G. Alan Moll is a Chef and CEO of his own businesses, Good Earth and Fontana’s Italian Group which are located in Redwood City, California. He is an example of a business person that possesses all of the traits of a successful entrepreneur. From the time he was a child Moll had the desire to be around food; he worked with passion and determination to achieve his goals. Moll earned himself an excellent education and aligned him with mentors and positive role models as these were the foundation that led to his success as an entrepreneur.
G. Alan Moll grew up in a lower middle class family in New Haven, Connecticut during the early 1950’s. During that time everyone in the family was expected to do their part by contributing to the household; this ensured that the bills were paid and food was on the table. At the tender age of nine one of Moll’s neighbors pulled him aside and told him where to find the best jobs. The neighbor advised Moll to go into town and look for the fullest dumpsters; it would be at those businesses where Moll would find the most secure jobs. Upon receiving that advice, Moll took off into the city. He found the fullest dumpster in the back of a hotel, walked up to the big, steel back door and started banging on it. Within moments a large man opened the door and asked the young boy what he wanted. Moll told him he wanted a job; the man grabbed him by his shirt collar and pulled him into the hotel slamming the door shut behind them. Moll had been hired to peel shrimp for five dollars an hour. That man, Executive Chef Sherman Packtor turned out to be one of the most influential people in Moll’s career.
Chef Sherman Packtor decided that he was going to teach Moll everything about the food business industry; this was the start of Moll’s entrepreneurial sights. Throughout his mentorship with Chef Packtor, Moll slowly moved up the kitchen chain of command. This eventually led to Moll’s ability to confidently run the operations at the age of 16; allowing Chef Packtor to take small vacations from time to time. Chef Packtor owned several other businesses in the area including the coveted beach club that Moll had desired to be a part of. The summer that Moll turned 16, Chef Packtor promoted him to manage the beach club.
Throughout his tenure with Chef Packtor, Moll stated that the lessons he learned, whether good or bad from Chef Packtor were invaluable. Moll pointed out that he learned how important and valuable customer service was. It was necessary to know your customers by name, what they wanted on their plates, how they wanted it served and where they wanted to be seated. On the other hand Moll pointed out that Chef Packtor was very hard on his employees if not borderline abusive. Of course this was a common occurrence in many food service establishments during that time; before many of the laws were passed to protect employees from racism, sexism and the like.
Moll’s next job was working for a family business in a popular diner located in town. It was here that Moll really learned how to run a family business, starting from the bottom and working his way up. Moll explained that upon being hired, one would start as dishwasher; graduate to working the window; move next to soda jerk; and the ultimate job that everyone strived for was the “grill man”. It was through this model that Moll was able to learn many aspects of a family owned business; he explained that the owners had an influence on him and his decision to pursue a culinary degree.
At the age of 17 Moll informed his parents that he would be attending culinary school, he wanted to follow his passion and become a professional chef. His parents were disappointed that he had decided to attend the premiere culinary school in the country, The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. They had bigger dreams for their son; he was expected to be an engineer like his father. Unbeknownst to Molls father, it was he that fed his sons fire. From as far back as he could remember Moll’s father would sneak about town with his son. They would frequent all of the best eateries from slipping into ethnic church banquet halls on Tuesday and Thursday nights to dining at the little hole in the wall restaurants. Father and son would drive from Connecticut to New York and back in search of a unique meal. It was these adventures that added to Molls love and curiosity of all types of food.
Once Moll completed his studies at The Culinary Institute of America, graduating with high honors and Le Cordon Bleu, he immediately began working toward his business degree. He attended Daniels College of Business; School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at The University of Denver in Colorado. Moll felt it was important to learn every aspect of the food service industry, and it was here that he was able to grasp the business side of the culinary world that he was about to embark on.
After finishing his studies at Daniels College of Business, Moll held positions that would only add to the experience and knowledge necessary to successfully start and run his own business. Moll served as Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for UAL, Inc., parent of United Airlines and Westin Hotels; Senior Vice President of the W. R. Grace Restaurant Group; President and COO of Pizza Chicago and is currently President and COO of the Good Earth and Fontana’s Italian group.
In regard to any business failures Moll told me of the import/ export company that he owns with his brother; North Beach Gourmet Food and Wine which is located in Venice, Italy. When he initially took on this project with his brother Moll thought it would be a very profitable venture. Little did he realize the politics of the import/ export business, especially in Italy. After shipments disappeared into thin air Moll decided to step back and reassess. Moll told me that one of the most important aspects of being a business owner is having the ability to be flexible, to not be so tied to your plan or idea that you risk losing everything. Moll decided to change his tactic and instead of exporting to the west, he and his brother decided to export to the east; Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic and other eastern countries. Because of this decision Moll’s import/ export business in Italy is thriving. While this change required a little work and some logistics, Moll’s ability to think outside the box and his competency saved his business (G.A. Moll, personal communication, May 12, 2011).
Moll became a successful entrepreneur in part because he had a true passion for the culinary arts. But having a passion for something is not enough. A person who desires to be an entrepreneur also tends to possess specific characteristics that appear to be present in many successful leaders. According to Entrepreneur.com some of the characteristics that are shared by strong leaders are: knowing what your mission is; setting a vision for you business; setting goals; assuring your competency to those holding an interest in your organization; building a strong team; possessing the ability to communicate effectively; possessing the ability to relate to all types of people; having a positive attitude; possessing the ability to inspire; and setting the bar higher for yourself and everyone involved with your organization on a consistent basis (Javitch, 2009). Moll possesses all of these traits and it is apparent in the continuing success of his businesses.
From the time he was a child Moll was focused on what he wanted to do and made sure to accomplish it. It was his first job at the age of nine that taught and reinforced many of the entrepreneurial traits that Moll possesses today. Being mentored by an entrepreneur, an excellent culinary and business education and the positions held prior to starting his own business only added to Moll’s probability of success in his future. References
Javitch, D. G. (2009). 10 characteristics of superior leaders. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from