Partner Letter

My first job was at Alger Ace Hardware on the SE side of Grand Rapids. I learned a lot there and have vivid memories.

I remember Gary and Jack teaching me all things paint and plumbing which I conveyed to customers – and then 3 years later buying my own house and living the learning experience. Experience is the true teacher. I remember Len, the Baptist, leaving work at night and walking out of the parking lot saying, “Do right, Mike. Do right.” Wow, a consistent life message can make an impact for decades to come. And, I vividly remember Gary having a fatal heart attack in the paint aisle and all the drama and sorrow that surrounded that moment. Embrace life daily as our days are numbered and none of us know that number.

Bloomberg recently had a great article about Olive Garden. It contains stories about great chefs first jobs there. Two stood out to me.

Kevin Boehm, owns Chicago based Boka Restaurant Group and got his start at an amusement park in Florida. In one summer he clawed his way up the ladder at his first job, "I was working the Grand Prix race cars section and making more money than people who had been there a lot longer than I had," he remembered proudly. "I was always a competitive guy.” He learned that, “Through hard work and ambition, you can move up pretty quickly and become a leader," he said. "Also, by coming to work sober and on time.”

Susan Goin, operates three restaurants in Los Angeles. She started at California Pizza Kitchens and says, “I learned all about front of house—I was a host—and fussy customers." She learned, “Some people are meant to be sellers. Not me. I want to be in the kitchen, creating the food—not in the front, where you have to sell it.”

Life’s lessons come in many forms:

  • Experience is life’s true teacher – and – a consistent message is memorable
  • Show up to work sober and on time. You’ll go far.
  • Know thyself. Find your right fit and thrive.
  • Life’s lessons are everywhere – and in our early job experience.

    Mike Ritsema
    President & Partner

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