Podcast Episode 52

‘Be the Best You’: Actor & Business Coach Skip Lackey On Being an Authentic Leader

Skip Lackey | 46 Minutes | July 26, 2022


In today’s episode, we speak with Skip Lackey, a business and leadership coach who has worked with over 10,000 clients across the restaurant industry and beyond.

Skip is an entertainer at heart — having taught over 1,000 workshops and on stage in front of over 1 million people in his 35-year career. Skip’s interesting career path includes working as a professional clown, a Nickelodeon employee, and an actor almost cast in Back to the Future.

So what does he have to tell us about being a leader in the culinary industry? A lot, actually.

A self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur,” he’s found that the health of any individual or organization lies in having a well-defined North Star: one’s mission, vision, and values.

Listen as we talk with Skip about how to be an authentic leader and build a winning team — regardless of the industry you are in.

Watch the podcast episode:

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Notes & Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Skip Lacey, a business leadership, life and success coach who has worked with over 10,000 clients, taught over 1000 workshops, and done over 1000 personal appearances over his 35-year career. Over those 35 years, Skip has started multiple businesses in a variety of industries, from restaurant and hospitality, oil and gas, to vision technology. He has also performed on Broadway, in movies, television, and recorded countless voice overs. Skip’s personal mission is to enhance the lives of others by introducing consciousness tools at work and at home to anyone and everyone interested.

Join us today as we chat with Skip about serial entrepreneurship, pivoting careers, and what it takes to make great leaders.

There he is! Good morning, Skip! How are you, buddy?

Skip Lackey: Hi, Kirk, how are you this morning?

Kirk Bachmann: I’m good. Can you tell I’m a little out of breath after that intro?

Skip Lackey: Yeah, there’s a lot there.

My Life as a Clown

Kirk Bachmann: There is a lot there. I cannot wait to dive in. Buddy, gosh, this is going to be off the cuff. I am so comfortable. People will know immediately that we’ve met. Our boys play baseball. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you over the last couple of years. Honestly, my wife thinks I enjoy hanging with you at the game more than the game itself, which…guilty, guilty, guilty.

Before we dive in – there’s a lot – but there’s a couple of things that people may be reminded of when I start talking about some fun. If you don’t mind, let’s talk first about your professional clown training, your career, and then segue into, “Think Fast,” a game show that you hosted. But first and foremost, you’ve told me the story before of training to become a professional clown. Absolutely fascinating to me. If you don’t mind, please indulge.

Skip Lackey: Sure. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. When I was a teenager, I started doing some theater, and I decided when I was in high school that I wanted to be a professional actor. I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school, really academically-minded. Guys were going to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It came time for me to go to school. I was the oldest in my family. I’d applied late to all the colleges. As I was struggling, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go next, a buddy of mind said, “Hey, I’ve got this application to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. I think you should apply.”

I was doing some clowning in Little Rock with him, so it wasn’t something that was way out of left field. I ended up applying. At the time – it’s not running right now – but they had 6000 applicants. 60 people got accepted. School was free. You basically went, and it was a big audition for 13 weeks. If you were decent, and they liked you, they offered you a job at the end of it.

Here I was, 17 years old, left home, went down there, and worked my tail off. We were going six days a week, 12 hours a day. It was like I said: it was just a big audition to see if you were funny, what skills you had, all of that.

I ended up getting a job offer and toured with Ringling Brothers in ‘79 and ‘80.

Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable. Through those auditions, obviously humor is really important. You want to bring laughter to people. How do they do that? They put you on stage and give you a script? How can they tell?

Skip Lackey: If you’re funny? Right. There’s no stage at the circus. It’s a ring. It’s the three-ring circus. At the time, the circus was traveling through Little Rock, and I went backstage between shows. The boss clown – there actually is a boss clown –

Kirk Bachmann: I love it.

Skip Lackey: – that runs the Clown Alley, it’s called. He pulled me aside and said, “Hey. Okay, come on out.” They basically just took me out into the ring between shows. Some of the kids and some of the performers sat on the ring. At the time, I was doing pantomime, and I walked stilts, and I juggled. They were like, “Just do something!”

So I did an audition, and the boss clown said, “Well, I’ll recommend you. But this isn’t one of the official auditions, so this is what you need to do.” The application was like six pages long and they asked you all of these personal questions because you’re literally living in a six-and-a-half by six-and-a-half train room with a roommate where you could touch the walls. You’ve got to be able to get along with people. It’s a survival. Back then, it was survival of the fittest on the road.

Kirk Bachmann: I’m just fascinated. Tons of people that come to these shows. Is everyone happy and everyone polite? Or do you get some folks who want to poke fun at the clown?

Skip Lackey: Oh, you’re talking about the audience?

Kirk Bachmann: The audience.

Skip Lackey: Oh, yeah. There’s so many people that have these ideas about clowns in their head. Some are trying to show you up. Some are trying to show you they’re funnier than you. A lot of people are scared to death of clowns. There are more people than you’d imagine that are just frightened, especially little kids.

You’re hiding behind a mask, and you can do pretty much whatever you want, at least back then. You can’t do that now, necessarily. Back then, it was kind of the Wild West.

Kirk Bachmann: But you had to keep your composure no matter what happens, that’s what they’re looking for, too.

Skip Lackey: And we had some things happen. One time during a show, one of the trapeze artists bounced out of the net. He was a 16-year-old flyer, and hit the ring curb. They called for all the clowns to come out while they pulled the performer out, or the animals would be a little unruly at the time. We served a really valuable purpose of the glue that held the show together. Because we performed in between the acts.

Kirk Bachmann: And Ringling Brothers in particular, that organization had been – the pandemic slowed a lot of things down and life slowed things down – but they’d been a round 100 years, something like that.

Skip Lackey: At the point that I did it, I think it was 125 years.

Kirk Bachmann: Isn’t that something?

Skip Lackey: That was 40 years ago that I did that. 42 years ago.

Kirk Bachmann: Do you think it will come back.

Skip Lackey: You know what, they just announced a show was coming back with no animals and no clowns, thought. They’ve announced no clowns. They are doing more of a Cirque du Soleil type performing circus.

TV and the Public Eye

Kirk Bachmann: So much. I’m just going to keep putting you on the spot here. You’ve worked with ABC, NBC, PBS, ESPN, the Golf Channel, Nike. Big companies like Nickelodeon, Walt Disney. We’ll go to Nickelodeon because I think that’s where the “Think Fast” game show was. Tell me, on the calendar, are we before the circus or after the circus when you hosted?

Skip Lackey: Way after. Way after. The circus was right out of high school. Then I moved to New York and was doing commercials and voice overs and a lot of theater in New York and on the road. I did a lot of road companies of Broadway musicals. I was a singer and a dancer.

Kirk Bachmann: How does someone get into voice overs? You’ve got to be on point. These are big companies throwing a lot of money at somebody who represents their brand. Do you audition for that as well?

Skip Lackey: You do. I had already done probably close to 100 on-camera national network commercials, on camera, so my agent started trying me at voice overs, which is a great thing to be able to do. It’s great money, professionally, if you can start to break into it.

You go, and you lay down copy, and they listen to 15 guys, and then they pick you. And then eventually you have a reel that your agent will submit, and they will listen to things that are similar. They like your voice, and then they call you and they book you for the job.

Kirk Bachmann: Makes sense. How did the “Think Fast” thing come about? Tell me a little bit about the game show. I’ve watched a few YouTube videos. That was the day the age of game shows. Really, really popular. Cannot be easy to become the host of a game show.

Skip Lackey: It was a bizarre thing. I got asked to go and audition at Nickelodeon. I’d never done a game show. I didn’t know what that was. They were looking for somebody that had a lot of energy. They had a previous host on the show during its first season, and they felt that his energy was a little lower, so they were looking for somebody that was funky. At the time, that was me.

I was about 29, and so I auditioned, did a bunch of auditions for the producers, the director. They liked it. Then they put me on another game show as a guest host, on something called, “Total Panic,” which was one of the other shows that was being filmed in New York City. I was living in New York and LA at the time.

From there, they liked what they saw, so they hired me. This was when they were building Universal Studios, Florida, and they were building Nickelodeon Studios. They had a back lot, and they were doing the studio tour. We went down there and filmed a ton of episodes. Did a bunch of other jobs for them: touring, doing live game shows for kids. The show was a hit. It was on five days a week. If you were of a certain age, you’d come home from school, turn on the TV, turn on Nickelodeon, which all the kids were watching.

It was weird having a little bit of stardom with kids. I’d go someplace, and kids would recognize me. I would be asked for my autograph and friends would be there and go, “Why are they are asking you? What?”

“Yeah, yeah. I have this show on Nickelodeon.”

They were like, “What?”

Kirk Bachmann: Claim to fame. I just love it. I’ve always been curious. You said it was on five days a week. These are live, one-take things, right? You guys aren’t recording and editing.

Skip Lackey: We recorded them. But it was more like live television because it was a low budget. Nickelodeon didn’t have a big budget like a lot of the shows do. At the time, the director and producer said, “Don’t stop! Just figure it out on the spot. Keep going. Just keep going. If it’s a complete disaster, or one of the games….”

Because what would happen is, I’d come in in the morning and they would set the stage. We would have four games. Then what they would do is teach me the games. They would say, “Okay, run ‘em.” It was 45 minutes of teaching me four games, and then I would do a show, and we would do four shows with the same four games. Then they would spread them out during the run.

It was two in the morning and two in the afternoon. It was exhausting.

Kirk Bachmann: Two in the morning?!

Skip Lackey: No, not 2 a.m. Two shows in the morning, and then two in the afternoon.

Kirk Bachmann: I was like, how’d you get little kids at two in the morning?!

Skip Lackey: They would bring kids in, down in Orlando, they would bring kids in from schools.

Kirk Bachmann: That stuff goes into the stories you tell your kids. That’s just so fascinating. Have the kids seen…obviously they’ve seen you on YouTube.

Skip Lackey: A little bit. They really, to be honest with you, it’s Dad. They’re not interested!

Kirk Bachmann: My kids don’t watch the podcast either, by the way.

Skip Lackey: It’s funny. My oldest son, Champ, will be 30 his next birthday. Then I have a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old. When Champ was little, I was segueing into being a TV producer for Vision Technology. We were working with all the networks. We got asked to go to the X Games. My son was a big skateboarder. He loved skateboarding when he was nine, eight.

Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Andy Macdonald, all these guys were there. I had been working with them, preppy for the X Games. I was one of the specialty camera technology producers, the executive producer of this technology. They were there, and we were backstage. I had Champ, and he was about eight or nine years old, and Champ says to me, “Dad! Dad! There’s Tony Hawk!”

I said, “Buddy, would you like to meet Tony?”

“What?!”

I said, “Hey, Tony!” And he turned around, and he said, “Hey, Skip! Hey, this must be your son, Champ, that you told me about.”

Kirk Bachmann: Oh, no way.

Skip Lackey: Champ’s face! He came over and talked to him for about five minutes. He had been playing the Tony Hawk game. I was the best dad in the world during that episode.

Kirk Bachmann: I was just going to say, Dad of the Year, probably still running.

Skip Lackey: That was when having that connection actually made me feel good for my kid.

Whatever You Do, Be You

Kirk Bachmann: 100 percent. Let’s segue to this idea that you’re a business leadership, life, and success coach. I really want to dig into this, but I have to say, even in my role in education over the years, I’ve had incredible opportunities to speak to, let’s say, a graduation. Hundreds of people. Maybe thousands. It’s exhilarating. I love it. It’s the proof of concept. It’s the ROI. It’s the talking to the parents. I absolutely adore it.

But I have not spoken to millions of people, whether recorded or live. I’ve just got to ask what that feels like, whether you’re filming a game show or you’re traveling with the circus or you’re producing the X Games, or you’re delivering messages as a coach, as a leader. What do you do to prepare yourself for that kind of an audience?

Skip Lackey: It’s interesting, because as you said, I’ve taught 1000 workshops, done 1000 appearances, and have been onstage my entire life, basically, in front of people. That’s been my job. First, to entertain. Then to edu-tain. Educate while you’re doing it with a bit of entertainment because it really goes in. I think that with anything that any of us do that authentically being ourselves and not trying to put on any airs, not trying to pretend to be something that we’re not.

I’ll tell you a quick story. I was on a soap opera for a little while. As I was taking an acting class for soap operas, I was learning that every kind of meeting has different styles. I was studying and I came in to do a scene. The guy who was the acting coach said, “Wait, Skip! Time out. What are you doing?”

I said, “I’m acting.”

He said, “You know what? That’s bullshit. You are not being you. You’re pretending to be somebody else.”

I said, “Isn’t that what acting is?”

He said, “It can be, but let me just tell you this, and this will be a life lesson for you. Be the best You you can be all the time. Don’t pretend to be something else. Don’t pretend to have some skills that you don’t have. If you don’t have it, say it. Be you, because if it’s not this job, it will be the next job. If you’re the right character, who you are, the essence of you, you’ll get hired on the spot the next time. Don’t try to be the thing you think the producer or the director wants you to be.”

Kirk Bachmann: What brilliant advice that transcends careers, industries. We could tell a young cook the exact same thing. Cook from your heart.

Skip Lackey: Absolutely. Yes. What is important to you? What are you passionate about? What’s important and gets you up in the morning? What is your mission, your vision, for you as a person?

A few years later, that came back to me. Here’s a little story. When I was an actor, I went in for an audition for this movie. I didn’t know what the movie was.
“Somebody wanted to meet you.”

I’m like, “Really?”

“They saw you on TV in a commercial, and they want to meet you.”

I walk into the room. It’s Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. They were casting “Back to the Future.” They auditioned me. They spent an hour and half with me. Just me, talking to me, auditioning me.

They said, “Wow! The essence of you in that commercial was exactly what we’re looking for in this role of Marty McFly.” The lead in the movie. I was the New York choice, and flew to LA. When I was auditioning, they screen tested me, and when I was doing it, Zemeckis, who was directing, I would say, “Bob, do you want me to do something else?” And he would shake his head.

“Skip, you are uniquely you and I love it. I don’t want to tell you to do something different, because it will change this really unique delivery that you do, and I don’t want to mess with it.”

At the time, I didn’t know if that was a compliment or not, because he was – not afraid to direct me – but he didn’t want to tamper with something that he thought was unique and special.

It’s come back to me again, again, and again, in all aspects of my life. Yes, you’re right. A line cook, or if you’re starting a restaurant, or if you’re a waiter. I waited tables for a little while in New York, and I was getting 100 percent tips. The manager was like, “What are you telling these people?” “Just being me. They are rewarding me for giving them a great experience.”

Whatever you do, be you. Don’t apologize for it.

Authentic Leaders

Kirk Bachmann: Unapologetic. I love that.

I want to mention skiplackey.com. [praxisleadershipacademy.com]. We’ll put those into the show notes.

But I want to make these connections. A lot of the work you do today, Skip, is to help organizations find the best solutions for making their businesses healthy and successful. Can you take me back again? All of this work, the circus, Broadway, television, game show, being in front of Spielberg, the highs, the lows, the great advice. How did that all combine into your style of leadership development and the advice that you give big organizations around the country?

Skip Lackey: Sure. I went from being an actor with a clown college, acting school, went to film school, started directing. I got basically into a leadership position. I owned a restaurant that had 70 employees when I was 30. I was realizing that leadership was something that was important to me.

I started a seminar business here in the United States to help people. Basically, it was a personal growth seminar that I was sharing. As I started doing it, I became more and more uniquely myself, and realized that humor, authenticity, and being uniquely me was ultimately important. When people believe you and you’re speaking from your heart, you can draw those people in, and the right people are drawn to you from a leadership perspective.

As we were doing this personal growth work, it morphed into somebody came to us and said, “Hey, can you take the work that you’re doing and do this in corporate?” This gal was creating a leadership program for the justice department of Canada, and they wanted to try to unite all of the key leaders in the justice department of Canada. They gave us this contract, and we developed this very specific work which I now call the Praxis Leadership Academy, which teaches people, at their core, how to be authentic leaders and do it consciously.

That’s where it morphed into. People would then like it. I go into businesses and can help with leadership. Because how you do one thing is how you do everything. How you are in life is how you show up at work. People want to separate those two things, but it’s really difficult, especially in the restaurant industry. There’s so many things that show up in life and can cause upheaval.

If you’re a manager, if you’re a leader, if you’re an owner, you have to learn to roll with the punches. You have to learn how to be resilient. You have to learn how to have more emotional and social intelligence. You have to learn, what I call, a win-learn attitude. For years, it was win/lose. I think it’s win/learn. There is no lose. It’s just, “What am I learning?”

The Importance of Having Vision

Kirk Bachmann: I love, “how you do one thing is how you do everything.” That consistency piece. How do you help create conscious engagement in leaders? When you’re up there and that’s the goal. You’ve got 75 leaders in an organization in front of you, how do you create that conscious engagement to help them to create?

Skip Lackey: They’ve got to create it themselves, and they have to want to. So many times, good technicians or people who are are skilled at their job become an owner and/or become a manager or leader of some kind. Just because somebody’s good at their job doesn’t mean they are going to be a good leader. That does not necessarily equate, because we have our own baggage that we carry into, “Hey, I’m a leader. What does that mean?”

For somebody, it might mean inspiring people to be their best. At least that’s what I hope. But for some others, it’s control. The concept of leadership and toeing the line, that was what managerial skills came from. During the Industrial Revolution, there were all the manufacturing assembly lines. You had to toe the line, put your toe up there and make sure there was a body there. At all cost, they were cracking the whip. You’ve got to show up. You’re fired. That type of leadership does not work any longer.

I ask owners and CEOs and vice presidents all the time, With your employees, if you weren’t paying them, would they still show up? What would your business look like if you treated your employees like volunteers? What would your business look like if you treated your employees like volunteers, like it wasn’t just about the money, because it’s not. If you’re not inspiring people and giving them a mission and vision of what’s important – especially now, there are so many opportunities elsewhere, people will leave.

And I’m not saying there aren’t times where you go, “Hey, you’ve got to toe the line.” There are times when there are rules, there are systems, there are things that we need to do. But if you can be a leader that focuses on not motivating but inspiring – and there’s a difference between motivation and inspiration.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that you say that. The push/pull. I love that.

Skip Lackey: Yeah. Because motivation is, “Come on, guys, let’s go.” That goes away.
But if you have a vision and you can inspire people, and you show them what the vision is of your restaurant, of your job, of your organization, of your sales group, and they can see the vision and they can jump on board, then they will motivate themselves.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. 100 percent.

When you’re working with small to medium sized companies, what are some of those common challenges that you find that you’re asked to help remedy?

Skip Lackey: These days, it’s a problem with employees. Finding employees, hiring them, keeping them engaged, what does that look like. I tell even small businesses, small that have 10, six, five employees, still do a mission, vision, and set of values. That’s the glue that holds everything together. When you’re meeting with them, you’re talking with them, you can refer back to.

I went through today before the podcast. There’s a restaurant group out of Napa called Southside, Southside Grill. They’ve hired me to come in and work with their team. They had three restaurants and then they had a catering business. They were going a million miles an hour. I met them through a business coaching program that I was working with. I was telling them the importance of that when they were telling me they were having – not issues – but they were trying to find a way to encompass everything that they did and get people to work in the same direction, even if they’re at one unit, to be able to plug them in over here if they had a problem.

We got together, spent time with the senior management team. There were about five people. I sit down and say, “What’s really important? What is it you do? Why do you do it? What’s you’re vision of what you want to see?”

For them, their mission became, “Whatever we do, we want to do it and be great at it. We want people to walk away and say, ‘Oh my God, I love being here.’” So their mission statement turned into, “No matter what, we deliver excellence.”

So what does that mean? Somebody in the kitchen, they’re out of lettuce. They send somebody to the store to buy lettuce. Do you buy crappy lettuce? Or do you spend the extra 20 seconds to look at a really good head of Romaine. You might not think about saying, “Hey, make sure you buy the good lettuce,” but if your mission that you’re delivering – We deliver excellence – then you go a little above and beyond.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s got to be for everything, including the lettuce.

Along those lines, you’re around the table with groups like Southside. How should, in your mind, Skip, leaders think about the overall health of their organization? How should they think about it?

Skip Lackey: It goes back to how would you take care of yourself. It’s like that metaphoric concept if you’re on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop out and you’ve got a kid, do you put it on the kid first, or do you put it one you first? You have to put it on you so that you can be there to help them.

Oftentimes owners of small businesses are so taxed and they’re so worn out, and they don’t take care of themselves. They don’t believe that. Then they have to focus it and build the right systems so that they have something to work with and build on. To me, a small business goes, “well, this is just the way we do it.”

Well, is the system written down? Is it formalized? If it’s not, it’s not a system, it’s just a way of doing things you’re trying to pass on to a few employees. You can’t scale. It’s kind of like the E-myth, Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth.” When I first read that, I was like, “Wow! This is awesome.” It’s that concept of systems, systems, and more systems that you’re flexible with and you change and you grow with.

You’ve got to be able to have something that you as the owner can step away and can take the time that you need, sometimes giving the employees the reigns to succeed and fail. They’ll learn, and you’ve got to let them do their thing. They’ll take charge. But if you control, you’re too controlling, you’re micromanaging, you’re dis-empowering your employees, they’ll leave.

Then you can’t abdicate and just go, “You guys just do it.” That’s just as bad as being overly controlling. Abdicating and just not having some bumpers and some boundaries for people to work in.

You Can Never Ask Enough Questions

Kirk Bachmann: A lot of students and graduates listen to the podcast. They’ll be curious. Many are at early stages in their careers. Maybe the beginning of their careers. If you could give any advice at all to Escoffier students and other listeners maybe one or two tips on how to be or start to become good leaders, or even good entrepreneurs, what would that be? What’s the mindset to get to where it’s optimum?

Skip Lackey: The first thing would be to do your own personal growth work. We’ve all had our stuff that’s happened to us in our life. To study emotional intelligence and also social intelligence. Emotional and social intelligence is the key to everything and anything in life. There’s all kinds of stuff online. You can go learn about emotional intelligence, what it is, and then you can dig into the aspects. “You know, I could be a little bit better there.”

So often people have a vision, but they don’t go out and get a mentor. Get and find somebody that’s doing what you’re doing and approach them, very respectfully. Send them a card. It doesn’t have to be somebody you know. You don’t have to meet them through somebody that you do know. You can just reach out to people. I’ve had people say this to me before. “Would you be willing to mentor me?”

It’s kind of what I do as a living, but I’ve taken on some folks to be able to mentor them because of their persistence of wanting to fully understand. They were willing to really jump and dive in and learn from the ground up, and listen. That old metaphor of you’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason. You don’t have to know everything. It’s refreshing when you’re with somebody, and they are just really listening, and ask questions, questions, and more questions. You can never ask enough questions.

Going Backwards to Go Forward

Kirk Bachmann: I’m going to tap into your expertise now, and get into the business side of it. I’d love for you to talk about, going back to your journey, lots of opportunities have presented themselves to you. All that we’ve chatted about already. What, typically Skip, is your strategy to evaluate those opportunities, and to move on an embrace them? And how has that served you well?

You can tell, I’m trying to find the lessons here that people take away. It’s the age of relationships. The age of information. It’s coming at us a million miles an hour. How do you step back and understand that This is good for me. This is good for me. It’s consistent with what I’ve been doing.

Or, do I step out of my comfort zone and try something crazy? Tough question.

Skip Lackey: No, not really. Trying something crazy when you’re young is when you want to do it. When you get a little bit older, you’ve established, you have a family. Maybe you have some children.

Kirk Bachmann: Other responsibilities.

Skip Lackey: Then it becomes really difficult to take that risk. I think it’s what gets you to jump out of bed in the morning. What really excites you. There will come a time, maybe. You said at the beginning of your show, serial entrepreneur. I had lots of businesses, and I’ve helped lots of businesses define what it is that they want out of their business, but I’ve had to pivot.

I’ve had to pivot a number of times. It gets to the point where I’m hard-headed and I’ve had to learn to not be so hard-headed. But it reaches a point when you go, “You know what? I need to pivot. This is not happening. I’ve done everything I can do to make this work. It’s not working. So let’s pivot.” There’s nothing wrong with taking a few steps back to move forward. Think of a chess board. Never is there a grand master who doesn’t make moves backwards to then go forward and win.

Kirk Bachmann: Sure. Excellent analogy.

Skip Lackey: Sometimes you have to pivot, take a couple of steps back to be able to move forward. Really look at the big picture.

I just think that following your heart and following your passion is overused. People say it all the time. But it’s true.

Kirk Bachmann: How does that tie in to you? You just brought serial entrepreneur up again. Help define that for us. What is it for you, for Skip, what does it mean to be a serial entrepreneur? Does it mean that you’re constantly looking? You’re evaluating opportunities all the time?

Vision, Values, Growth and Learning

Skip Lackey: It’s funny. Just a couple of days ago, I had somebody I was helping say, “Hey, do you want to get involved with what we’re doing?” I was coaching her. She was building an animal sanctuary to help vets work out of their PTSD and work with animals that are traumatized. I volunteered to be a part of her board. It’s a beautiful opportunity, and my heart goes, “Oh, wow, that would be great to be able to do that kind of work. But where am I at right here in my life?”

You’ve got to look at the macro and the micro. Where I’m at right now, I’m here. I still have young kids. You have to look at the big picture and the small picture. Personally, I was raised. My father was a serial entrepreneur where he had ten businesses going on at any given time, some small, some large. I was raised in that. It was kind of normal to get something together, see if it’s going to work. If it works, great. You flourish it. Then you sell it, or you keep it, or you get the right management team involved.

Or you move on. You let go of it. You let go of that business.

Personally, for me, I’ve gone through multiple changes, from the entertainment industry. I’ve gone from being onstage, being in front of camera, to then really studying intensely with one of the most famous acting teachers in the world. I really understood my craft. Then I got behind the camera and started producing and directing when I went to film school.

For me, it’s growth. It’s growth and learning. That’s what excites me. I create material, and then it’s a matter of stopping and saying, “How do we make a business model out of this?”

Kirk Bachmann: I was going to ask, what invigorates you, and you moved right into that. I’ve taken tons of notes, at no cost, by the way. You can invoice me. I just want to go back for a minute. You talked a lot about mission, vision, set of values. Can you speak, just very, very high level to that? Maybe for the audience, differentiate mission, vision? Where’s the North Star fall in? Is it the vision first, then the mission statement? And then the set of values. I’m trying to create the analogy of a house. Is that our foundation that we live every single day?

Skip Lackey: I think they go hand-in-hand. For me it’s mission, vision, and then the values are the core. I also have this other process I call Above the Line, Below the Line. Once you create a handful of values that are important to the company, then you create a way of being able to say What is important to us, where do we take responsibility. Then underneath that, below the line, we don’t go there. We don’t do these things. You’re creating bumpers for employees and for management teams.

A vision would say What do you want to create. You think big. You think big. Even if it’s a small little organization, you still think big. My personal vision statement is to see 5 million people wake up to the truth of who they are by whatever means necessary. That’s my personal vision statement. I’ve been in front of a million people so far, and countless people have heard a different podcast or radio program, or whatever. I’ve affected a lot of people that have then gone out and affected other people. Am I at 5 million? I don’t know.

When I first came up with it, I’m like, “Oh my God, 5 million! That’s a lot!” And then my thinking brain tried to shut it down, and I went, “Nope. Stop.” How that happens is not my job. My job is to stay true to what my vision is.

Then you read my mission statement. My own personal values. Everybody’s are a little different. I’ll tell you a quick story.

I was at a multi-billion dollar board room of a company out in San Francisco with a business partner. We were pitching to do a big leadership coaching program inside. They were like, “We’ve got 70,000 employees. No one’s really working together. They’re kind of doing their own thing.”

I said, “What’s you’re mission statement?” I’m sitting with all of the C-Level. They were like, “Uh…it’s, a, you know…what?” They started looking around the room at each other. “Do you have a vision statement?” “Yeah, it’s, uh….” They didn’t know what it was off the top of their heads. “How about values?” “Uh, honesty. Integrity. What else?”

I looked at them and my partner and I said, “Look, if you don’t know what they are, how do you expect anybody else in the company to know what they are?” It is so important that you as the entrepreneur or the business own know what your vision is, so that every time you have anybody – that goes with an employee, that goes with a customer, that goes with a vendor – anybody that you come into contact with, that is your guiding star. Your mission, your vision, and your values.

It’s a system for inspiration.

Kirk Bachmann: It all comes together. Because we’ve talked about this on the sidelines, I love that you went and took us to Above the Line, Below the Line. You explained that to me once, weeks ago. We’re getting to know each other too well. You took that bait really, really well. I appreciate it.

One last comment. This is the fastest 45 minutes that I can recall. We’ve got to wrap it up in a minute. Coming back to mission, vision, core values, working up the other way. Big vision, I like that.

What was really interesting is your personal mission and the mission you mentioned for the group that you’re working with, Southside Grill. It’s very brief. I think in education, specifically, I’ve seen missions that include the entire curriculum and everything we teach. But it doesn’t need to be lengthy. It just needs to be powerful.

Skip Lackey: Part of my time with Southside or any of the restaurants or businesses that I work with, by the end of the day, they have it memorized. They know what it is, because it comes from their heart. It’s their vision, their mission. It’s their values. It’s not just integrity, honesty. It is a living, breathing value. For Southside, one of their actions and values was “Engage with our community.” They want to be a part of the community. They want to really engage on all levels. They have a sense of anticipation and urgency. Is that, “Hey, we’re going to do everything fast?” But they get it to the point where it means something. Anticipate what somebody’s needs are and do it quickly with urgency.

We all rode together and have each other’s backs. Everybody on the team works together. It’s a way of creating something that is a living, breathing value as opposed to just a word that means nothing.

Kirk Bachmann: Brilliant advice. We’ve done a lot of work at Escoffier as well. I’ll read to you: our vision is simply “To improve the world of food one learner at a time.” Which I absolutely love. Says it all. It rolls into our mission, which is simply, “To cultivate lifetime careers in food and wellness industries by offering affordable, accessible, and socially-minded education and training.” So simply.

But years ago, Skip, I would have had to use a cheat sheet.

Skip Lackey: It was a paragraph that you read that doesn’t mean anything. But now, you’ve got some passion in your mission statement.

Skip Lackey’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: It’s super powerful.

Speaking of passion. The name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. I’ve got to ask you – putting you on the spot – what is the ultimate dish in your world?

Skip Lackey: Gosh. The ultimate dish. It goes back to my grandmother was an amazing country cook. I remember going to her house. The ultimate dish for me is this memory of being at her house – my dad’s mom – in West Virginia, and the coal mines of West Virginia. She would make these biscuits from scratch. We used to ask her when we were teenagers, “Hey, can you give us the recipe?” She just would move stuff over. We got her to do that one time, and one of my cousins measured it.

So we have my Grandmother Lacey’s recipe for biscuits. Whenever the family gets together, that’s what everybody remembers.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. What do you put on the biscuits? Honey, jam.

Skip Lackey: No. Just butter. They are so good.

Kirk Bachmann: Just butter.

Skip Lackey: With butter. Oh my God. They’re flaky and beautiful.

Kirk Bachmann: We’ve never had anybody just get right into. I love that. That’s a food memory that brings back Grandma. Was she in West Virginia or Arkansas?

Skip Lackey: She was in West Virginia. Business pulled us out to Arkansas, my dad, when I was a kid.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s great. Hey buddy, thank you so much for spending some time and providing such great feedback. This was a lot of fun. I really, really appreciate it. Baseball starts this week.

Skip Lackey: We’re already in practices.

Kirk Bachmann: Summer session.

Skip Lackey: Thanks for having me on the show, Kirk. Like I’ve said, my mission is to help people wake up. If somebody is taking something, a little pearl from what I’ve said, or it stimulates somebody in some way, that’s what makes me happy. I’m an open book. Somebody ask me a question, it’s like, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I’ll talk and share and give it away. The universe provides. It all comes back. Thank you for giving me a platform to be able to share my passion.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it, buddy. Win and learn. Win and learn. Skip Lacey.

And thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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