Sleeping on the floor of the restaurant

Chip Bair owns Beau Jo’s, a very successful pizza restaurant group with 8 locations in Colorado and Idaho. When I interviewed Chip for our book, he told me a story I’ll never forget.

In 1973 he quit his job and purchased a pizza restaurant in Idaho Springs, CO. He didn’t have much money, he wasn’t sure how successful the business would be, and he wanted to save as much cash as possible, so he slept on the floor of the restaurant for a couple of months. The restaurant had a small shower in the back, so he had all he needed. It wasn’t comfortable, but he decided it was the smart thing to do.

After he got the restaurant running smoothly a couple of months in, he made a deal with a guy who owned a cabin outside of town: Chip gave him $25 worth of pizza every month in exchange for free rent. Once again, a smart way to save money.

Lastly, since food purveyors didn’t deliver back then, Chip had to drive down the mountain to pick up his food. So to help pay for his gas, he would load up his pickup with waste overruns from the newspaper print company next door and take it to a recycling center. That earned him $10 or so each week to help pay for gas.

I loved hearing Chip tell me this because, forty years later, Chip is a very successful business owner. He’s certainly not sleeping in any of his restaurants any longer. What struck me was his willingness to do whatever it took in those early days. He was creative, resourceful, wise, and willing to make short term sacrifices for the long term benefit of his business.

That type of determination is often what separates entrepreneurs who go on to be successful and ones whose businesses fail. Those folks often blame the failure on bad luck, and perhaps that’s the case some times. But there’s also lots of people who want the success that can come with being an entrepreneur, but aren’t willing to sleep on the floor for a while early on to help make that desire become a reality.


Speaking of stories that “stick” in your mind, I really enjoyed the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” Check it out if you’re looking for ideas on how to tell your business’s story in an effective and memorable way.