Lesson #5: Try and Try Again

“I learned more from the one restaurant that didn’t work than from all the ones that were successes,” says Puck.

Despite all appearances, the path to success was not as smooth as it might appear for Puck. He stumbled numerous times along the way and often had to learn things the hard way, but he never failed to pick himself up and get right back to work. It was in this recovery process that Puck often learned some of the most important business lessons that he would use later on in his career.

Before Puck grew to become the culinary empire that he is today, he had less successful ventures in both Los Angeles and Malibu. In 1990, Puck opened Eureka, a high-overhead establishment that, in the end, proved unsuccessful and was condemned to closure. In an attempt to take advantage of the growing brewpub market, Puck launched the Eureka restaurant and brewery after an investment of $8.5 million and three years of research and development. In typical Puck fashion, he had wanted to create an innovative combination of fine food and fresh-brewed beer, claiming, “Most brewery restaurants have been created for beer drinkers, and very little attention is paid to the food.” However, Puck had lost control of the adjacent brewery and after a loss of $5 million in just one year, he was forced to close it down.

The defeat was a hard one for Puck, who personally owned 10% of Eureka and who had put his heart and soul into the restaurant. And, it would not be his last brush with failure. In 1991, shortly before Eureka was shut down, Puck had opened Granita in Malibu, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that had cost over $3 million to launch. Despite lasting for 15 years, the restaurant had struggled for years to break even before the decision to close was finally made. Puck’s Food Company also suffered in sales until 1997, when its new executive made its products more competitively priced and was forced to cut the costs of their ingredients.

The closures and losses were not easy for Puck, especially in the early days when he was first starting out and each venture was near close to a life or death affair. But, with each failure came a lesson, according to Puck. Each time something went wrong, each time he made a mistake, that was one less mistake that he would ever make again in the future. Whether it was to do with budgeting issues, management, promotions or the food itself, Puck made use of every opportunity to learn what he could in order to avoid similar problems in the future. Thus, every disaster, according to Puck, did in fact have a silver lining.

By growing and adapting with each experience, Puck was ensuring that his ventures could withstand the changing times. It was in learning from his past failures and refusing to ever give up that Puck was able to flourish professionally for as long as he has.

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