The Barnett file Featured

11:52am EDT April 28, 2006

Born: Los Angeles

Education: University of Arizona

First job: I worked at the Iron Gate Restaurant in Palm Desert, Calif., as a cook and waiter. I eventually became the manager.

What has been your greatest business challenge?
I would say that we’re facing it now, in the sense that, as we grow this company at 20 to 25 percent per year, we need to maintain its culture. It’s (got a) small company feel, yet that has to grow into a much larger organization.

What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
I had the opportunity a few years ago to meet and have dinner with and develop a relationship with Coach John Wooden of UCLA.

A lot of people know who that is, but what they don’t realize is that not only he was a coach but he still is a coach, in terms of his life experience and the way he approaches life and the way he approaches team-building. He’s definitely the person I admire most in life, and it’s probably affected my way of doing things.

Strangely enough, as much as he is considered to be such a positive man and a very great coach, he’s also extremely direct. But he’s the kind of person who can be direct and you can come away thinking about what he said and not how he said it. It’s really powerful.