Viviani shares bits of leadership wisdom gleaned from a lifetime building a culinary empire.
4 min read
You might recognize Fabio Viviani from Bravo TV’s Top Chef or Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Or, maybe you know him from appearances on shows like Good Morning America or The Rachael Ray Show. Perhaps you subscribe to his popular YouTube show, Fabio’s Kitchen, or have seen his face on one of the cookbooks he has written.
No doubt, Viviani is a busy entrepreneur. Through his business, Fabio Viviani Hospitality, Viviani has created a growing culinary empire with 34 restaurants in locations around the U.S.
His passion for food started as a boy growing up in Florence, Italy, where he worked nights in a local bakery and later in various restaurant jobs. After training in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at top hospitality schools and working with highly regarded chefs, Viviani realized he wanted to become more than a chef—he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
By age 27, Viviani had owned five restaurants and two nightclubs in Italy. Turns out, Viviani was hungry for more. In 2005, he moved to California where he opened Café Firenze, his first restaurant in the U.S.
Looking back at those early years, Viviani realizes he made mistakes along the way. Here are three important leadership lessons he wished he had known earlier in his career.
1. It’s rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
Entrepreneurs are passionate people who tend to spend all of their energy trying to grow a business from the ground up. As such, the stress and responsibility of being the person in charge can sometimes bubble over into something unsavory.
“I have a hot temper and I’ve been running my own business since I was 18,” Viviani says. “I was ‘the Boss’ and I was expecting everyone to do as I said, but it didn’t quite work that way.”
There really isn’t a place for hot-headed thunder and bluster in business. The key, he says, is to understand that instead of acting like a boss, a successful entrepreneur will serve as a leader who can delegate and manage a team. “The minute you learn how to lead with knowledge instead of authority, your whole game changes,” he says. “Instead of working for you, people will start to work with you. You’ll achieve more with fewer headaches and have a greater sense of ownership in what you do.”
2. Successful leaders know when to keep their thoughts to themselves.
Business owners typically are intelligent, ambitious and capable people who make countless decisions every day. Sometimes it can be all-to-easy to insert yourself, and your opinions, about every single detail all the time.
“When you’re young you like to be argumentative and give away lots of unasked opinions,” Viviani says. “Unless your words can fix a problem efficiently and permanently, shut up. If I knew earlier about the value of silence, I would’ve embraced it and looked a lot smarter.”
Related: 4 Principles of Servant Leadership
3. Do it right or do it twice.
Viviani used to think that finishing a job fast was better than taking your time to make sure everything is correct—only to find out that he’d have to re-do what wasn’t done properly in the first place. “I’ve spent too much time doing things twice when doing them right in first place would’ve saved me time and put me in a much better spotlight,” he says.
It’s a lesson he imparts on everyone he works with. “It’s always the standard measure I wish to operate under,” Viviani says.