For this month’s special feature – we have Mr Leslie Jerome Gomez, the man that brought nightlife back to life in Bangsar.
Founder and Managing Director, Mr Leslie Gomez started The Olive Tree Group back in 2003 with one outlet in Changkat Bukit Bintang, back then the number of pubs there were a mere handful, now it is a tourist attraction that brings in hordes of visitors. Now, you may not know The Olive Tree Group, but you’ve surely heard of some of the outlets under this group. To name a few, Sutraa, Rockafellers, Rock Bottom and at least another dozen more.
We caught up with Mr Leslie Gomez right after another award winning ceremony and managed to steal away some of his time, here’s the full feature.
It has been 16 years since you’ve been involved in the Food and Beverage industry. What has been your main inspiration on venturing into your own business?
The impaired growth and development of my career for a certain period of time gave birth to the idea of venturing into business where the idea was further established among a few friends. Indeed, it was not an easy decision to make however, it was an imperative decision that was required to be conceived at that point of time.
The idea on venturing into a business within the food and beverage industry requires a large capital. Besides that, sustaining the business would also require continual investment. This is possibly one of the greatest setbacks in sustaining one’s business. What was your initial investment in the business and how did you manage to bolster your business during the early years?
All I had was RM 120,000 and therefore the total sum was channeled into the business. The remaining amount that was required was contributed by 2 of my partners. In sustaining my business in the early years, a robust framework was required. I ensured that I unceasingly refunded into the business which means that the profits that were generated from the business was reinvested. This allowed me to grow in the business from a 30% shareholder to an 80% shareholder.
What were the most notable challenges you faced when you were starting the Olive Tree Group?
When you are attached to a company and you decide to part ways to attempt on your own, the people discourage you. Many challenged me to run a business for 6 months, but I am here to run a business for 60 years. Therefore, to me, keeping the business alive is the most notable challenge.
There has been a rise of bars and restaurants due to budding entrepreneurs these days. However, after a period of 3 years in operations, these bars and restaurants have a significant decline in population leading to closures and rebranding. In your opinion, why does this take place?
In my opinion, there are two types of entrepreneurs. Firstly, we have the short-term entrepreneurs whom prefer generating high levels of income within the first 2 years and later, shift to a different venture. Secondly, there are long-term entrepreneurs where these entrepreneurs keep businesses alive by constant reinvention, keeping the idea fresh for the customers. These long-term business plans require a robust outlook in order to keep the brand alive and kicking.
Would experience in the food and beverage industry be imperative prior to opening a bar or a restaurant?
In short, yes, indeed! Just as the saying goes, every drop of water in the ocean is valuable so is every penny invested in a business.
It is commonly perceived that entrepreneurial spirit within oneself is required to start a business. In your opinion, do you believe that you were born with the spirit or did you develop the spirit over time?
In my opinion, the right mindset gives birth to the spirit regardless if the entrepreneurial spirit is inborn or developed. Having said this, the right mindset would carve the pathway in defining what winning looks like for your company in the next 4 to 5 years.
How did you build the entrepreneurial spirit to master the art of success?
Besides having the right mindset, making mistakes allowed me to understand my business in-depth. My mistakes were my greatest learning, a valuable lesson that I would not be able to seek anywhere else. Everyone has to make mistakes as mistakes allows an entrepreneur to learn on the business concepts strengths and opportunities.
Do you believe that your mindset has carved your success today?
Yes, certainly. My strength is my will power which defines my mindset. There are many sacrifices that were required to be made and is still being made. A clear example would be early mornings and late nights. Though there is lack of sleep, however, the next morning has to be high spirited for a greater kick start. Like I always say, everyday is a new day for us.
This may sound amusing. However, do you think it is easy to be an entrepreneur?
It surely isn’t easy to be an entrepreneur. However, if you want to be one, why not! It’s all in you. It’s mainly about an individual’s vision in their entrepreneurial journey in focus of a successful brand and in keeping the brand alive. In my opinion, this should be an automated system in built in an entrepreneur.
Is the rise of entrepreneurs in the current era due to the job’s popularity or because one has legit skills to make the person a good enough entrepreneur?
First, it is not carved on stone that an ancestral business would be a definite success. However, in my opinion, hard work is the only door that would lead you to success. Hard work teaches an entrepreneur the value of money and the worth of every penny.
In general, what does it take to succeed in a business of any industry?
In my opinion, it is the mindset on having the will power to stay alive and succeed in any industry. Like any industry, people watch and learn from your best and cultivate a 10 to 15 percent greater business model. However, this should not be a challenge as, if the foundation that was laid down earlier during the birth of the business was strong then, there is no possible way of going wrong. To me the foundation is the mold of the business.
Mr Leslie Gomez, if you could turn back time, what would you aspire to do differently?
I could have done things differently; however, it has been a good 16 years since we gave birth to our first brand and there indeed are no regrets. I still learn new things daily and I incorporate them in my business wherever required.
How would you highlight your companies competitive advantage considering the fierce competition in today’s food and beverage industry?
In my opinion, the model of the business. We focus on a few brands such as Rock Bottom and Rockafellers where sports entertainment has been the highlight. Entertainment such as live bands and DJs works well in entertaining the crowd today. Besides that, it is also on growing the concept of trust. People must trust the brand in order to return, only then would we be able to constantly create a buzz.
What are your weaknesses?
In my opinion, because I started off from the bottom, I feel I end up being too kind to them and this may result in haywire. Hence, striking a balance is essential.
What advise would you give to the budding entrepreneurs?
Work hard, do what you love and love what you do. Never give up in difficult times, bad situations can always be turned around. Take mistakes as a learning as mistakes can always be corrected and worked on.
Would you consider to be the man who brought entertainment back to Bangsar?
I have mix reviews about this as there is a love hate relationship among the society on the birth of entertainment in Bangsar once again. In my opinion, it’s a business that follows all regulatory aspects of the country and most importantly we do our best in keeping it safe for everyone.
We would like to thank Mr Leslie Gomez for his invaluable insights and time for agreeing to this feature and we wish The Olive Tree Group an abundance of success in the future! Congratulations to the team on winning a number of awards throughout this year with the most recent one being the SEBA: SME & Entrepreneurs Business Awards in Premium Top 10 Services as well as Top Management Quality for F&B.