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Jeremy Gutsche delivers a keynote address at MUFSO
<p>Jeremy Gutsche delivers a keynote address at MUFSO.</p>

Why business leaders should be like hunters, not farmers

This is part of Nation&rsquo;s Restaurant News&#39; special coverage of the 2014 MUFSO conference, taking place Oct. 5&ndash;7 at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower in Dallas. Follow coverage of the event on and tweet with us using #MUFSO. Stay connected on the go by downloading the MUFSO app.

Jeremy Gutsche wants to see business leaders think like hunters, not like farmers.

During his keynote address at the 55th annual MUFSO conference in Dallas the founder and chief executive of said the next great idea could be very close — like a hunter’s prey. However, he noted, too often business leaders miss those great ideas as they focus, like farmers, on repeating whatever steps led to last year’s good crop.

Success, Gutsche contended, can sometimes be an entrepreneur’s worst enemy because it can lead to complacency and an obsession with maintaining the status quo. He pointed to a handful of once-great companies that missed opportunities, in part as a result of their own success.

The now-defunct Blockbuster video chain, for example, once experimented with online streaming and had a chance to buy Netflix, but didn’t, he said. He also noted that in 1975, Kodak created a program to upload pictures people could share with friends but didn’t pursue it because they thought people would never use it. And Smith Corona didn’t move into the world of computers, instead keeping its focus on being the best typewriter company in the world. “And they still are today,” he said.

Although these were successful companies, said Gutsche, “their own success started becoming the block to their true potential.”

As an example of a “hunter,” Gutsche pointed to Amancio Ortega, the creator of the Zara retail chain and a man worth about $70 billion. He lives in a small village in Spain, eats at the same place every day and wears the same blue shirt and pants every day. And he has become one of the most innovative retailers in the world, said Gutsche.

Zara can take an idea from conception to store in about two weeks, he said. Most fashion companies take a year to produce a design.

Ortega is also willing to destroy a design in order to adapt, said Gutsche. At Zara, managers report in at the end of each day how customers responded to any particular design. If customers said they didn’t like the stripe on a dress, for example, two weeks later, Zara may produce the same dress without the stripe.

Gutsche also pointed to restaurateur Eric Ripert, the famed French chef and co-owner of the restaurant Le Bernardin, who doesn’t keep dishes on the menu, no matter how popular and well reviewed.

“He doesn’t want to be known for a signature dish,” said Gutsche. “He experiments with new flavors and tastes all the time because he believes his Michelin stars are more difficult to defend than to get.”

He urged the audience not to get caught up in the mega trend, but instead to look for the “ripples of opportunity” that inevitably result. From the success of Facebook, came Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, each offering an alternative twist to that form of communication.

For some, the response to a mega trend could be divergence, he said, telling the story of the art student that created the Ugly Doll at a time when Barbie reigned. “Opposing the mainstream fuels your success,” he said.

Others take a more reductionist approach, like the entrepreneur who was jilted by his fiancée and found difficulty returning the expensive diamond ring he had bought her. So he created the website “I Do, Now I Don’t,” a place for the broken hearted to unload jewelry. “That was about being irresistible to a specific group of people,” he said.

In the end, Gutsche said, “You are all closer than you think to remarkable ideas. You just have to connect the dots” and realize that success may be what’s blocking you from the next creative step.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter @livetodineout

MUFSO title sponsors are American Express; The Coca Cola Company; and International Franchise Association.

Keynotes/general sessions are presented by: e*Restaurant from Altametrics; Pro*Act; Red Book Connect; SurveyMini by SMG and the Texas Restaurant Association.

Pillar sponsors include: Idahoan Foods, Sweet Street Desserts and Ventura Foods (Culinary); Red Book Connect (Entrepreneur); Smithfield Farmland (Ideas); and Fishbowl, MomentFeed, Paytronix and Single Platform from Constant Contact (Marketing).

The Monday night awards reception is sponsored by: Avocados from Mexico; Daiya Foods; Ovention; Sara Lee Foodservice; Segafredo Zanetti and Texas Pete®.

Coca Cola presents the Shake, Sparkle & Stir event, and Texas Pete®  is sponsoring the MUFSO Kitchen Hero Cook Off, benefitting Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Hot Concept/Best Concepts Celebration is sponsored by e*Restaurant from Altametrics; Golden Chain Awards are sponsored by SurveyMini by SMG.

MUFSO App is sponsored by Qualisoy; MUFSO WiFi is sponsored by ROSnet; and Conference Pen is sponsored by CSM Bakery Products.

Refreshment breaks are sponsored by Royal Cup Coffee and Wrigley Foodservice.

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