Success Lessons

November, 2008

Bev Gannon runs two thriving Maui restaurants, Haliimaile General Store and Joe’s Bar, a catering business, and is also the corporate chef for Hawaiian Airlines. Her upcountry restaurant Haliimaile General Store has won Honolulu Magazine’s Hale Aina Award for top Maui Restaurant eight out of the past nine years. This year, Gannon was named the state’s Small Business Person of the Year.

Q: This October marks 20 years in business. Tell me, what is the recipe for your success? 
The key to being successful is to realize your work is your life. I don’t think I know anyone who is successful who works only 40 hours a week. My businesses have always been at the top of my priority list, behind my husband and kids. Though sometimes you might even have to miss a recital because of a crisis at work. Eventually, your family, too, becomes aware of what you need to do to keep your business going.

Q: In what ways have customer demands helped shape the success of your business?
The customers created my business. In 1988, I opened the door to a different business: I was a caterer who wanted to sell take-out gourmet food. I didn’t plan to run a restaurant.  But on opening day, that’s what the customers wanted: a restaurant with sit-down meals. From that experience, I’ve learned to base everything on the customer’s satisfaction. I don’t want anyone walking out of one of my businesses unhappy. “Whatever it takes, do it,” that’s what I tell my staff. Without customers, I wouldn’t be here.

Q: Any advice to local restaurateurs while the tourist quota is down and the price to run business is up?
Be very aggressive in going through your business and cut costs where you can. Look at how you can shrink your cost of doing business without affecting quality. When my electric bill kept going up, I had MECO come out for a consultation and asked what I could do to save. I unplugged one refrigerator and consolidated everything into two. In the office, the A/C can’t be set below 74 anymore. And although the trash collectors used to come twice a week to empty the dumpster, we call now when we need it emptied. It’s a new awareness, a needed awareness, but it saves me a few hundred dollars every month. All those little things can help pay your bills.

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