On Monday, November 19, a group of 30 people including students, faculty and staff, gathered in the Margaret E. & Henry R. Roberts Leadership Center to participate in the second annual Lunch & Lead, an initiative that brings in a variety of business owners, entrepreneurs and alumni onto campus to learn about different journeys in a variety of fields.
The afternoon featured Billy Grant III, owner of Bricco, Grants, and Bricco Trattoria and his son, Billy Grant IV, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services. Over an informal lunch, the pair shared with the group their life path and offered advice to students. Though the two are at very different points in their career, one element ran consistently throughout both of their experiences - an unrelenting hard work ethic. No matter how different their journeys, father and son shared a common core of grit and determination and the belief that above anything else this fosters success.
Billy Grant IV talked about his journey as he applied to colleges and was not admitted into the University of Connecticut (UCONN), his school of choice. Instead of getting defeated, Grant attended the University of Hartford, then transferred to UCONN, where he worked tenaciously and graduated with a 4.0. His advice to the students: seek out your professors, get to know them and reach out for help, especially in the larger lecture size classes. “I might have not been the smartest guy in the room, but I was the hardest working. It is all about what you put into it,” he said.
Now a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Grant is passionate about his role and recognizes the incredible responsibility of handling people’s hard earned money. He also knows that despite his best efforts, he might not always earn people’s business. He said,“Your efforts might not dictate your results. It is easy to get distracted by the numbers, the grade, the salary. Focus on your activity and let the law of averages play out. Your hard work will pay off.”
Billy Grant III agreed. As a restaurant owner for over 24 years and a true entrepreneur, he has had his share of both success and disappointment. “Has anyone ever been afraid?” he asked. “I am still afraid all of the time. It is okay to be afraid of your future and what is around you. It’s about harnessing this fear and letting it motivate you - embrace your fear and live your best life through that.”
When Grant opened his first restaurant, Bricco, it was one of the only food establishments in town. While Bricco is still a cornerstone of downtown West Hartford today, the area is now filled with dining options as well as what seems like a new restaurant opening each week. Competition is ever present and Grant is acutely aware of how important it is to consistently deliver a top product and top customer service. “Being great is the only option,” he said.
Grant grew up in a close-knit family that made a living in the restaurant business. When he was 21 his father, a close mentor for him, passed away. His death devastated him and he found himself without a clear path for months. “ I didn’t know what the future would bring or where I was going. Somewhere along the line, I found my strength again. I found motivation and talent in making food.” Grant conceded, "We can only control what we can control.” No matter what advantages or disadvantages one may face along the way, it is up to each individual to create their path.
Over the course of the hour, the pair shared advice and inspiration, in particular to those seniors who will graduate this spring. They left them with the following pieces of wisdom as they move from KO to college and the workforce beyond:
- To be a leader you have to learn people's goals are different and learn how to motivate them and work together. Understanding people is important. Never be afraid to be a leader. People in this world need to be lead.
- Try to meet a new person every single day. Strike up a conversation. This is difficult to do but gets you outside of your comfort zone. The feeling after is the feeling of growth and that is where the exciting part is.
- Don't compare yourself with the person next to you. While it may look like they have everything figured out, you don’t know what their path is or what they are struggling with
- Life doesn’t always move in a straight line. There are a billion different ways to make your path successful. Don't get your head set on one way and think this is the only way.
Grant III concluded, "Everyone here is your own business, your own brand. Don't forget that and live it."