Eduardo Ourivio - Leadership Series

From failure to $500m, Eduardo Ourivio talks bankruptcy, success and everything in between | Les Roches Leadership Series

16 Oct 2018 | by Les Roches


If you ever want to run your own business, be it in hospitality or any industry, it’s essential that you watch this talk by Les Roches Alumnus and Spoleto Co-founder, Eduardo Ourivio. Eduardo was at Les Roches as part of our Leadership Series, an event that welcomes hospitality leaders on campus every semester.

Learning how to lead

After graduating from Les Roches in 1990, Eduardo went to work at InterContinental Hotels in Brazil as Assistant Manager. “I was an assistant manager with 420 people below me. I was a very bossy guy, I had a lot of practical experience from Les Roches, but I was fighting too much with people.”

“It was very tough because I didn’t know how to lead, I was telling people what to do and normally they wouldn’t do it because I didn’t know how to ask.”

When you’re bankrupt when you’re young it’s very good, you learn a lot

After learning a lot at InterContinental, Eduardo left to set up a restaurant with his business partner and best friend, Mario. Things moved quickly – he was 26 when he opened his first restaurant, a year later they had seven restaurants and by 30 he was bankrupt. ‘When you’re bankrupt when you’re young it’s very good, you learn a lot.”

From here, the only way was up, or out. For Eduardo and Mario, salvation came in the shape of two gold-medal winning volleyball players (you’ll have to watch the video to see what happened!). Fast-forward to today and Spoleto achieved $394.5m in revenue in 2017, creating 10,000 jobs and serving over 30 million customers.

It all starts with a company culture

A huge fan of Simon Sinek (Start With Why), Eduardo realised that to take Spoleto to the next level, franchisees and staff needed to be galvanised by a common aim. “We needed to move forward and ask what is our cause? What is our legacy and why should we exist for the community?” Watch the video for the key Simon Sinek talk Eduardo recommends.

“We started to do something for our culture, we started to take our best franchisees to do a culinary tour of Italy. We started this seven years ago to learn more about Italy, we needed to actually breathe Italy and eat Italy.”

“It became an amazing thing, for the first time ever we were in the best place in the world with our franchisees for 10 days. We started to build the brand together.”

Culinary democratisation

For Eduardo, the new culture drove the business, it focused everyone’s passion and energy and made anything possible. “The consequence of having a cause, was that we could dream even bigger, so we went to the United States”

“We said let’s start all over again, but let’s start with our cause from the scratch through culinary democratisation. We brought amazing people to work with us, the best architects, the best branding firm, a top chef from nobu, it took us to a new level that we didn’t know existed.”

Higher thinking meets the bottom line

Spoleto’s culture drove the launch in the US, with a new-look store, new menu and top chef onboard – you could taste the positivity, but the numbers were hard to swallow. “We were losing £25,000 a month at our three restaurants, that’s £75,000 a month.”

“The consultant said there’s one chance we have to turn this around:

  • Who is the one that is most aligned with the culture? The manager.
  • Who is the one that never gets in late? The manager.
  • And who always shows up, no matter what? The manager.

So if we have this guy being the guy that makes the food, it will raise quality and decrease costs because he’s the one that opens the fridge to get the food and he’s the one that buys the food, so he knows exactly what is needed – the costs went down and in three months we became profitable.”

Horizontal leadership

A completely different man from his InterContinental days, Eduardo’s management style is now all about asking, not telling. “The good thing about franchising is it’s a different way of leadership, it’s the most perfect business ever, first of all because you have amazing people with you”

“When you have values and you share the values with people and they have the same values that you have, you’re gonna have people working with you that you’d never have the money to pay for. And they don’t just work with you, they help you to build the brand, it’s a horizontal leadership model.”

The importance of losing

Winners of multiple franchisee awards, Spoleto does a lot right, but Eduardo believes the times they’ve lost out to rivals are just as important. “It’s really important when you lose, you learn so much, but you need to find out why from your franchisees. You realise ‘why did I not give you the opportunity to tell me’ – you always learn something.”

We are not opening a restaurant, we’re constructing brand with values behind it.

It really is a must-watch talk for anyone wanting to run their own business. Eduardo gives you a full account of where it’s gone wrong and right for Spoleto and other Grupo Trigo brands, with astounding honesty and transparency. There’s a lesson in every sentence, so watch, listen carefully, take notes and you’ll learn in just one hour what it took Eduardo millions of dollars and years to discover.

If you want to run your own business, first of all be humble, listen always, learn from others’ mistakes, treat your team well and develop them.

Les Roches


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