Lessons from Sav
Written: 06-11-2014

When you first learned about Sav, his story about immigrating to the United States, starting a business in Lexington and the number of people that have positive things to say about him, you would think that the biggest lessons about success would be found in his unique back story.

Yesterday, I feel like I learned a lot about success from a guy that I have met only a few times. I also think that this lesson is applicable to business and life in general.

Let me start with my first experience at Sav’s Grill. I had a client that had consistently talked about the restaurant and the quality of the food. There had been an article in the Chevy Chaser, I believe, so I was somewhat familiar with Sav’s story – I just had not made it there to eat yet. So when Nikki and I walked in to have dinner, I had two first impressions. The decor was authentic and interesting. I remember looking at the different wall art and wondering if it was local to the place he had grown up in Africa. I also remember thinking, this is a fairly simple set up and execution of a business.

I ended up ordering the dish with goat meat and peanut sauce. You may ask, how do I remember what I had to eat? The answer is that I have had the same dish several times, but throughout the thirty to forty minutes Nikki and I were eating, the choice of goat meat was the topic of discussion multiple times. The goat meat was not a topic due to its novelty in local food choices, it was because Sav both explained and apologized several times that the meat had bones in it. He explained that the current cost of the meat required purchasing the meat with bones. As I had just met him, I was not sure if his apologies were to raise awareness or he truly felt like he wanted to offer something different?

I explained to him that having the bones was perfectly acceptable. In fact, it made the dish feel more authentic and provided an experience I enjoyed. As we finished our meal, he came by our booth and took our trays. He thanked us for our visit, which was probably the third time he had done so in the time we were there.

As Nikki and I walked out, I remember thinking that the food was good and that Sav is either the most personable and happy individual I had met, or he is just good at faking it.

My next experience at Sav’s Grill was the same, along with the following visit. Each time I have walked into the restaurant to eat, Sav was so welcoming. He made you feel like you were invited into his home to eat dinner with his family. It did not require you to go into the store to find out about Sav’s personality. There have been times that I have been walking by the store on Limestone, as he was sitting on a chair in front, and as I pass he greets me with the same vibrant welcome. I often wonder if he really remembers me and knows who I am, or is he like that with every single person. It doesn’t matter, in the moment he makes me happy.

The last experience I had eating at Sav’s Grill was just like the one’s I have just described. Although, Nikki and I decided to walk across the street to Sav’s Chill and get some ice cream. As we stood there getting our scoops, Sav walked into the store, almost as if he had followed us across the street to thank us for coming into that store also. As much as I know about Sav, that may be exactly what he had done?

I honestly have no idea how successful the two stores on Limestone are. I know he works hard and has kept them running over the years, so they might be doing well in terms of a business. No matter how well they are doing, they are not as successful as they should be.

But, that is not the lesson that I see when I look at what Sav offers me. Yesterday, when I learned of the accident and the burns he suffered over 50% of his body – it made me sad. I do not know the details of the accident, nor would I want to speculate, but from the postings on Facebook from Chuck Creacy of Smiley Pete I have learned a little.

The lesson I learned from Sav, is that nice guys can succeed. In life and in business. The out pouring of support by the community yesterday was impressive. I believe it shows what a great community we have in Lexington, but it more likely is a reflection of the type of person Sav is. I imagine that every single person who donated, shared the story or commented about the accident felt the same way I did everytime I went to his resturant to eat. It appeared to me last night that Sav is one of the most successful business men that I have ever met. It may not make the cover of Forbes, saying as much, but his success is much more sustaining and impacting.

Every restaurant owner is asked at some point what their “secret sauce” is. If I could answer that for Sav, I would say his is that he treats people well. It seems so simple to do, but I think yesterday’s response shows that while it may be easy to do, so few do it as well.

Get well soon!

Here is a link to his donations page: Give Forward – Momadou ‘Sav’ Savane