Finding the right flavor

Fear can be a great motivator, says Jerry Lasco,
founder, president and CEO of Lasco Enterprises LLC.
Lasco operates The Tasting
Room wine bar, and the company posted 2007 revenue of
$6.1 million and has more than
150 employees. Getting there
was not easy, however, as
Lasco had to dig deep within
himself to figure out what he
wanted his business to be.

In his first few years, the
workplace culture was not a
healthy one, and there were
times that Lasco feared he
wouldn’t make it. And that
fear didn’t ease until he came
to a realization — it wasn’t
that his company’s culture was
bad; it just didn’t reflect his

“If we fail based on that, so
be it,” Lasco says. “At least I’ll
know I didn’t compromise,
and I gave it my best shot.”

Smart Business spoke with
Lasco about how to succeed
in business while remaining
true to your beliefs.

Q. What is the first step to
building a strong culture?

The key to culture is truly
belief. If you don’t believe in
the business enough to live or
die over it and you’re just like,
‘This sounds like a good one;
maybe it will work and maybe
it won’t,’ it’s probably not
going to be a strong culture.

Leadership has 1,000 faces.
One thing you can’t do is buy
one of them and paste it on
and guarantee it’s going to
work. It’s got to be the one
that fits your face.

People spot hypocrisy and
insincerity and phoniness very
quickly. If it’s something that is
the core of your beliefs and
the core of your drive and
your personality, it’s much easier to get people to drink that
Kool-Aid. They see it being
acted out every day.

I just really worked hard and
tried to absorb myself into,
‘What, exactly, is our culture?
What should it be? What do I
believe in? What can I preach
from the pulpit every single

Q. How did you overcome the
fear of making that leap?

Fear of failure has
been one of my biggest
motivators. It starts with
a deep breath and with
trying to get a hold of

The most helpful thing
for me is a lifelong history of challenges.
Overcoming challenges,
whether you won the
race or not, you got
back up and finished it.

It’s the belief in yourself. If you are terrified
for a moment, you can
take a couple deep
breaths and get back to
work and get started
doing what you need to
do. You’ll end up persevering through it.