Media & Reviews
A writer, reporter, and communications strategist with more than four decades in daily newspapers and electric co-op communications, like many of his generation, Paul Wesslund never quite retired. His first book, SMALL BUSINESS, BIG HEART , an examination of what happens to a business when mutual respect and clear priorities are at its core, generates wonderful conversation about setting priorities, living with values, and how to create real balance in life. Engaging, intelligent, provocative, and entertaining, Paul will make a great guest for your show.
Mike O'brien's review
In the midst of a global health crisis—the worst we’ve seen in generations—and while we struggle as a country, as a people, to find our footing morally and culturally during a reductio ad absurdum political creep show, Small Business BIG HEART lands as a corrective, a balm to soothe frayed nerves and intemperate minds. That is not to say that this big-hearted book is pablum. No, the stories it brings are all too real—people who often have lost their way through drugs, alcohol, and bad choices; refugees who have fled horrific circumstances and are looking only to start a new life but can’t due to the stigma of being different; and one family in particular that is faced with its own dissolution as well as the loss of its dream of a thriving family business. The high-stakes rollercoaster ride that journalist Paul Wesslund takes us on is dizzying not only for its incredible highs and sometimes tragic lows, but also because it introduces a concept too often forgotten … no, disregarded … in modern business life—what corporate governance experts would call “the duty of CARE.” Sal and Cindy Rubino are two hard-working business owners who, through the course of their trials and tribulations, manage to hold on to the dream of a creating their own business from scratch while also enduring the inevitable personal strains that such a dream exacts. The two met and fell in love while working toward Hospitality Management business degrees in Miami, but the real story starts when they try and apply the lessons of their training in the difficult day-to-day drudgery of actually running their own restaurant—simply named “The Café”—in an offbeat, run-down section of Louisville, Cindy’s hometown. It is here that their skills and wills are tested to the limits and each will have to adjust their visions to fit the realities not explored in textbooks. And it is here that their hearts will be broken, and then opened to the truths that adaptability and innovation can be applied not only to recipes and business models, but to the very people you employ and the methods you use to build a team for success. Along the way, we meet all manner of broken individuals. The restaurant business is notorious for laying waste to lives due to its thankless dawn-to-dusk hours and the constant requirement to please the customer at all costs. Wesslund has an expert’s eye for the telling detail and the wrenching story line. [I found myself tearing up at any number of stories throughout this engaging tale.] His twenty years as editor-in-chief of Kentucky Living, the largest circulation monthly magazine within the state, shows in the well-drawn portraits of individuals from as far away as Bhutan and as near as Pricilla’s Place, a half-way house just a few blocks from the Café, where Cindy and Sal would find some of their best employees. Perhaps Wesslund’s (not to mention the Rubinos’) refusal to judge people by the standards of upwardly mobile middle-class values but instead, with extraordinary discernment, to look deeper into their souls to spot their special sparks and unique talents is the hallmark of this extraordinary book. It is rare outside of evangelical circles to find a book that so openly espouses Christian principles, but Sal and Cindy make no bones about the fact that their faith community helped to save their marriage as well as their business, and Wesslund recounts the strength of those relationships and the power of religious inspiration with rare delicacy. Yet the book is not all seriousness and drama. We get, of all things, recipes (!) at the start of nearly every chapter—a creative way of introducing a new topic or the next development of this constantly churning story. And we are introduced to Cindy’s creative cooking style, to Sal’s winning smile and to their gracious, open approach to hospitality. Small Business BIG HEART runs the gamut of the small business life cycle. It is a soup-to-nuts (literally) primer on the ups and downs of small business management. As such, it is tough medicine for anyone daring to think of creating their own start-up. Given that, however, it provides a deeply affecting microcosm of how we as a society—as a culture—might live if we, indeed, saw everyone we encountered as a member of our own family. It does not skimp on the tough decisions that must be made to keep a business afloat—the “tension between compassion and the bottom line”—but it provides a template on how to “run a business with heart”—where everyone can be a winner.
Ann Lahm's review
This - This is what our world needs to hear right now. Small Business Big Heart offers a realistic and humanitarian way to run a business that can make the world better by offering a 'hand up' without sacrificing the profits. Wesslund's finely crafted, enjoyably folksy story about Sal and Cindy Rubino's restaurant business ups and downs warmed my heart and gave me hope that there ARE real and doable business plans to create wealth, health and growth while serving a great meal. And wait, there's more! The inclusion of some tried and true recipes from The Cafe' were 'icing on the tall cake' (make mine the Tuxedo cake, please)- thanks, Paul, for the whole package!