George Kapogianis worked in the food service business for the better part of his 20's and 30's. Operating a father-son restaurant out of Aylmer, Ontario, his attention was required evenings, weekends, and holidays. Seeing as his father had been in the restaurant business during his entire childhood, George was aware of the time and energy commitment that running his own business would entail. After nearly two decades in the business, George took a step back and realized that he wanted to have more time for his family once his son was born, so, although the decision was not easy, he decided to do what he thought was best for his family moving forward. Shaping the career of your dreams seems to demand more and more attention these days, making the topic of work/life balance a hot one. For this reason, I thought George would be a very valuable person to talk to so that others could reflect on their own experiences with work and family.
Can you speak to your experience becoming self-employed and how you got started in the food service business?
I grew up in the business. My Father owned a restaurant/bar in St. Thomas for 30 years and sold it in 2000. I worked as a casual dishwasher and assisted with serving at his banquets in my early teens. I promised myself during my teenaged years I’d never get into the foodservice business. I never saw my Father growing up as he worked tirelessly to support my brother and I, but that came at the cost of missing out on everything…spending quality time together, attending sporting events, school concerts, trips, family events, etc. When he finally sold it, I was 20 years old and in University. After schooling had finished, I got a nice office job at 3M Canada, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. Sitting at a desk with little to no control over a company gave me a sense of emptiness. My Father being partly retired at that time was also itching to do something else. I put the bug in his ear to open a restaurant together. Low and behold, what I claimed I’d never get into as a teenager proved to be exactly what I’d get into, I guess you could say it is in my blood.
Is there anything you really miss about being your own boss now that you have taken a step back from business ownership?
Being your own boss is very rewarding as you’re in charge of your own destiny. I would say I miss two things most: 1. Flexibility – not that in the sense of taking off whenever I wanted, because that rarely happened in the foodservice business, but in the sense of not having to ask for permission. If it had to be done, I did it. 2. The sense of accomplishment – each day/week or month, whether it be a sales target, making a difference for one of your employees, interacting with loyal customers, or watching their kids grow up before your eyes to become one of your employees, I really miss it.
How did your values and priorities change in terms of your work/life balance as you got older?
Good question. I believe in life you are constantly shifting and reevaluating your values and priorities. Most of my 20’s and 30’s was in the restaurant business. I bought my first vehicle, purchased a home, got married, and started a family all in this time frame. I don’t know if you ever master work/life balance as a self-employed person…I was fortunate to have married my high school sweetheart who is also self-employed and understood the time commitment the foodservice business requires. Once my son was born, my Dad and I started talking about succession planning. He was approaching 65 with 45 years of restaurant ownership under his belt. The decision was not easy by any means, but I decided to do what I thought was best for my family moving forward.
What advice do you have for someone that feels like their career is keeping them from spending more of their time doing what they enjoy?
That’s a tough one since everyone's situation is different. Obviously, there must be an economic buffer and you must have a plan. I chose to get out knowing that I wouldn’t replace my salary elsewhere, but I chose time over money for my family. There is no way I could have made that decision without a financial buffer. For us, that was income properties. We were fortunate enough to have been able to invest in real estate during the time we had the restaurant.
As an active and avid investor, what is one piece of advice you would like to pass on to younger people when it comes to personal finance?
Get a job and save more than you spend while young and living at home. You typically have the fewest number of fixed expenses in your teens, so aim to save 50% or more of your pay cheque. Put this away for school, a down payment on a home or investment property, etc. It is imperative that you start young with good spending/saving habits because it paves the way for future success. Every young person should read “The Pizza Delivery Millionaire” – simple yet effective read of what can be accomplished with strong saving habits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Patrick MacDougall and I am a licensed REALTOR® based out of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I service the Oxford, Norfolk, and Elgin County areas and work everyday to bring as much value to others as I possibly can.