Read this post or download the pdf of the Born Leader Podcast: Episode 3 BONUS transcript.
Welcome to the Born Leader podcast, where we believe everyone is born to lead and that there are many paths to discovering that potential. I’m your host Gaea Honeycutt, Founder and CEO of the Hypatian Institute, Inc. You know, one of the perks of launching a leadership institute with its own podcast is getting great material on leadership and development from our guests . . . so much that we can’t possibly squeeze all of it into one episode.
When I met with Tara Palacios, Director of the BizLaunch program at Arlington Economic Development, we had a lot of fun and a lot of conversation because that’s how it always is with Tara. You can’t help but leave her presence re-energized, well informed and in a splendid mood. So, there’s all this extra material that I didn’t want to leave on the cutting room floor and that I’m sharing between episodes in this bonus track.
First, let’s take a little detour into history and regional trivia that I’m calling “It’s All Arlington”.
Gaea: Most people don’t realize that there are actually things that people believe are in DC that are actually in Arlington . . .
Tara: Yes! Yes!
Gaea: . . . like the Pentagon . . .
Tara: It has a DC address, but it is physically, it’s six million square feet of office that’s in our community. That its...It’s its own city almost in our community. The cemetery, people kind of always affiliate us with the cemetery. Iwo Jima is Arlington. Um, people land at National Airport. That’s Arlington. And so, um… I remember coming from Baltimore, I thought Clarendon was Clarendon, Roslyn was another city, Crystal City ... I just thought everything in Crystal City was crystal, you know, because that was my perception. And then as I came here I was like that’s all Arlington. So it is, it’s fully functioning, it has its neighborhoods, but it’s all one community.
You know, an interesting unknown fact that most people don’t know about the community is that we, from the very beginning of US history, we were part of Washington.
Gaea: Right, right. It was some kind of trade deal or—deal gone bad with Virginia?
Tara: Well, no, it’s interesting. Everything south of the Potomac is Arlington. Everything north of the Potomac was Maryland. So, Maryland and Virginia came together and gave land. What’s really interesting from an African American perspective is that Lee House which sits very tall up on the hill was actually where all of the slaves were freed and became a fully-functioning city after the Civil War and it’s where Howard got its start, it’s where Howard Hospital got its start, so in the early part of the 20th century that land was ceded back, and so, that part of the community actually into DC proper. But, it all got its start in Freedman’s Village in Arlington. This little-known fact, and I love, I love sharing that because we had a part in really helping DC become what it is.
Gaea: And, I think Alexandria sort of comers the market a little bit on historic Northern Virginia.
Tara: Yes, yes I would be remiss not to talk about our friends just a little bit to the south of us. [laughter] We were all—Alexandria and Arlington were all part of the original points that L’Enfant made when he was mapping out DC.
One of the themes that dominated my conversation with Tara was picking the right business. That led to a foray into the world of the often risky restaurant industry. In this next clip, which I’m calling “Everybody Wants a Restaurant”, Tara breaks down the reality of starting one.
Tara: Everybody loves to start a restaurant. Man, I wanted ... when I was in college, I thought once I started to leave my political science journalism and become Oprah, I’m going to open up all these restaurants and lounges about town. I’m going to be really cool, right? But then the reality is, to start a restaurant, you’re looking at a two million dollar investment. And a 10 million, or uh, 10, not a 10 million — a 10-year return on investment to get that money back.
Gaea: So, you have to be in it a really ...
Tara: Long time ...
Gaea: . . . for the long run. It’s not testing it for six months to see how it flies and sticks to the wall.
Tara: Lord have mercy. It’s a tough thing. And so, when you look at it like that and you look at the numbers, you know… What I am seeing now is food trucks are a really economical way. It still has a lot of hidden costs. You have to have a place where you can bake and produce food, and you have to have a place where you can store your truck. And that costs a lot of dinero; it’s a lot of money. So, you have to factor that in. And a lot of people use used trucks because it’s more economical, but those used trucks on a hot, hot day in DC -- 100 degree weather, -- they break down. So, if they break down and you ain’t making no money, it’s in the shop. That can really hurt you. And so, we try to walk through all of this with everybody before they get started, and if it’s a red light, we regroup. Green light, we’re still here for you long-term. So, as you hire people, as you move forward, we’re here.
And, finally, we talked a bit more about the fact that most successful entrepreneurs Tara meets spend a great deal of time planning. And, with Tara’s financial background, you know you can take the information in the next clip “to the bank”. I’m calling it “Plan Smart From the Start”.
Tara: I would also say the people that I work with that are most successful, they do a year or two of planning. And, especially if you’re looking at a location, because you need to get the right location. If you’re not in the right location, then you have to invest a lot of money into marketing. Which, we talked about marketing--we’re the first ones laid off because we spend the most money!
Tara: And, can’t be marketing to everybody. It has to be marketing to your very finite target market. And that target market, you have to understand them. How do they get information? Are they online? Do they use phones? How do they... how do they find you? You need to know more about them...so as you enter...and you’ve flushed all that out. Now that’s to say, you can plan the rest of your life, but you have to have a time when you execute. So usually what I tell people to do, is in your calendar put milestones, drop-dead dates, and stick by it. If you know that you need to write your strategic plan for your business, but your family is coming to visit on such and such a week, take that out. Take that out of the equation because you’re going to be distracted. Only do it at dates and times where ... and do it when you are at your freshest. That’s my best bit of advice, is to plan and to plan smart.
And there you have it , invaluable wisdom from Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch at Arlington Economic Development in Virginia. Thank you for joining me for this special bonus episode of the Born Leader Podcast.
I’d like to thank Tara for being such an outstanding guest, and the ever steadfast Therese Arkenberg for cranking out transcripts and making sure we’re taking care of business.
Our upcoming episodes feature international investor and consultant Babak Hafezi of Hafezi Capital, Maestro Ulysses James of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic, and Michel Zajur, Founder and CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. If you want to learn more about Tara Palacios or other guests on the Born Leader podcast, visit HypatianInstitute.com. That’s H-Y-P-A-T-I-A-N institute dot com. Or follow us on Twitter at Hypatian I-N-S-T. Talk to you next time on Born Leader from the Hypatian Institute.