Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Molenda.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Lisa Dahl: Honoring Justin’s memory has always been at the heart of what I do. His spirit has been the driving force behind my journey in every way. But I’ve also been fortunate enough to have the constant support of my boyfriend Scott, who witnessed the struggles I faced in my early years with a troubling business partner. He saw how ambitious I was, and he knew my partner was preventing me from reaching my potential as a luxury brand, so he took it upon himself to confront him. Seeing that courageous display of loyalty and how much he believed in me and our shared vision was the support I needed to finally break free. I owe him for helping to take the company to the next level and for our brand recognition being where it is today.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Putting in the tough work: Managing my business after buying out my partner proved to be an intimidating challenge. At the time, my kitchen staff was largely male-dominated, which gave my partner some great advantages over me. I felt pressured to constantly exhibit my strengths and talent so that they would afford me the same respect and take me seriously. It wasn’t as easy as it might seem, but ultimately, they came to view me as a leader because of my conviction and dedication to the vision I had for my brand.
Tenacity: There were several pivotal moments in my career when I questioned my path and ability to succeed. The one that always comes to mind was during the first year after opening my woodfired pizzeria, Pisa Lisa. I had worked with my nose to the grindstone for so many years to develop the concept and it was so special to me, but after receiving scathing online reviews and some downright cruel comments from members of the community who had unfounded resentment toward me, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. It was only after a friend came to me about a dream of hers where Justin had appeared with a message of encouragement that he wanted her to share with me, that I felt the fire reignite in me and I found the inner strength I needed to turn things around. Shortly after, before its first anniversary, the restaurant surpassed $1 million dollars in revenue and was voted the #1 pizzeria in Sedona, huge achievements that would’ve never come to fruition if I hadn’t picked myself up and persevered through that rocky start.
Commitment to a higher purpose: When people tell me that my story has inspired them, I always feel extremely humbled, because all I’ve ever done is follow my heart in doing something I love, which is to make people happy and feel good about themselves in an experiential way. I also feel that it’s a testament to how important it is to not only have a higher purpose for what you do but to be able to attract others to identify with that purpose as well. I’ve had many encounters, especially recently, that proved to me that being naturally business-savvy or forward-thinking might keep you in business, but that benefits no one if you lack a true purpose behind what you do. Everyone that works for me has always known that our very foundation has been built on the love that I have for my son and that they are dedicated to his legacy he has left. There is a higher purpose to these restaurants beyond making money.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Lisa Dahl: I’ve always trusted my instinct. I tend to gather feedback from those I trust and have a history with. I tend not to live life looking in the rearview mirror. I like to set a course and go for it. But one of those gut instinct moments that could have produced a better outcome revolved around my initial business partner. I was the majority shareholder in my first two restaurants for over 13 years. After some badgering from him, I relented and granted him a 50%/50% position. Later when I bought him out it was a costly decision. I don’t regret it in the sense of taking advice from others, only I now trust my instinct on what is ultimately right for me and the organization.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Lisa Dahl: That’s a very deep question that I could ponder for a great period of time. In essence, being an entrepreneur allows you to command a ship, but you have to accept that you cannot control it. Being a CEO means having to find the balance between gaining respect, managing fear, and prioritizing compassion, at all times. It’s a delicate tightrope.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Lisa Dahl: I was in France for a long-overdue vacation when I learned I had won the “2018 Top Chef” award by the Arizona Restaurant Association’s Foodist Awards, which was a total “holy shit” moment. And then the next year, I was awarded the prestigious top honor of “2019 Food Pioneer” by the same program, and it was a culmination of pride that I couldn’t even put into words. Not only did it feel like the over 20 years of hard work and not coming up for air that I had put in had really paid off, but I also realized that my peers were recognizing what I had done and how I’d paved the way as an innovator. That recognition was truly life-altering to me and propelled me all the more.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a more spiritual outlook on life that allows for a cohesive balance between work and the time you need for your mind to be creative.
- Be focused on who you are and the greater purpose of your brand. At the end of the day, everything you do leads back to that.
- Don’t expect every day to be like clockwork. Routine is the antithesis of innovation and will inhibit you from being nimble when necessary.
- Build a team of like-minded associates that you trust to lead alongside you.
- Take care of yourself and stay healthy mentally, emotionally and physically, so that you’ll be able to effectively handle the sometimes-turbulent times that are bound to happen.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Lisa Dahl: Resilience to me means staying humble and nimble. If you possess those traits and keep them balanced, a renaissance is always possible. Out of ashes comes the most fertile soil, that will bring new growth in ways that can only come from when we are stripped down to very little and our minds have the space to dream up new ideas that re-launch our creative spirit. You almost have to burn down to start not easy, but we’re not alone.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Lisa Dahl: There have been many experiences throughout my life that have built me into the resilient person that I am, but abruptly losing my son and having to start my life over was without a doubt the most impactful. I know now that no matter what challenges I face, I’m not going at it alone.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Lisa Dahl: I work very hard to keep a positive and forward-thinking attitude in times of strife because in our business, it’s crucial to never let our guests see us sweat.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Lisa Dahl: The attitudes of leadership can make or break the success of a company in any industry. Negativity, or even just apathy, communicates to staff and clients that their satisfaction isn’t a priority. If you’re not making either party feel valued, you won’t build the lasting relationships necessary for long-term success.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Lisa Dahl: I live by the mantra, “When you cook with love, you feed the soul.” It keeps me humble every day, and it’s my mission.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!
Lisa Dahl: The depth of these questions allowed me to tap into my cellular memory and brought a few tears that I haven’t shed in a while. I’ve been so caught up in the day-to-day, and this article gave me an opportunity to reflect in a deeper, more cathartic way, so I sincerely thank you for that opportunity.