Anybody can have a good idea for a business. I’ve already had a couple this morning: Ice that stays frozen longer in iced coffee. And a real-time updating system from the doctor’s office that tells you they’re running an hour late.
They might both be good ideas. But there’s a big difference between a good business idea, and a good business. That difference is execution. Even in a world increasingly influenced by AI and data systems, execution comes down to people.
My guests on Out to Lunch today are people who are building good ideas into great businesses.
In the early 2000’s, Chris White solved an engineering and logistics problem for Tabasco. He created a better way to pack and ship pepper mash, which is the basic raw ingredient of hot sauce. Chris patented his technology and in 2010 turned it into The Louisiana Pepper Exchange.
It’s a business Chris describes as “seed to table.” The company grows peppers, processes them, and delivers over 20 million pounds of pepper products a year to hot-sauce manufacturers, and to other companies that include McDonalds, Wendys, and PF Chang’s.
How about this for a good idea? Make the world’s biggest pizza. Not just one pizza. Hundreds of them. Every day. That’s the concept behind Fat Boy’s Pizza.
Fat Boy’s is a chain of pizza restaurants that started life in 2019 as a single store in Metairie. Their pizza pie is 30 inches, which they call “the world’s biggest slice.” But, as you may have heard in other contexts, size isn’t everything. What might appear to be the success of a simple gimmick is actually a technology-driven business employing sophisticated software to manufacture pizza, and to collect and analyze data dedicated to keeping every individual pizza-purchaser happy.
Before Casey Biehl took over as Vice President of Operations and part-owner of Fat Boy’s, he’d been Head of Food and Beverage at Harrah’s in New Orleans, and in Biloxi. And he was part of the team that opened Caesar’s Palace in Dubai.
There’s a fun New Orleans Facebook group called “Ain’t Dere No More.” It’s dedicated mostly to memorializing local companies that have gone out of business.
Beside reminiscing about McKenzie’s buttermilk drops or singing along with the jingle for Rosenberg’s appliance store, it’s interesting to note the wide range of reasons once-popular local businesses close down. The market changes. People retire. Competition kills them. Rents get too high. The list goes on. But there are far fewer reasons a business succeeds.
Beyond having a good product or providing a good service, the success of most businesses is ultimately traceable to the vision of its founders. And the execution of that vision by people who can translate it into a profitable operation.
Chris White and Casey Biehl are both great examples of this balance of vision and execution.