It was great getting to know Brad in the few hours we were together during this interview. Ironically we had a lot in common regarding growing businesses and working in the restaurant industry, so it was tough to put this together as there were so many great stories he told.
What stuck out the most was his passion for moving forward and building a team of leaders. Business owners face tons of pressure and Brad has done a phenomenal job empowering his team.
Let’s dive in a learn more about Brad Parker and how he’s growing his business in the face of adversity.
What is your elevator speech on your professional career: who are you, what have you done and how does that translate into value for your customers?
My name is Brad Parker, and I’m a Chicago-based restauranteur. I focus on creating dining experiences for people to have fun with the ones they love, and to create lasting memories.
I’m 34 years old. When I was younger I started working with a group in Arizona for a new restaurant at the time called American Junkie. It was a sports bar / club. We expanded the brand, hitting $11 million in year one and $9 million in year two, but our profitability was not where it should have been. I had no idea what any costs were supposed to be. My partner was supposed to understand the operations side of the business. We ended up selling.
The failure of American Junkie in Chicago taught me a lesson that gave me the confidence to go out on my own. It was an eye-opening event. Yes, I want to try again but whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to do on my own. I was willing to either succeed or fail on my own.
I currently own Parker Restaurant Group, an innovate dining group in Chicago that includes Hampton Social, Beach House Social and Bassment. In four years we’ve created eight concepts and experienced high growth. I was willing to accept mediocrity (after the American Junkie experience), but we’ve exploded, and it’s been a huge success. We expect to hit $25 million in 2018 and should have up to six Hampton Social locations in three states, also by the end of the year.
Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What’s your personality, hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeve? Tell us about YOU.
I am someone who always enjoys the moment. I lost my father at a young age, so I always remind myself that you need to live for today and not tomorrow. I love to travel, golf and ski. My favorite place to visit is South Africa. Words can’t describe how amazing that country is. I was going to South Africa and ended up postponing an opening because I’m not willing to miss out on life. Everything else can wait, even if it’s business.
My biggest pet peeve is someone complaining about what’s going on, when they know there are others out there that are way worse off in life. We should always be thankful for what we have!
It bothers me that people think I took the business over from my family or someone else. Young owners are often accused of not being able to get things started. They all give excuses and justify your inability to work hard and build a business.
I sleep very little and jam life into the hours I’m awake.
My friends might call me crazy.
What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”?
1. Never give up.
2. Don’t stress about what you can’t control.
3. No one can make you successful. You have to do it on your own.
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
Don’t keep doing something if it’s not working; change your method or approach immediately.
What are two daily habits you never break, no matter where you are?
1. I wake up and spend at least an hour blasting through emails before I even get out of bed. I probably get close to 100 emails per day.
2. Spend time making a list for myself with what I will accomplish that day.
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Describe two that most impacted your success?
There have been many people who have imprinted on my life, but the most important person has been my mother. She always let me go for my goals no matter how crazy they were and never tried to slow me down. She’s also one of the hardest working people I know!
Second was my late father. He was a traveling salesman who in order to make a better life for his family had to put in extremely long hours at work. He always worked so hard. But, working hard didn’t lead to a ton of success, so I learned from watching him that working smarter is more important sometimes than working hard.
You have to find a way for your business to work for you, not the other way around. When you put smart work and hard work together you can accomplish anything you want.
What types of books do you read and why, and what one title of this type do you recommend?
Mostly books on leadership, business and personal success. One of my favorite books is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Steven Covey).
Currently reading: 5 Habits of Highly Successful leadership.
Think back in your career to a tough time or moment. How did you handle the emotional part of failure–what was the pep talk you gave yourself?
It hasn’t been hard for me to bounce back from failures. I had the biggest loss of my life at a young age with the passing of my father. Dealing with that prepared me for life’s greatest failures.
I think if I had to give advice it would be that when you think you are failing you really are not. You tried and maybe it didn’t work out. But most people never even try, and to me that is even worse.
As long as you have food to eat and people who love you then you are never failing.
What one piece of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or business owners looking to catch their big opportunity?
You have to go out and make your success happen. Don’t wait for the right time or opportunity. Just put one foot in front of the other every day and go do whatever it is that you love. You must love what you’re doing or you won’t be successful because it’s a 24/7 game, and you can’t ever stop it if you really want it to work.
Leadership takes time and you have to be patient to get to a place where people believe in you.
Do you what you love, know your market and do something different and memorable.
Looking back, what was the most unconventional way you landed a memorable deal that made your success turn in the right direction? (Have fun with this one)
I don’t know if there is an unconventional way to open a restaurant, but if there is I took it.
I went after a deal that no one wanted, and everyone thought I was crazy for doing it. I probably only landed the deal because no one else would take it, but I believed in what we were doing, and now that little deal has led us into becoming a national restaurant company.