The Ten Year Plan (TYP)

Written by Erik Oberholtzer on February 19, 2020

On June 12th, 2006 we opened the doors of our first Tender Greens in Culver City, CA. By 2015 we had 22 restaurants and just closed an exit round with Danny Meyer’s USHG along with Alliance Consumer Growth. It all went according to plan. 

Erik Oberholtzer, David Dressler, Matt Lyman

A few years before launching Tender Greens we would meet at Pete’s coffee in Santa Monica, CA to work on our business plan. Matt and I were both trained chefs and had met at Shutters on the Beach along with David who worked as the director of food and beverage. We had all been around the business for over a decade and understood how to run professional operations. We had witnessed colleagues who ventured out on their own only to unravel after a year or two. We were determined not to fail and even more determined to build something meaningful. So as a commitment to our partnership, those who would invest in our idea and those who joined our team, we called our company T.Y.P. Restaurant Group. Looking back on it now I believe T.Y.P. or Ten Year Plan was a key factor in our success.

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

Photo from Tender Greens

The Ten Year Plan became a destination. A long view endzone we all could align around. For the three of us, it symbolized a binding contract of faith, perseverance, courage, brotherhood and total alignment in values. For our investors, it signaled trust, patience, and clarity in vision. For all the chefs of great talent who joined us at a time when fine casual was unproven, it was a chance to build something bigger than any one of us alone. In this document, we articulated our values and mapped out our growth plan across California. We designed our supply chain and sketched out the team’s journey. We predicted the liquidity event along several optional channels. Then we got to work! Strategic planning, goal setting, budget revisions, feedback loops, standard operating procedures, team development, it never, ever, stops. 

Tender Green’s first two sous chefs, now successful entrepreneurs

These days we speak with a lot of young entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their own business. We always start with this homework assignment I call “designing your T.Y.P.”.

TYP conference in Palm Springs

First is what we call the “Journal Entry”. This is the entrepreneur’s time for self-awareness. A check-in of sorts that defines the starting point of the journey. The most effective prompt is to ask the Three WHY’s.

  1. WHY? Does the world need your product or service? This is the Simon Seneck version.
  2. WHY? Is now the best moment in time to introduce such a product or service? Timing can be everything!
  3. WHY? Am I/We the best possible leader/s to execute this idea? The world is not short on ideas, just people tenacious enough, skilled enough and smart enough to succeed.

If you were ordering an UBER this would be your “pick up location”.

The next part of this homework assignment is to write out the story you want to run on the front page of the Times business section above the fold in ten years’ time. What it will say about you, the brand you have built, how the world has benefited as a result and how many careers and fortunes have been made. This is an aspirational vision of your future self. A stretch but achievable goal that others will understand and align around. Investors will write checks and cheer you on. Talent will be drawn to your unique vision of the world and join the journey. And the community will evangelize about your contributions to their lives and community by building a spiritual mote so copycats can’t knock you off.

In the UBER paradigm, this is our drop off location. The rest is navigation between the two. This is where the real work happens. The rubber meets the road so to speak! That is for another exercise.