Clarity creates an organizational road map to success. It drives faster and better decision-making while increasing trust.”

I hope these five traits that have helped Tim Leman build a great company and turn crisis into clarity and growth add value to your own leadership style wherever you may be in your journey.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com