The Johnson file Featured

12:06pm EDT October 10, 2005

Born: 1950, Phoenix

Education: Bachelor of science degree, law degree, Western State University College of Law

First job: Working in a restaurant, Beefeaters. I was there nine years. I started off as a dishwasher and ended up in management.

Career moves: Previously, senior vice president, international, for Ruby Tuesday Inc. Served as vice president of international operations for Carlson Restaurants’ T.G.I.F., Italiannis, Front Row Sports Grille and Friday’s American Bar. Also worked with Bennigan’s, a division of S&A Restaurants Inc.

What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?

Close my mouth and open my ears. That is very important. I tell the people that work with me — people try to run businesses through e-mail. That’s impossible. Talk to people.

Pick up the telephone and call. An e-mail should memorialize the phone conversation. When you can listen, you can work your way through anything that’s an issue or you can make the right decisions.

What is the greatest business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

That was the ’97, ’98 Asian financial crisis. That’s right around the time I left T.G.I. Fridays, and went to Ruby Tuesdays. And within 90 days of making the change, the bottom fell out of Asia, which was the primary growth target for us.

We had several business deals that were ready to close and businesses to get started, and we had some ongoing businesses in Taiwan and Hong Kong that just got crushed. They’ve just started coming out of it the last few years.

When you have the greatest growth part of your market disappearing overnight, how do you retune your business model to work under those circumstances and be prepared, so if it ever occurs again it doesn’t impact you again?

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

I absolutely admire Bill Gates. Here’s a man who is on the cutting edge of innovation on technology that, to this day, is still changing the world.

And he’s been resolute in moving forward with his vision no matter who’s come against him.