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Mark MoellerMark Moeller is a national restaurant consultant, operations expert, and turnaround specialist with decades of experience in the restaurant industry. He is the President and Founder of The Recipe of Success, a nationally recognized restaurant consulting firm that has held the secret ingredient to creating some of the best restaurants, fast casual dining venues, cafes, bars, bakeries, and multifaceted catering and events businesses.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Mark Moeller reveals how he conceptualized The Recipe of Success
  • What are the mistakes new restaurateurs make when starting out?
  • How Mark transformed a struggling restaurant
  • The characteristics restaurant owners and managers should look for in hourly employees
  • Why should new restaurant owners hire a consultant?

In this episode…

In today’s episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen joins Mark Moeller, President and Founder of The Recipe of Success, to talk about creating and sustaining a successful and profitable restaurant. As someone with 40 years of restaurant industry experience, Mark divulges how he transformed a struggling restaurant with his consulting business, some common mistakes restaurateurs make when starting out, and the benefits of hiring a consultant as a new restaurant owner.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode

SpotOn:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show powered by Rise25 Media. We’ve featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here co host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail. And they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve stripped everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partners through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to RiSE25media.com or email us at [email protected] Mark Moeller is a restaurant consultant operations expert and turnaround specialists with deep expertise in the restaurant industry. He is the president and founder of The Recipe of Success, a nationally recognized consulting firm that has held the secret ingredient to creating some of the best restaurants, fast casual dining venues, cafes, bars, bakeries, and multifaceted catering and events businesses. The recipe of success specializes in bringing fresh ideas to launch new restaurant startups and turnarounds struggling or financially distressed operations. Mark provides a customized approach to solving the restaurant industry’s most unique business challenges. He brings the best practices of corporate structure to new and growing independent concepts, providing clients with a fresh perspective and a hands on approach. Mark, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Mark Moeller  1:52  

I am fantastic. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

Chad Franzen  1:55  

So prior to The Recipe of Success, what was your experience in the restaurant industry?

Mark Moeller  1:59  

So I spent 18 years in corporate America. Everybody from Prime management was a hotel company way back when I was 16 to 18 years old before that I was with a startup restaurants in Woodcliff Lake New Jersey called Noodle in the Haystack. And I spent two years with was Roy Rogers. I was Cody’s original director of food operations. I was with the franchisee by the time brothers, bagels, and a myriad of other restaurant chains.

Chad Franzen  2:27  

How did you break in?

Mark Moeller  2:28  

Well, as I like to say it’s my mother’s fault. I was getting ready to go the biggest party of the year for a 15 year old and she picked up the phone and called me that morning and said guess what, Mark I need you to come to the restaurant. She was a director of housekeeping for our hotel over by the premier sport mall in New Jersey. And she said it needs to be here at four o’clock so your father to go out and get you. Black, Black Tie white shirt wear a black pants black shoes, beer for us as mom I got a party to go to Don’t forget. I’ve been a model citizen for the last three months. She goes Do you hear that? Hear me ask? Be heard for tell your father do that. And we’ll see you then. Make sure you have your ID. And from there. I’ve been in the restaurant business ever since.

Chad Franzen  3:08  

So what did you do in that first job? Fresh Eyes.

Mark Moeller  3:11  

I started off as a busboy. I went from busboy to server to bartender to banquet server. I was a prep cook. I was a dishwasher. I was a line cook for a short period of time. I did front desk operations. And I did housekeeping system. Oh, that was a direct housekeeping. Everybody figured I just know how to make a bet

Chad Franzen  3:29  

along the along that path where you kind of creating kind of a vision in your head for what you thought was a good restaurant, or were you just soaking everything in.

Mark Moeller  3:38  

I was just soaking everything in at that point in time. And it actually wait goes way back. So I would have six kids. My brother is 12 years younger than I am when I was five years old. I used to go into the into the kitchen and of course the Thai household. You walk in all the sudden I got whatever I want bread dipped in the sauce. And very quickly, they said you know what, if you’re going to come in here and eat, you’re going to come in here and cook. So I was shredding basil. I was stirring sauce, just taking part of it. 1015 minutes of the clip.

Chad Franzen  4:05  

And apparently they liked your food.

Mark Moeller  4:07  

They did this so much so that when I get back from Johnson and Wales after my first semester, I was told by my mother, here’s the ingredients for Easter Sunday dinner, tell me what else you need to look at it. And it’s all on you.

Chad Franzen  4:19  

Very nice. What is it about the restaurant industry that has been and is still appealing to you

Mark Moeller  4:24  

know, it’s the people it’s doing things differently every single day. It’s watching people, both on the guest side and the team side just see a sense of satisfaction. The team side especially like can take somebody from an hourly employee and work their way up to being an assistant manager to general manager to a district manager and eventually to ownership which I’ve done throughout my consulting career. You know, it’s a greatest feeling in the world seeing a guest come in and just be blown away by the services that the restaurant has to offer and have a great experience. There’s nothing better.

Chad Franzen  4:56  

A lot of people have told me one of the things they like about it is you You know, like you You broke in as a as a busboy, and then now look at you, you know, it’s kind of a What have you done for me business? And you can anybody can work their way up? Oh, absolutely. It

Mark Moeller  5:11  

all depends on how dedicated you are. And you really can’t listen to this because you can’t think about his work. It’s not work. I’ve been in the restaurant business, actually, next March would be 40 years in the restaurant business. The first five years were rough, but I have a working day in 35 years.

Chad Franzen  5:26  

What? What, how do you view it?

Mark Moeller  5:29  

What it’s, listen, it’s a challenge. It’s something different every single day. And I like to please people, I want them to leave the restaurant satisfied, blown away, have their expectations exceeded. You know, it’s the innate cook in me. It’s unique to a family, man. I mean, it’s, I treat everybody as a guest. And that’s what I’m part of as well on my my clients, we treat people as guests, I tell on the first person that I drive them crazy. When we sit down and have a team meeting for that, like we’re watching the restaurant. It’s how I pray never have a customer here. And you’re watching everybody’s face for wine. Well, how am I supposed to stay in business? How am I supposed to earn a paycheck? And then I go into my spiel about wanting everybody to be with guests, because we treat guests a lot better than we treat customers.

Chad Franzen  6:09  

So you you had a quick background before The Recipe of Success. But now you’ve been running that for about 20 years, how did it come about?

Mark Moeller  6:16  

So I always fell into it. But even before I fell into it, let me go back even farther back to 1987. While I was attending Johnson Wales up in Providence, somewhere along the way, I was on a TV show or read something about consulting. So it was really an interesting idea. I think I want to do that Sunday, I went out to Barnes and Noble. I picked up four books on consulting, I read them cover to cover. And then I did that for a couple of years or read them, I still have they happen to be downstairs in the storage area. But I still have those four books. I just knew that I wanted to get consulting and I wanted to train and teach people above and beyond what I could do and just acquired in corporate America. So in 2000, as I was leaving the company I was working with, and I was leaving because I was being promoted. But I had moved to Boston. I a young family, I couldn’t move to Boston. So I took a severance package there. At the same time a friend of mine gave me a call. And then Steve said to me, Hey Mark, and he will help with some nuts and bolts operation stuff. Got some time you can help me. This is perfect timing. I said I’m leaving the company. I’m with my my severance package. And I have my den wife and I were having twins. So work a couple days a week, like my service behind from my wife and my new twins. I said What’s better than that? I loved what I was doing. I absolutely loved it. So I started backfilling with smaller clients. nearly 22 years later, I’ve opened up nearly 400 restaurants across the US both of my corporate my consulting career, and I’ve worked with anywhere from three to five to eight restaurants at a time depending on the sector looking for.

Chad Franzen  7:42  

So he he asked you to help him out, well, what kind of things that he asked you to do for him.

Mark Moeller  7:48  

So it was all nuts and nuts and bolts operations. So day to day, how do we fix the systems? How do we put structure into place, we have to develop training manuals, which I always write for myself and for my, for my clients now. And then I had to teach that I had to educate the owners how they can get out from behind the counter. Well, the first thing is we tend to put a point of sale system and they were all on paper tickets. On a Friday night, both brothers had to be behind the line, working their butts off once making pizza, the others put an extra dining sometimes to take and you know, we’re going to cash register, all of a sudden, after a couple of months of really getting into it slowly. But surely, they were no longer working Friday, Saturday nights by the line. They actually I made him sit on the other side of the counter. What are you doing? They gotta leave him leave a beat. And that’s where they realized, wow, it’s just as systems will structure in place. We can do we can do this. They went on to open up for more restaurants.

Chad Franzen  8:42  

How did you? How’d you end up getting new clients when you were really just kind of starting out helping a friend.

Mark Moeller  8:48  

So ended up becoming word of mouth. But I mean, I developed a website to develop my company name right away. Actually, my company name was something completely different. Everybody I was it was image restaurant consultants because I wanted everybody to fix the overall image. People thought I was at Interior designer. I was getting calls left and right. And I’m like, No, that’s not me. I gotta, I gotta figure it out. But my my website, my domain name was always recipe of success. And after about a week of racking my brain I looked out on my website said, oh, there’s a new date, The Recipe of Success. I went on, and I trademarked it. And you know, the website is always generating a lot of traffic for me, but it was really a lot of word of mouth. So I went from that pizzeria where I worked with them for three and a half years. But from there, what’s the pump energy food in New York, actually the same gentleman that brought me from the pizzeria brought me in into the pump energy food worked for them for two and a half years. We package them for sale. That restaurant is now called TIG in New York City based and that’s a few southern locations. And then after that it’s just continue to backfill with clients. And it was a phenomenal, phenomenal journey.

Chad Franzen  9:55  

So I’m sure as a consultant, you’ve seen restaurant tours with all sorts of great ideas. I’m sure everybody has a great idea. But what are some of the most common stumbling blocks that restaurant new restaurateurs face that maybe they hadn’t thought of when they’re getting started?

Mark Moeller  10:10  

Well, one of the first things is they never have enough money. They completely under expect what they should be spending to build out their restaurant, then we talk about reopening budget and we say, Here’s your pre opening budget, let’s just call it a million dollars. Well, I only wanted to spend like $300,000 on the build out, said, Okay, well, because of the equipment, because it’s designed because the menu, that’s not going to work, but there’s a lot of other things that go into preopening expense, we have to buy food, we have to buy liquor, paper products, we have to train, we have to buy China, we have to hire employees, and the list goes on and on and on. So very quickly that 300,000 Fall in could be a million dollars. So people really just under under Plan from the financial piece of it. And that’s probably one of the great stumbling blocks. And the other things are not having systems and structure, not knowing how to hire people. People come and say after the server for the last 10 years great your hire. But wait, you didn’t ask him any questions. What questions am I supposed to ask? They say on paper that they can they can do the job? What am I what else? What else do I need to know? And they worked at a great restaurant? Well, how do you know that really work there? What are we talking about what their strengths and their weaknesses are? Okay? What about their availability? Oh, I didn’t think about that. I worked for one restaurant, one restaurant here in Westport Actually, many years ago. 260. See restaurant inside and out. We opened up on a Thursday, on a Saturday, not when dishwasher showed up except for an 18 year old kid who never washed the dish. And it was all by himself was his first job. Tours excuse the restaurant. Nobody bothered to check the fact that dishwashers don’t work weekends.

Chad Franzen  11:51  

Wow, do do most new restaurateurs. Have a vision for the design the interior design of the restaurant or is that something that you find yourself really adding to.

Mark Moeller  12:04  

So we take a very active role in that, whether it’s directly myself or with the designers that i The architects, I work alongside them, they have a vision, they have an understanding of what they kind of want, they know how to execute it. And one of the most challenging things is trying to explain to them that you know, you can’t put up curtains if they’re not a rated. they certify ratings that have to be in there. I want you know, you know, I want to put the the fireplace right next to you know, combustible material. You can’t do that. But why not? So there’s a lot of education that goes into that. And it’s not just the design element of what you’ve seen. It’s all the infrastructure of what you don’t see. teaching them what to force their kids teaching that why do a three compartment sink? And then you need seven hands six on top of the dishwasher. Yeah. So there’s there’s a huge education piece that we take a very active role in, in the design

Chad Franzen  12:54  

elements. If you could maybe give me an example that you’re particularly proud of, of a client of yours that was struggling. So it was one that was already open, maybe that a new one that was struggling and the kinds of challenges they faced. And then how you guys The Recipe of Success, help turn things around?

Mark Moeller  13:09  

Oh, wow, who’s my favorite one? You know, I was saying many years ago, I was somebody came to one of my seminars that I did I do a lot of work with scoring, the Women’s Business Development Council and the local chambers. And he came and he said, I heard about you, I want to learn more. He went through my seminar was about an hour and a half. And he goes, I think he needs to come over and talk to me. So I did it was the sandwich shop. You’ve been around for about five years at that point, maybe four? And he said, Can you do an analysis? So sure. So I went through my analysis process. And the funny thing is, you’ve never been in the restaurant business before. But all the pain points are the things that restaurant tours miss. He nailed. I was like, wow, this is amazing. And then there was a lot of things that there was no way that he was going to know that he just fell into a trap. So yeah, so it was training, didn’t have the greatest training program in place had the bones of a great menu. He won number one chicken sandwich in Connecticut one year. So again, a lot of things going right for him. But he didn’t understand the systems and the structure that needed to go into place. And really because he didn’t know how to do that then grew up in that single location. So we spent a good six months with him development training programs to portion control, cut back on his waist consistency and his product. So every minute every bite was in the sandwich was exactly the same. Every salad had the same ingredients and looked exactly the same. Because there’s something about consistency, breeding that quality that you’re really looking for. So that repetition that we’re able to teach and put into place and able to to hire better people, and there will be better people that was just skilled listening and following directions. We saw people that were babysitters and never had a real job in their life and turned him into some of the best cashiers to work. And then he took his revenue from, you know, a million dollars to 1,000,003 million, 5 million It’s he was doing so much that he was getting ready to open multiple location before COVID COVID.

Chad Franzen  15:07  

You know, you mentioned you mentioned, the interviewing process and your and your, your clients there, maybe hiring people who have never worked in restaurants before, what kind of a lot of those I’m sure entry level type jobs, what kind of characteristics should a restaurant owner or restaurant manager be looking for when you’re hiring, you know, part time hourly employees who maybe have no experience,

Mark Moeller  15:26  

you’re looking for personality, right, you can’t teach personality, I can’t have a server or a cashier, something that’s guest facing, and have them walk up to the table going, Yeah, my as Mark when he won, you know, that kind of thing doesn’t work, right. And so you need somebody that is going to be a professor and somebody who has a willingness and openness to listen to what you have to say, and so that you can then mold that individual, I can teach anybody to be a great service, if they have a willingness to work, and they want to listen, if they don’t want to listen, and they’ve got to, it’s just not going to work doesn’t matter how this experience they really had. So we get them to focus on the person more so than the experience, the experience we can teach, right that can all come along, especially on the hourly level. On the management level, we look for the same qualities. But we look for some people that are strong leaders, look for people that do have some work ethic, and work experience, because you want to make sure that that person can really especially in a new opening, work with the ebbs and flows. And when we look for experience we look for like experience. So we just recently opened up a fast casual restaurant. And we had a lot of people that were full service, restaurant managers, general managers apply for work, that’s great, great experience guest facing will be fine. But there’s a different dynamic, it’s a different way you run that business from being upfront. That full service magic doesn’t always get and vice versa. So you can’t necessarily transfer one to the other.

Chad Franzen  16:49  

What are some, what are some of the differences between fast casual and full service that maybe a full service person wouldn’t get.

Mark Moeller  16:55  

So fast casual is more about instant gratification. If I walk into a full serve restaurant, and I’m a guest, and you take you know, half an hour from my appetizers to come out. You know what, you can bring you a drink, you can bring something for the kids, you can buy us some time you can apologize that we get as long as you touching the table say I’ve got you. We know that we’re okay. We go to full serve Russia. How many people really in a rush? Right? Fast? Casual quick, sir. You’re walking in, you might have a half an hour for dinner or lunch, right? You might have a doubt. But you got to get in you got to get out and even drive over there. You got to deal with the parking issues. Whatever those challenges are, you want instant gratification full sort of restaurant managers aren’t used to that. Yes. So used to walking around the dining room touching the tables talking to people, but how often are they really serving? hostessing Yes, but they’re not showing behind the line to cook to cook food, right, they’re not running a cash register, they’re not showing behind the bar to push things along faster. Because they have a greater picture, they have to look at fast, casual quick serve, I can be on the cash register, as much as I don’t in, kind of I don’t promote that I’d much rather you’d be in a position where you can get off that off and attend to somebody, I can keep an eye on everything that’s going on. And as somebody walks by me, I can turn around. And I can say, hey, Sofia, go check on the table, you know, 27 or ticket number 111 seems to be running a little bit behind. Can we check on that. And I can reach out to the gentleman while I’m walking, working by myself. So we’ll be right with you checking on your order right now. I see that visual, I can still work take care of everybody else. And I’m taking care of that guest a little bit harder to do in a full set of restaurant in that kind of context.

Chad Franzen  18:35  

Sure. One of your specialties is concept design. If someone comes to you with an idea for their own restaurant, what kind of factors go into helping them design directors or build on to that concept?

Mark Moeller  18:47  

Well, the first place we start anything is always the menu. What is your menu? What are you going to offer, because the menu will then tell you what your constant is going to be. It’s going to tell me what kind of service you’re going to offer. It’s going to tell me what kind of equipment you need. It’s going to tell me the kitchen size you need, then it’s going to turn around and tell me the dining room size that we’re looking to do. And so that feeds into the type of real estate that I’m looking for, as well as looking for in what town? What area where am I going to get the greatest return. So I use a local reference. If I come to Westport, Connecticut, and I want to open up a full serve restaurant, that’s going to be a challenge five, six years ago, most barbers voted the six sleepiest town in all of Connecticut was basically means by eight, nine o’clock. Sounds folding up. Not a lot of people come it’s got to be something special that we join in with I go into the next town over, it’s a Fairfield. I’ve got a lot more activity. I’ve got a few universities over there. I’ve got a little bit more of a nightlife. I’ve got a younger crowd over there. I can stay up until 10, maybe 11 o’clock in some areas. So the menu is where it all starts. It’s gonna dictate every little drop that we have to do

Chad Franzen  19:51  

in the past couple years with COVID and now being part of our lives. Has your approach changed and if so, how?

Mark Moeller  19:58  

It has not changed, I guess And the only way they might have changed is the design elements have to be a little more flexible, right? Because they have to say, Well, if we go to 50% capacity, how do I do that without looking like, I am half empty, right? So I gotta make people feel comfortable, I would make it a little more of a takeout, even on the full sort of restaurants. But other than that, we’re still doing the same thing. We’re still taking great care of our guests, we’re still putting out great food in a great environment.

Chad Franzen  20:24  

What’s the best reason to hire a consultant if you want to open your own restaurant?

Mark Moeller  20:28  

Well, it really is so many, if you don’t have experience, you want to hire a consultant. Some people who have a lot of experience will hire a consultant just as a mentor, or somebody to bounce ideas off. So it really depends on how successful you want to truly be, and how much you can rely on the people that are around you. There’s a lot of things that I do with people that I’ll come in, and I’ll just be a mentor, just to kind of have somebody to bounce those ideas off. And other times, sometimes I just help them with hire, so they can hire me or any consultant for niche. We don’t have to do a full blown opening a full blown, you know, turnaround, there are opportunities that restaurant tours have, that they know about, they can just say, Look, I’m gonna really great recipe creation, I don’t need anything for up front. So I have heard an example of that I’ve got a client over in Fairfield, Connecticut, who is seen as a chef and his partner is the front of house. Chef, we didn’t need me for anything except for making sure that he had the right equipment, and his fit in the right spot and gotten the best possible price. He has his recipes. He has his plating, he has everything he needs, his vendors, everything else, they need the help on the other front end, they need help with the bar program, their service style, the Layout Designer, the out of the front of the house to make sure they’re meeting demand, as well as staying within health codes. So there’s a myriad of reasons why that can be a small of a project to full blown, he was pleased to third mark Donia restaurant,

Chad Franzen  21:45  

we are big fans of gratitude here and like to publicly acknowledge people who have been influential for you, who are the people in the industry, maybe that you respect and look to for advice and have learned from

Mark Moeller  21:54  

so I would say early in my career, it was actually the gentleman I alluded to earlier, who brought me over to, to the first piece where he has consulted with his name is Steve Cohen, he now runs a a buying group for golf clubs on the food side of it. But he was he knew he knew what he knew. He knew what he knew what he didn’t know. But he also elevated me to a different standard. And that was not only him, but it was also so Tyndall and head crew with again, a couple of local guys who just had this desire to make sure that everybody walks out with the greatest experience. But the other thing they do is they take a hard look at the numbers. So I was always a corporate guy, I always knew about numbers and having to stay really focused on them. And they really just took that to the next level. And they were entrepreneurs. So they rigged up Boston Market and before that they had Blockbuster Video, successful everything that they did. And it’s because of the attention to detail that they put not only the people that they hired, which they were phenomenal what they had the right people they paid correctly, right? If you walked in saying hey, I need x base, and I’m gonna give you x plus I’m gonna give you y, but this is what I’m going to expect from me. So knowing what to expect as a supervisor of a boss is tremendous for anybody. We listen, we all want this is what we all want structure. We all want to know what’s expected of us. So that trio was probably the most intellectual in in the big picture of my career.

Chad Franzen  23:22  

Hey, Mark, I appreciate your time today. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Where can people find out more about The Recipe of Success?

Mark Moeller  23:29  

My best place to go is my website www.recipe.success.com.

Chad Franzen  23:34  

Okay, great. Hey, I appreciate your time. Mark. Thanks so much. My pleasure. Thank you. So long, everybody.

Outro  23:39  

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