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Smokey John's restaurant employees
Brent Reaves (right) faced a devastating fire Sept. 9, just as his family's barbecue business was preparing for a hectic time of year serving at the State Fair of Texas and taking orders for the holidays.

​Contact: Ann Hatch
214-378-1819; ahatch@dcccd.edu

For immediate release — Dec. 20, 2017

(DALLAS) — Smoke and fire have been part of Brent Reaves’ life ever since his father, John, founded Smokey John’s in 1976. He never dreamed that a different kind of smoke and fire — one that literally gutted their Dallas restaurant this September — would bring all the lessons he learned last year in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program into play as they rebuild.

Never mind that the Sept. 9 fire occurred just when Brent was preparing for one of the busiest times of the year for Smokey John’s: serving barbecue from four booths at the State Fair of Texas (and also running two additional booths for Ruth’s Tamale House, part of the restaurant); catering for Thanksgiving; and taking orders for the Christmas holidays, too.

“When the fire occurred, we already had thousands of dollars in catering on the books — and it was only two weeks before the State Fair was set to open,” said Reaves. “Our company usually brings in 30% of its gross annual income during that 24-day period.”

He had to come up with a plan that would keep the catering business open and customers happy while the Mockingbird Lane restaurant repairs and rebuilding would begin. That’s where his experience with Goldman Sachs 10KSB helped — plus a two-day coaching session in New York that would enable him to develop a new business plan.

Out of the Flames Comes a Plan

A typical day for Brent Reaves involves leaving his home in Cedar Hill to drive to the Dallas County Community College District’s Bill J. Priest Institute. He’s using a small kitchen at the facility to cook for his catering operation. Barbecue, pans of macaroni and cheese, and other delights on the menu are delivered to catering events for hungry customers. He’s even rented additional facilities to make sure the restaurant can meet the demand that comes during every holiday season.

Reaves also used the BJP kitchen to keep food flowing to his State Fair booths this fall, plus a second kitchen in town.

In fact, one of Reaves’ frequent customers, Royalyn Reid, suggested that he sign up for the 10KSB program when she saw more and more people coming to Smokey John’s — lines were going out the door, and he needed to learn how to take the family business to the next level.

Smokey John's restaurant employees
Reaves says lessons he learned in the 10,000 Small Businesses program prepared him to not only rebuild Smokey John's but also expand the business.

“My dad is a first-generation business owner; my brother, Juan, and I are the second generation. I graduated from the University of North Texas with my degree in hospitality management,” Brent said. “I knew I needed to learn even more in order to expand the business, and that’s why I was excited to be accepted for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.”

(10KSB program participants learn financing, marketing, negotiating and leadership skills. In addition, some business owners learn how they can access loans and capital that may not be available to them through traditional channels. They also attend an orientation, followed by 10 classes, or modules, and five clinics, plus networking events. They develop a growth plan for their companies. Classes are taught at DCCCD’s Bill J. Priest Institute near downtown Dallas.)

Reaves started in spring 2016 and graduated that August from 10KSB as a member of cohort 6. Among the many lessons he learned taught by DCCCD faculty at the Bill Priest Institute was one titled “It’s the People” — a module that “taught me how to look at my staff, how to create a culture for our company and how to do that intentionally.”

He added, “The food service industry requires a certain type of culture that creates values and perspectives. The module taught me about core values and culture; I believe that the number one core value (for our business) is humility.”

Other modules helped Reaves, too. “Through my 10KSB classes, I learned how to read a balance sheet properly as well as P&L statements; what percentages and ratios actually mean; and how to calculate them,” he said.

And the modules gave him a banker’s perspective as well. “Now I know what they see (when you sit in front of them to ask for a loan) and how to answer the questions they will ask — and especially how to persuade them to invest in my business with a loan,” Reaves added. “The ‘You Are the Leader’ module also helped me see my strengths and weaknesses. Businesses succeed or fail, based on a leader’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Building and Rebuilding: The Plan Moves Forward

With his eye on a possible June 2018 reopening date for Smokey John’s, Brent also wants to expand to include two or three additional locations in downtown Dallas, East Dallas or other areas. That’s where the New York trip for a two-day coaching session from Goldman Sachs helped him develop a plan for the next phase of the business.

“During my visit to New York, I met Michael Bloomberg and Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. I was assigned to work with five different executives from Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs. We looked at the goals for my family’s business; then they gave me the steps I need to follow to meet my goals. It was an amazing experience,” said Reaves.

He added, “I got help from the best of the best. Now I am developing a matrix for the business so that we rebuild with a strategy. The 10KSB timing couldn’t have been better. My wife attended the coaching sessions with me, too, and now she wants to help me attack those plans and put them into practice.”

Reaves said, “When I was taking the 10KSB classes, I also was working full time. There were a lot of long, late nights … reading and doing assignments. It was worth it, and I would do it all over again. And I learned so much from my peers — we learned from each other in the field.”

Smokey John's restaurant employees
“I got help from the best of the best," Reaves says. "Now I am developing a matrix for the business so that we rebuild with a strategy."

What’s next? Re-opening Smokey John’s in 2018 is top-of-mind for Brent, as well as an expansion in the Dallas area. With 20 full- and part-time employees (with additional part-time help during busy seasons throughout the year), he knows that everyone is depending on him. He and his brother are partners who have weathered the fire together, leaned on each other and are looking ahead.

“As huge as barbecue is in Texas and Dallas, there aren’t a whole lot of independent BBQ places,” said Reaves. “The area is not flooded with quality barbecue restaurants. That’s why we have our place.”

With a plan in hand, thanks to 10KSB, and the family’s dedication to customer service and a culture of humility, Smokey John’s will rise from the ashes and fan the flames of success — serving each and every customer the best family-owned barbecue in town.

For more information about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, contact Cristin Thomas, executive director for the 10KSB program at DCCCD, at cjthomas@dcccd.edu or at 214-860-5790.

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More About the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

The 10,000 Small Businesses program was launched by Goldman Sachs in 2009 and has expanded to 31 sites in the U.S. and the U.K. Since then, it has served more than 7,100 businesses worldwide. Applicants must be owners or co-owners of a business that has operated for at least two years; have at least $150,000 in revenue; and must employ a minimum of four people.

Goldman Sachs has committed $20 million to support North Texas entrepreneurs. Since the launch of the program in Dallas, capital partners have made more than 50 loans totaling $5 million.