Book Review: Shut up and Listen! by Tilman Fertitta

Book Review: Shut up and Listen! by Tilman Fertitta

The Book In 3 Sentences

Never stop worrying about your business even when things appear to go smoothly as there could always be a paddle lurking out somewhere to get your ass. Every successful business is built around hospitality, know your numbers, adhere to making your business 5% better every step of the way, seize opportunities and live your leadership. Know what you are good at and what you aren't good at and most importantly, shut up and listen.

My 411

I had no idea who Tilman Fertitta was until I saw his interview with Tom Bileyeu subsequent to which I was compelled to pick up the book he talked about based on his incredibly engaging, straightforward, No BS answers:

Turns out he is quite a big deal - he is a multibillionaire who owns several successful businesses and has been a life-long entrepreneur. I enjoyed this book - it was short, to the point and peppered with truth bombs and substantiating experiences.

This recounting of experiences was my favorite part of the book especially when it was encompassed in small nuggets of wisdom called "Tilmanisms". This book was an easy read written in a very accessible way to appeal to a wide audience that didn't tire me after an already tiresome day at work.

My only one critique is that the book is too short and more stories and business lessons would have made this experience better bolstered but I am not complaining (too much.). I recommend this book for the business wisdom it imparts.


Part 1: Hospitality ("If They Want Scrambled Eggs...")

Chapter 1: Hospitality Matters, No Matter The Business

  • Every successful business is built around hospitality. In other words, Hospitality matters, no matter what the business.
  • Hospitality means making your customers special.
  • Be plappy - play happy even though you disagree with a customer.
  • Keep your promises - spend time every day hypothesizing and building in ‘What-ifs’ to help you follow through commitments.
  • Make hospitality the goal for everyone involved in your business - one person who doesn’t follow hospitality can ruin otherwise positive customer experience.

Chapter 2: Take the Word "No" Out of Your Damn Vocabulary

  • Never tell a customer no. If you can't say yes, offer alternatives.
  • There are no spare customers.
  • Understand the difference between unable to do something for a customer and choosing not to do something.
  • Never saying no encourages you and everyone involved in your
    business to think on their feet.

Chapter 3: Cater to the Masses, Not the Classes

  • Cater to a large audience, not just a strata.
  • Work to make your product appealing to as broad of an audience as possible.
  • Know your competition and your target audience.

Part 2: Know Your Number


  • Why Tilman is successful is because:
  1. He knows his numbers.
  2. He understands operations.
  3. He knows how to grow his businesses.
  4. He changes with the times.
  • If you don't know your numbers, eventually you will go out of business.

Chapter 4: Working Capital Is Everything

  • Working capital is the lifeblood of any business.
  • The biggest issue that small businesses face involves working capital,
    because they have to pay for everything up front.
  • When things are bad, eat the weak and grow your business.
  • Never put your lifestyle ahead of the growth of your business.
  • Loans and lines of credit are two excellent sources of ready cash.
  • Borrow money when times are good, even if you don't need it in an effort to keep the working capital high and your bets are hedged against a down turn when you can't borrow money and maintain the same level of working capital.
  • Draw up a worst-case scenario that you can keep to yourself. If
    everything goes wrong, you want to be certain you can stay in

Chapter 5: The Pitfalls of Property Leases

  • Make certain you understand how to get out of a lease early,
    including buyout provisions, subleasing, and other options.
  • In general, look for a short-term lease—ideally, with renewal options
    that you can choose to exercise.
  • Know all costs associated with a lease.
  • Work with an attorney experienced in commercial real estate to help
    negotiate the best possible lease package.

Chapter 6: Know Your Numbers

  • Know your numbers. Numbers don't lie.
  • Knowing your numbers is the most essential part of being able to take your business to the next level.
  • Make daily flash reports and budgets a priority.
  • A complete knowledge of numbers is also critical to any sort of successful sales pitch.
  • If you don't or can't master your numbers, partner with or hire someone who can.

Part 3: The 95:5 Rule


  • "I call it the 95:5 rule. The breakdown is simple. Most moderately
    successful businesses are good at about 95 percent of what they do. It’s
    the remaining 5 percent that can determine whether the business excels
    or not."

Chapter 7: Get to Know Your "Five"

  • The 95:5 rule—95 percent of your business may be operating fine,
    but seek out the 5 percent that’s wrong.
  • Don’t get complacent: always look for the 5 percent.
  • View your business through your customer’s eyes.
  • The 5 percent that harms your business can be made up of small

Chapter 8: Know and Leverage Your Strength

  • “I can look at a business and its numbers and within a few minutes
    know if that business has the stuff to become really successful. It’s what
    I’m good at, and I know this.”
  • Work on your weaknesses, but also make sure to work on your
  • Ask your partners to describe what they believe to be your strengths.
  • If you have a strength, build on it. Lean on it. Don’t be afraid to
    assert your strength for the good of the business.

Chapter 9: Partner With Complementary Strengths

  • "Never become partners with someone who has the same skill set as
  • Partner with people whose skills complement your own.
  • Make friends in business your personal friends.
  • If you know your business lacks a certain skill set, bring in someone
    who can address the void.

Part 4: See/Seize Opportunities


  • Every successful entrepreneur is, more or less, an opportunist. An entrepreneur sees opportunity by building a business that’s focused
    on something different from what others are doing
  • Lessons: patience, commitment, and, perhaps most important, the understanding that success takes time and perspective.

Chapter 10: A Five Year Reprieve

  • When things are bad, we often tend to forget that they’re going to be
    good again. Further, when things are good, we forget that they’re
    going to be bad again. You need to prepare for both types of situations,
    because they’re both headed your way, sooner or later.
  • Opportunity is always there, no matter what the current conditions
    may be.
  • Borrow money when you don’t need it, and build cash when times
    are good, so you can take advantage when times are bad.
  • Spotting opportunity requires patience. There’s always another deal.

Chapter 11: "I Wonder If I'll Ever Have A Company That Does $10 Million in Sales"

  • Learn to be patient. Not the easiest thing for many aggressive
    entrepreneurs to do.
  • “You’re trying to run a marathon, and you haven’t even shown me you
    can crawl.”
  • The lesson here is to pursue opportunity at every chance, but
    realistically. It has to be the right opportunity, not just any opportunity.
  • • As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to dream—but to dream
  • Don’t chase a deal—let it come back to you. Give a walk-away price.
  • Not every deal has to be a home run.
  • Spotting opportunity requires patience. There’s always another deal
    on the horizon.

Chapter 12: Don't Ever Lose the Hunger

  • “No matter the circumstances, be the bull.”
  • Surround yourself and work with others who are every bit as
    motivated as you.
  • Always stay hungry. Never become complacent.
  • Define success by being better at something than anyone else.
  • Staying hungry when times are good will reward you when faced
    with challenges.
  • Treat every issue as a challenge instead of an obstacle.

Part 5: Live Your Leadership


  • Every leader looks good when times are good. It’s when things
    are bad that you really see great leadership.

Chapter 13: If You Want to Lead, Listen First

  • “Consultants can consult you straight out of business.”
  • “Don’t show a head in the bed if it’s not there.” - Don't ever pander to bullshit i.e., sweeten the truth or lie about details.
  • “People who ask questions are often the smartest in the room because
    they have the humility to ask about what they don’t know.”
  • As a leader, never make the assumption that just because you told
    someone to do something, it’s going to get done.
  • Take the time to listen to everyone. A great leader listens all the
  • Be blunt with the people around you and expect them to do the
  • Keep meetings short. Short meetings help people focus.
  • Stay involved in your business as much as possible.
  • Don’t assume anything.

Chapter 14: Be a Great Teacher

  • The best way to sum up your goals as a teacher is to teach your people
    to act how you would act in a particular situation.
  • "Don’t ever think that your position is too high to teach others. Because
    I still teach every single day. And, just as important, I learn as much as
    I teach others."
  • A great leader is also a great teacher. Take every opportunity to teach
    those around you.
  • Encourage people to think on their feet and be creative.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes can be a more effective
    teacher than success.
  • Great leaders are always learning.

Chapter 15: Change, Change, Change

  • The simple fact of the matter is that change occurs constantly, whether
    you like it or not. You can either learn to anticipate change and put you
    and your business in a better position to react with greater agility, or
    you can ignore and deny change.
  • “By anticipating change, you don’t just change with the times—you
    change the times themselves.”
  • “One of the things about being a good leader is hiring people who are
    stronger than you, and if you hire people who are stronger than you,
    they’ll never take your job. They’ll help you keep your job.”
  • Change, change, change.
  • A great leader accepts change.
  • Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter or more talented than
  • Sometimes the best decision is no decision at all.
  • Don’t overthink. Allow things to play out.


  • Keep going. No matter what. You never know—the other guy might go
    down before you do.
  • “You’re not out of business until you don’t have the last dollar to go out
    and buy product to make, until somebody comes and padlocks your
    door, or you can’t make payroll.”
  • Leaders stand tall in tough times.
  • Persistence is a valuable skill—keep punching.
  • Always think outside the box.
  • When things are hard, remember the basics.
  • Always be the bull.