Fifteenth in a series on this year’s 20 Under 40 winners.
WAVERLY — Regular patrons of the East Bremer Diner in Waverly are likely familiar with the restaurant’s “goal wall,” begun in 2015 by new owner Matt Lamos.
Employees and others write a goal of theirs — to lose 10 pounds, to save $1,000, to quit smoking — in chalk on the wall painted with chalkboard paint.
Everyone walks by the goal wall, from employees to customers, which is the entire point of the exercise, Lamos said. But when he bought the East Bremer Diner, not everyone was on board.
“For some people, my views are a little intense,” Lamos said. “Plenty of people rolled their eyes right away.”
One of those employees was Terri Meister, a farm wife who held down two outside jobs and wasn’t interested in adding another goal to her plate, Lamos said.
“She came up to me and said she was too old to have a goal,” he said.
Finally, Meister agreed to a goal of making a few homemade desserts — 10 of them — to sell at the restaurant. She did, and they sold out in a week.
“I said, ‘What about 50 (desserts) in six months?’ And she said, ‘What about 100?’” Lamos recalled. “I said, ‘You’re crazy.’”
In October, Meister and Lamos’ wife, Adrienne Lamos, opened The Mixing Bowl, a new bakery in Waverly — a testament, he said, to the power of the goal wall.
“It’s really altered how we view the business and view our staff,” Lamos said. “Now, we try to say, ‘Who else in our staff has an opportunity to grow?’ ... And it all started with someone who needed a goal.”
They’ve written their own goal in paint: Lamos and his wife want to donate a total of $10,000 per year to local charities.
And it’s that generosity and leadership that landed Matt Lamos on this year’s 20 Under 40 list.
“It’s clear there is a culture of inspiration and hard work being promoted amongst their team, and this is a direct result of Matt’s leadership,” said Jonathan Barthalow, pastor at Crosspoint Church in Waverly, who nominated Lamos.
Besides working on his own restaurant — and now helping run a new bakery — Lamos helps Waverly businesses as the business development chair of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce, a position he began last year.
He said he likes having the opportunity to help retail businesses thrive in the area.
“I think a vibrant downtown means you have plenty to choose from — I see our big industries and franchises growing, and developing mom-and-pop,” Lamos said. “Downtown Waverly continues to develop.”
He said those looking to get into the restaurant business “have to be OK with a little chaos.”
“Be prepared to not be prepared — roll with everything in that world,” he said. “You can’t work in the restaurant world and assume you know everything about it.”
Leaders who aren’t afraid to fail, and show others they’ve made mistakes, are ones he looks up to, he said.
“If you look at leadership as continual growth and continual learning, you’re on the right track,” he said. “When you see your leader has a flaw, you see they’re capable.”
And living and working in the Cedar Valley has allowed him to blossom.
“It’s a nice place to live — people are just generally nice,” he said. “When it comes to the business side, we’re almost under-utilized. There’s a lot of growth happening, even in our smaller towns now. The word ‘opportunity’ probably sums up the Cedar Valley the best.”
‘If you look at leadership as continual growth and continual learning, you’re on the right track. When you see your leader has a flaw, you see they’re capable.’
'If you look at leadership as continual growth and continual learning, you're on the right track. When you see your leader has a flaw, you see they're capable.'
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