Margaritas Mexican Restaurant LLC mentors employees Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Tony Vanjohnson wants to

lead by example and be a

mentor at his company,

but sometimes that is easier

said than done. As the leader,

the buck stops with you, and

that can hinder a leadership

style that includes delegating.

“You’re trying to lead by example, but sometimes you just

have to say, ‘Hey, no, you’re

going to do it this way,’” says

Vanjohnson, founder and CEO

of Margaritas Mexican

Restaurant LLC, which has six

locations and employs more

than 100 people.

Smart Business spoke with

Vanjohnson about how to effectively lead by example while

delegating and how to become

a mentor to your employees.

Q. How do you show employees

you lead by example?

In my business, it is showing

that, in the time of need, not

only myself but any of my managers, if needed, will put on an

apron and become a server, get

behind the bar and become a

bartender. Just doing whatever

it takes to work cohesively as a

team and show that to the people that you work with and

work around.

Q. How can a leader delegate

more effectively?

Know your own strengths

and weaknesses, and delegate

those weaknesses to someone

that is stronger in that area

where you may be weak.

Every morning, I get up and

go through the day prior and I

break it down morning, afternoon, early evening, and I say,

‘OK, these are the decisions I

made; these are the things I did. OK, I could have done

this better. Maybe I should

have had this person handle

this.’ So, I’m constantly reevaluating myself pretty much

every day.

Whatever I can change, I’ll

change the next day. That’s

something a leader has to do.

Admit that you’re wrong, or pat

yourself on the back when you

are clicking on all cylinders.

A good leader will always set

out their goals. I’ll have five or

six goals for the year. ‘I want to

be able to accomplish

these things.’ So, I’ve kind

of incorporated those

goals and paralleled them

with my self-evaluation.

Q. What steps do you

take to become a mentor?

What I try to do is

identify an individual

that is, one, strong in

common sense — not

necessarily book

knowledge but common sense. Then, I

kind of watch that person for a little while. I

don’t talk to them

about it or say, ‘You

have an opportunity


Then, I just take them underneath my wing, and I start

teaching them my processes.

I’ll buy them a book and say,

‘Hey, read this; this is a good

read. This will help you develop yourself,’ and so on and so


As they continue to grow, I

mirror their strengths with my

weaknesses, again, in helping

formulate the overall picture

of Margaritas.

Q. How do you identify people with common sense to


I think there is a certain art

form to it. You don’t really

get to know anyone. The key

is patience — and taking that


It’s just like the school

teacher for that elementary

kid. You don’t know what

you’re getting until halfway

through the school year, and

that school teacher, hopefully, they have the patience to

work with that child and

continue to develop that


Q. What advice would you

give someone else to become

a better mentor?

I would say, one, if you are going to go into a management position, whatever

industry you’re going to be

in, the first and foremost is

be an individual working as a

team. Then, if you’re starting

your own business, again,

you’re going to need to be an

individual, but work as a


Q. How does delegation tie

into mentoring?

If there is a task to be performed and it is not completed to expectation, then I take

that person back through the

task and explain, ‘This is

why I told you to do it this

way specifically, A, B, C.

The expectation was not

met because you decided to

do C first, then B, then A.

Now, let me show you this is

the repercussion of doing it

this way, and this is the

result if you had done it A,

B, C.’

I give them the latitude to

make the mistakes. I think

when someone makes a mistake, if they’re genuine in it,

they learn much quicker

from it.

Q. How do you handle it

when someone doesn’t do

things the right way?

You pretty much have to

handle failure the same way

you handle success. We’re

going to fall. That’s just the

nature of any business. So,

you take that failure, just

like someone I’m mentoring.

You take those mistakes

and you just learn from

them. Which again, then

makes you stronger and

your company stronger.

HOW TO REACH: Margaritas Mexican Restaurant LLC, (513) 721-3147 or