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Winning or Learning: Success Tactics for Every Business

  • Jan 18, 2018
  • Rachael Gillette
A crowd of people sitting and listening A crowd of people sitting and listening

“As a business leader, I get bogged down in the day to day operations. Pulling away and attending Studer Community Institute training ALWAYS makes me and my organization more successful.” commented one attendee at the end of a training session today.

The powerhouse team of Bert Thornton, Former President and Chief Operations Officer Waffle House, Inc, Scott Zepp co-founder of World of Beer, Blend Lounge, Casino Beach Bar, and Taco Agave and the founder of Island Culture and Culture Focused Brands and D.C. Reeves, Founder and CEO of Perfect Plain Brewing Co. captivated over 60 people in a seminar that covered topics including how to get funding for a business idea, the importance of hiring the right people, sustaining culture and learning from failure.

Each speaker brought a unique perspective to the table. Bert Thorton joined Waffle House as a manager trainee and helped it become an iconic restaurant chain, with more than 2,100 locations in 25 states in the United States. He reminded us to have a mentor and be a mentor.

“A mentor needs to have these four things,” he said:

  1. A sincere interest in your success
  2. A demonstrated track record of success
  3. Peer respect
  4. Expertise in your specific area of interest

He added, “A mentee has as much responsibility in the relationship, as the mentor.”

Pensacola native D.C. Reeves recently took the leap into entrepreneurship, gaining inspiration from the first-ever EntreCon in 2015. Almost precisely two years later, Perfect Plain opens its doors. He said he would have never done it without the guidance of Quint Studer, Bert Thornton, and Scott Zepp, what he calls a dream team of mentors to create a successful business and will share with you what they learned.

Zepp with the financial help of his mother told how he was able to open the first World of Beer in Tampa, Florida in 2007. With the help of his partner Matt Lafon, the two were able to guide World of Beer to become one of the fastest growing companies in the service industry and then franchise the company in 2008. World of Beer now has 74 locations in 16 states and 2 international locations.

When asked “What is the daily routine you have to keep your head in the game?” Zepp replied, “Begin with the end in mind. Focus on what you want to achieve that day and have a positive attitude. You are either winning or learning.”

The questions flowed from attendees throughout the session.

Local entrepreneur Doug Gunterman of NumNum, creator of the world’s first pre-spoon, commented, “Studer Community Institute events always provide me with ideas for my business that I can immediately implement.”

One attendee asked: “What is the key to establishing a true culture? How do you keep culture consistent across all areas?” Bert spoke of getting the right people in the right seats through an in-depth interview on the front end, then once hired, a two-week training program for the technical side.

Waffle House has a 10-step standard operating procedure for when people walk in the door, so that every customer, every time, is greeted with a smile. “Hello Hon.” is not one of those steps but you can bet that’s what you will hear because the culture of service is so ingrained.

“Culture starts at the top, but every employee has a responsibility,” said Bert.

D.C. Reeves, just 41 days into the business told attendees how he focused on getting it right from the start. “It may seem funny to have a mission, vision and values with only 5 people but by getting everyone bought in from the start we have the best chance of success.”

Zepp agreed. “Get better before you get bigger.”

The panel session is part of an ongoing series of training sessions designed to help businesses improve and employees gain skills. Learn more and register for upcoming training here or contact me at

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