Tommy Brann said he realizes it's tough to run a small business and he hopes his new book will offer some insight into the process. Photo by Alissa Lane
Longtime restaurateur Tommy Brann has pooled his collective entrepreneurial wisdom in a new book titled “Mind Your Own Business.”
His intent, quite simply, is to help small business owners not only survive, but thrive.
“It’s tough to run a small business, period,” said Brann, 62, who has owned Tommy Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille since 1971. His father, John Brann, put $30,000 down on a restaurant called The Southern on S. Division Avenue; Tommy Brann was 19 when he was put in charge of running the eatery. He currently employs 50 full- and part-time people.
The book includes 13 lessons Brann has amassed on how to run a small business. Those insights include: treat a business like a baby; don’t let your emotions make business decisions; it’s never too late to learn something new; react swiftly to problems; complexity can kill a business, so keep it simple; let previous successes inspire you during difficult times; and make sure you follow through.
“I remember one time I had lady from Texas or Florida who had a bad meal,” said Brann. “I sent her a gift certificate to Applebee’s. I don’t think customers are really used to that.”
One other lesson: A little paranoia is a good thing.
“It keeps you on the edge and doesn’t make you cocky or anything,” Brann said.
The glitz and glamour of being your own boss soon wears off when owners realize there’s hard work involved in keeping a business in the black, especially in the hotly competitive restaurant business.
“There’s so many different hats you have to wear,” said Brann. “When I started working in 1971, I worked from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. I probably worked a good 20 years that way. In a small business, you’re the purchaser, human resources, customer relations, bookkeeper, clean-up person and plumber.”
Brann said his book makes clear he’s a strong advocate for free enterprise because it can open doors for people in ways nothing else can.
“I was a C-average student (in high school),” said Brann. “I learned hard work can equal success. You don't need to be an A-plus student.”
He believes some government regulations and taxes dampen small businesses’ ability to succeed.
Brann wants his book to dispel the notion that businesses are heartless entities.
“I’m a big Steve Jobs fan,” said Brann. “When he died, people put flowers in Apple stores to honor him. They weren’t jealous of him. When somebody does some really good things, they correlate it with success.
“Too many think of business as a cold word. Creating a job is a compassionate thing to do.”