July 5th 2022 – Changing of the guard

On January 6th, 2022, one year after the capital of our country was attacked by its own people, Antonio’s suffered a similarly near-fatal blow through the culmination of a well-thought-out exodus that started long before d-day. In hindsight, at some time in year 4, a fifth column developed, headed by the couple I trusted to run the place in my absence. Over the years, the faces carved into that column changed many times, but I could never have foreseen the closing chapter. It was marked by poor boundaries which I confronted many times. This is what makes a business so difficult to hand over to others. That faction – in its final iteration – consisted of 6 employees who all walked out hand-in-hand. In my career, I’ve heard of this several times, but never got to be the recipient. One more box checked off… It was the best thing that ever happened, actually because in one fell swoop, the entire counter-culture was gone!

I will not dwell on the negatives. Instead, I will highlight how we survived and prospered.  The well was poisoned pretty badly and in the wake of having to dig a new well, my family and their friends brought love and support. It turned out that several past employees had quit because of the 5th column and feared telling me about what they had endured because of the scorn they would receive. Each of these people offered to – or returned to – the business which is a testament to our culture and a positive. The very first thought I had was “thank GOD that period is over”. Why? Because I could now foster the caring culture that was effectively neutralized due to the negative influence of those who left. We shortened our work-week, changed the hours and rallied together. The pain lasted a while and will make a great chapter in my book. My wife and children were central to the rebuilding effort and their friends showed up to help us weather the storm. 6 months later, our reduced-hour strategy has produced sweet fruit! We now work 5 days, three of them dinner only and the employees are both rested and well-paid. We are actually living! They say sometimes God clears your path so you might live and this was one of those times. So many changes later, we are pivoting to the needs of our employees and our capabilities. The net change is incredible and our people are thriving. That’s not to say employees won’t bring counter-culture, but they will be eradicated before having years to set up shop like the others. In fact, we let two people go this week who displayed the exact opposite of our values- they were selfish and self-serving and had begun the well-poisoning process. Nope. Not on my watch. 8 years later, we are on track for our best year ever having endured wildfires,  floods, a pandemic and betrayal from within. Perseverance and resilience are the secret. Protect your ideals and culture at all costs.