14 – Christine Cole: Changing Culture with Flaweless Hospitality

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00:58 Christine:
You've got to figure out what you're doing in these walls other than paying your rent. Find something that lights you up that is worth all this time you give to it.

01:17 Tony:
Hello, it's Tony Howell, and I want to welcome you to my podcast. This is our opportunity to have conversations with Changemakers, seeking the practical ways that we as artists can use our gifts to change the world.

In this episode, we speak with Christine Cole, CEO and founder of Flaweless, which is a world class hospitality company in New York City. She's a serial entrepreneur with two decades of experience, owning, operating, and managing the best restaurants in New York. She's also hosted The Obamas, designed holiday windows on Fifth Avenue, and created culinary confections for Bloomingdale's, Whole Foods, and many more.

In this interview, we discuss Christine's journey from artist to CEO, with all of the auditions and classes and gigs in between. We also talk about creating exceptional personal and business growth through hospitality. How you can change your culture through leadership. We get into a little bit of some tricky things: like having hard conversations with your boss, your agent, your partner, or partners in your business. There's so much more, and I can't wait to introduce you to Christine. Enjoy!

02:42 Tony:
Christine, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

02:47 Christine:
Oh, I'm so excited to be with you, Tony. Thank you for having me.

02:52 Tony:
I am delighted to introduce people to you. We've been working together for quite some time and we've known each other for many, many years. So let's just start off by, tell us, how did Flaweless come about and what's with the funky spelling?

03:10 Christine:
Sure. So Flaweless is the name of my company, the funky spelling's very intentional. So for those listening, it's Flaweless, and I added the extra E in there. Well A, to intentionally spell it wrong because I have a deep belief in anti-perfectionism. But I also wanted to create the word 'awe' within the word. I have a hospitality company and really the goal of creating hospitality in life or in work is about causing awe for those around you. So I wanted the word “awe” to be in Flaweless.

03:57 Tony:
Well, I've seen your work and it has definitely created “awe.” I'm going to definitely make sure people hop over to Flaweless.com and check out just the magic that you create.
I remember our photo shoot and you were throwing flowers on dessert, which I had never seen before.

You're a hospitality guru! How did that come about?

04:18 Christine:
Sure. Well, I actually came to this city to sing. I went to Ithaca College and always knew growing up I wanted to be a singer. And so as soon as I graduated, I did the thing that many artists do, which was to come to the city and get a job as a waitress and audition like crazy and take class like crazy and fight my way into a singing career, and I did that for a lot of years. While I did that, I obviously continued to pay my bills between gigs I would land by working in restaurants. My dad said to me early in my years, he said "why are you waiting tables?" And I said to pay my rent, obviously, duh dad. And he said, “you're wasting your life.”

And for my dad to say that to me hit me like a knife in the chest. And he looked at me and he said, “you've got to figure out what you're doing in these walls, other than paying your rent. Find something that lights you up, that is worth all this time you give to it.” So I thought about that. And that's when my already love for food and wine really began to flourish. So I started to really invest in service and food and wine and have a delightful time while I was waiting tables in between my gigs. Then doors started to open up for me in restaurants. Honestly, that success was really attractive. Even though I'd had success as a singer, the consistency and the perseverance that is required of an artist to keep going was waning on me.

So I started to take some of the offers in management in restaurants. And my career just went crazy. So I've spent the last 20 years owning or running New York City restaurants and managing teams and a year and a half ago, I left operations of restaurants to start Flaweless.

06:47 Tony:
Beautiful. I want to ask you now that you have been an artist and then inside other businesses, and now you are the artist of your own business. Can you talk about just the different experiences that you've had as a professional in all three of those areas? Are there any similarities or differences to being an artist, to being working in someone else's business and then also owning and starting your own company?

07:18 Christine:
Totally. One of the things working in restaurants taught me that when I reflect in being an artist, a professional artist, or in helping other people with their companies is it's in the mistakes and how we react to them that incredible things happen. Memories are created. A regular dinner experience turns into an experience you'll never forget, the best meal of your life, or you land the job like an audition where you turn the wrong way, or you say the wrong word or drop your lines and how I reacted to that. It landed me those jobs.

And when I help other businesses too, it often starts with a complaint conversation, not that I'm encouraging gossip or stress, to focus on that, I focus on the negative at first, but really it's in listening to people's complaints or mistakes or hiccups that we discover where there's opportunity for change. Usually people are only willing to make change where they have pain. So I think that it's true in everything. And that's why I love imperfection.

08:47 Tony:
I like that duality of imperfections being perfect or “Flaweless”, and the willingness to take risks and fall flat on your face and finding the beauty in that. So before we dive into a lot of your work experience, I want to talk about this idea of hospitality a little bit more, and I know on your website that you say that hospitality can be brought anywhere: from the way that you dress, to the way that you carry yourself, to the way you treat your family, your friends. So can you give us some examples of ways to bring hospitality into your day-to-day life at home and at work and beyond?

09:28 Christine:
So at home, it looks like making a daily effort to create beauty, like making my bed with gorgeous pillows. Opening up my shades to let all the light in or decorating. Well, now I'm already thinking about how I'm going to be decorating little pops of Valentine's day around my home. It's about cooking and baking for me with joy in the process of cooking and baking, not just the result. The process of creating, whether I'm singing or doing cards with my son for someone's birthday, the process of making that, not the end all card, is really what causes joy. I also believe that food is love, whether I'm making it or serving it or someone watching someone's reaction, and love is the “awe” I'm going for. Also, for me it is about hosting a dinner party or a children's play date and allowing the food and the fun to connect with the people. Friendship and connection are amazing examples of “Flaweless” hospitality, for sure.

10:51 Tony:
Well, I love watching you make magic with your son on Instagram. I'm so jealous that he gets to have you as a mom.

11:00 Christine:
That's so kind.

11:00 Tony:
We talked a little bit about bringing hospitality into a work environment. And I know that you've worked with many, many businesses from startups to international, long running companies in New York. What are some ways that you bring hospitality into businesses?

11:20 Christine:
I get the leaders to focus on their people, whether it's a restaurant, a small business with five people or international business with multiple locations that have 5,000 people each. It's about focusing on the people. When you support your people, everything else falls into place I have found, and that's where exceptional growth occurs. It's again about having the leaders understand that perfectionism is a culture killer. It's uninspiring to the team and can cause a lot of high stress, which causes a lot of gossip in work environments. So having this anti perfectionism or “Flaweless” attitude in your culture is a lot of what I teach.

12:20 Tony:
So if someone's working for a company and the company has not yet hired Flaweless, what is one way that if someone is experiencing workplace gossip or a leader that is really demanding perfectionism or creating a negative environment. How can that person try to create change from the bottom as opposed to from the top?

12:45 Christine:
That's a really good question, and it's challenging, but I believe that someone who may be at the bottom has a lot of power to make great changes. I certainly did when I worked in restaurants. And I feel like that is rooted in communication. [In] general, in management, I know that there's a conversation that needs to be had when I get that pain of, I'm stressed or I sense a lot of gossip in the work environment, or I didn't sleep well. I know there's a conversation I need to have. So whether it's me as the boss knowing that there's maybe a termination I need to do or a write up I need to do, or even just an acknowledgement that was lacking, a busser that I need to really send home. There's a conversation to be had.

And I think if you are in a work environment where you're suffering because of your boss or you're suffering because of a colleague, having a really confronting conversation with one that has grace, that confesses your own experience of what's going on, in a vulnerable and honest way, and then put out there a statement of hope for what you'd like to see in your work future with that person: a really important conversation in what you want to create together with them and how you are going to be of service to that being created.

When you first confess what's happening for yourself, there's usually a discernment or a trust that happens even with someone who seems very scary and intimidating. They usually will settle in and then listen to your words, and then if you create opportunity or a future with them that it holds something for them as well, and that you're going to be of service to that. It's amazing. Not only the agreement, but the joy that you will cause in that. And then of course having follow through in what you said you would do is critically important as well, but hopefully, if you're not the boss, your boss is going to really be of service in setting that up as well.

15:17 Tony:
That's great. And I think that another instance where this may come up is if someone is not happy with their reps, their manager, their agent. So would you say that's kind of the same conversation that you go and you share how you are feeling and then you try to re-engage and partner up for the future?

15:36 Christine:
Yeah, I think that would work well. It's tricky when you have a working relationship with someone you are not seeing every day. The dynamic between people who are in the same work room together, like go to meetings together or client dinners together, or work alongside each other, and then there's the relationship between people, an agent or a manager, that you might have daily phone conversations or email interactions with, but it's very different when you don't get face to face.

So I would encourage someone who's suffering in that way to have the enrollment conversation face to face. Make a dinner or make a breakfast meeting happen and prepare for it, know what you're really going to say, and especially what your goals are with that person before you walk out of that meeting.

16:36 Tony:
So you have consulted with many different brands and businesses, walked in, changed the culture. If someone is looking to make the change, what are some of the questions or some of the things that you initially look for in order to create such an awe inspiring environment?

16:55 Christine:
Sure. Well I find out first what the leader wants or what's missing. Maybe they aren't reaching the sales goals that they want. Maybe they can't retain their staff, whatever their complaint. I listen to that of the leader, but then I immediately spend time with the team. Or if it's a very, very large team and I can't possibly talk to everyone, I spend time with key people representing the team. I ask them what they do. What does their day look like? What they're really proud of, who their boss is? It's amazing the kind of answers you get when you ask someone who they report to.

I ask them if they could change something, what would they change? Then I take all of that information from the leader and from the team, and I see where it's not lining up and often this comes down to a people misfit in companies. So I will make some recommendations. In some cases it's a lot of terminations. And in other cases it's a lot of training, but we set up a future for the company, causing some strong actions along the way and some milestones along the way so that we know we're going in the right direction. We either heal a broken culture so that the team can then cause whatever was missing before they have tension or they cause their sales, and then we keep evaluating and seeing, what else we'd like to create?

Again, once you focus on people and get the right people doing the things that they do best, sometimes it's fast, sometimes people are put in a job that might not be their strong suit, and so I help the leader identify those strong suits and maybe shift people's roles or titles, and then the world opens up. It's amazing.

19:15 Tony:
Such a changemaker. So just to give us some context, can you share maybe a few of your clients or even if you want one of these transformations that you provided for someone?

19:28 Christine:
Sure. I'll share about my friend, Steve, who designed my restaurant actually, White Street. So he has a beautiful Italian furniture design company. And he works with a team of designers in Italy to either make custom pieces or to do big projects like a restaurant. They do the furniture for Tiffany [& Co.] for example. I had the pleasure of working with Steve: he designed my restaurant in breathtaking ways. It's still known as one of the most beautiful restaurants that ever hit the town of New York City, and he heard that I was leaving the restaurant scene operationally and immediately called me asking for help.

I wasn't sure, so I asked, “Are you opening a restaurant, Steve?” I'm not quite sure what you need my help with. But he was around during an opening where I hired a lot of people and trained a lot of people. I fired some people, but I enrolled a big group of people in a mission, and they enjoyed it. They had a good time and they'd work long hours for me and they wouldn't complain, and they would help each other and they would help me. It was a wonderful experience, and he saw that and he said, “I have five people and I can't figure this out. My company's 12 years old, and we're not making the sales and they're not doing what I need them to do.”

So I took time with his team. I got to know them and their daily work life and their goals. And I recommended firing all but one of them, and Steve trusted me to do that and we changed over his team and we created a new team. We had some hiccups in hiring. We didn't hire perfectly when we hired the new team, but eventually we did and his sales have gone up and almost arguably more importantly, his culture is rich and joyous and he has opportunity because his team can handle more to network more, to have events and to grow his business in ways he hadn't ever even realized because the team is in place.

22:12 Tony:
I'm going to put you on the spot here and just ask in a world that we live in right now, and there's definitely polarity, or, partisan viewpoints. Do you have any light bulbs of how we can together try to enroll people beyond a mission of a company, but towards the human mission of taking care of one another, is there any parallel that you can see in the work that you do in creating a workplace culture that we could expand and try to apply to a community or to a country?

22:45 Christine:
Honestly, it's just about kindness. There's no reason, even with as many people as I have fired, my husband laughs, he goes, you're the only person people hug when you fire them, which I thought was really funny. I'm so grateful that they hug me, but the reason that they do is because I'm entering that conversation. Not because I'm attacking that person. I mean, for goodness sakes, they're already being fired. I'm simply saying what’s so about a business and then creating a future for them that is obviously better than where they are, because it's not working for the business. So it's not working for them, and create a future and help them feel supported in whatever they're going to do next. I think that there is this idea in management, in a business, in terminations as that example, that if you're not tough, you're not going to be heard.

It's like this high school football coach mentality. You can see it in our country's leader, that if you're not insulting someone or making them feel small, you can feel big that you're not going to win. I have found 100% of the time that it doesn't work, that it works so much better if you have grace, have kindness, and be very honest. Some things are hard to say and can hurt feelings, but it doesn't mean that there is a lack of love. And there can always be love or kindness in the environment and how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other. So that's it: kindness.

24:51 Tony:
Thank you for going there with me. Let's shift over to another area that you are Flaweless in and that's creating environments and experiences for people. So I know that you have thrown some of the most epic events in New York City: Taste of TriBeca, events for Broadway Inspirational Voices, and if memory serves, you even did something for The Obamas. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in event curating and what that is like?

25:21 Christine:
Oh yes. Events are amazing. And for someone like me, who's a theater girl, who loves food and beverage and service, events are both of those things together. It's extremely theatrical, even a night at a restaurant is extremely theatrical. The curtain comes up, you do the show, the curtain goes down, but an event is kind of a pumped up version of that. People often think about events as being how many bites of food they're going to have. If I'm hosting an event, I want to make sure my guests don't leave hungry. This is often what I hear when someone hires me to do an event or what the signature cocktail's going to be? Sure those things are tools and they're fun to think about, but it's never the priority when I am thinking about an event.

When I'm thinking about Michelle and President Obama being in my space, I'm not thinking I want them to love that bite of meatball. I'm thinking how I want them to feel when they leave my presence. So we start with that. How do you want people to feel when they dance out onto the New York City streets? Oh, you want them to dance, okay, great. So that helps me think about what we're going to serve and how much we're going to serve and how we're going to serve that. I always staff appropriately, meaning I match people to the environment we're creating, meaning their personalities and their skill sets. Whether I'm hiring someone to work for a company for 10 years, or I'm hiring someone to work for an event for six hours, it is equally important. So again, I focus on the people and then I really enroll them in the vision of the event, and it's like putting on a Broadway show.

27:31 Tony:
I just had an idea that there are many actors listening. So maybe they need to get in touch with you and try to enroll in these fun experiences. But I also want to ask you, let's say that we are not entertaining the Obamas, but we do want to have our friends over for a special night. So what is a way that we can apply the same idea of creating a feeling for a smaller dinner party or brunch with friends? How can we scale that, but still have the same effect?

28:07 Christine:
Sure. So fun. I do this every week, so I'm very practiced at it, but often people who come to my home for a little get together are in awe of how I'm getting it all done. One of the things I give permission to people to accept is that it doesn't have to be already when someone walks through the door. Oftentimes, especially because my husband is so spontaneous and so social. We'll meet someone and then suddenly they're walking with us back to our home to come over for a glass of wine. I have not prepared. I don't even know if the pillows that my son always throws off my couch are back on my couch, looking nice. It's not about it being perfect, and it's not about it being all prepared.

I set up my kitchen in a way that is where my post is entertaining throughout. So I encourage - if you have a galley kitchen, it's tricky - [but] I encourage you to take things out of the kitchen when you start to prepare and you have the food preparation: maybe making a cheese plate, which I highly recommend. I don't think you should ever have a get together without a cheese plate. So you grab your cutting board, your big wood board, you grab your cheeses out of the fridge. Maybe some blueberries or strawberries and dried fruit and you bring it all out onto a surface that's maybe a table where people are hanging out or the coffee table next to the couch, where people are hanging out and you literally start to unpack stuff and sip on wine while you are socializing.

If you're doing a dinner, I would prepare the cheese plate in advance and then have the stuff in the oven that you're checking on or finishing that salad, again while your people are with you. And also if you are feeling intimidated about the cooking or the food side of things, it's great to have that be the thing that people bring. So maybe you just want to focus on one thing, like the roast or the lasagna and you can handle that and get that prepared, but have your guests, oh, how would you bring the salad or would you bring some bread? But having help is also fine. Again, it's the process and the sharing of the process with your friends or family that is the whole point, so it's not about it being this finished project.

30:59 Tony:
It's just like you flow and with such elegance. So I want to ask you where you learned so many skills and talents, but I do want to throw an ad in here for you to say, I went to Flaweless.com as I was preparing to host Christmas Eve, and I read the Flaweless cheese plate from cover to cover.

I'm at the grocery store getting my ingredients and my guests were so happy and so thrilled. And so there's also so many articles there on how to host Thanksgiving and I'm sure there will be one for Valentine Day and so many other things coming down the pipeline. If you're enjoying this conversation, you definitely need to go check out Flaweless.com.

Christine: business, culture, hospitality, food, wine… where did you pick up all of this stuff? Who have been your greatest teachers or influences?

31:56 Christine:
Well, absolutely my mother from the get go, and my father who worked for a French company and were Canadian, and my dad is Scottish. So I grew up in a home that always had visitors. There's a kind of European or British mentality that's sometimes not shared with American families I have found, where I think there's a lot more preciseness needed or it's a big deal to have people over for dinner where I just grew up with parents that if they saw a backpacker on the side of the road, they were totally at our dinner table that night. So I've adopted that in my life. That's had a big influence.

My mom also cooked every meal for our family of 6 every night and worked full time. So I got to learn from the ultimate multitasker who also had a great ability with food. So she taught me so much multitasking, entertaining, and cooking. I grew my love for baking, straight out of the womb. So I used to call my mom at the hospital, she's a nurse and say, "Mom, it says I'm supposed to fold eggs into flour." And I'm thinking I know how to fold a sheet, but I'm about 9 years old asking my mom, how do I fold an egg? So, so cute. She would just tolerate and love me through all these questions.

That had obviously a big influence on me. Then in my professional career, the chefs I've worked with or owners I've worked with have had an incredible impact on me. I remember wanting to make a lobster risotto and running into Bond Street restaurant where I was GM and said, “Chef, Chef, Chef, Chef Mark Spitzer! I'm making lobster risotto, but it says I need lobster stock, and I only have fish stock, and it was just one from a bucket.”

He would go to the basement and pull out this fish or lobster stock, and he'd say, “Just use this Christine.” Then I would bring that home, and I would use the three day made amazing lobster stock that Bond Street had actually made, and I'd throw it into my risotto and serve it to my husband - or soon to be husband at that time - and I looked like a genius, like the most incredible chef ever.

So anything from that, using my resources, but then also going back to a chef like Mark Spitzer or Alex Stupak or Floyd Cardoz or Jonathan Moore and saying, I was reading about making chocolate truffles, and I know that tempering chocolate is really hard, and then I would have these incredible chefs tell me, well, yeah, it is really hard, but try this, this, and this, or make sure you do that, or did you know that you shouldn't salt your vegetables before you roast them because they sweat and they become soggy rather than crisp in the heat of the oven?

35:33 Tony:
There was a tip there. Can you repeat that? I just learned something. I just feel like I'm getting the makeovers. So tell me about salting my vegetables after they're out of the oven.

35:43 Christine:
After they are out of the oven. Yes, right after. But yes if you are really going for a crisp roast, like a brussel sprout, for example, where you want those little burnt parts. Don't add your salt before, add your oil and your pepper and a real hot oven, let them get really crispy. Because the salt pulls the water out and it causes the water to be present and they steam instead of getting crispy. But yeah, I learned that from these chefs and the list is endless and I'll share it all and I do.

36:20 Tony:
Yes, subscribe! So I want to zoom in, we've talked a little bit about White Street, but you haven't touched on Christine Eats. So tell us about Christine Eats first, and then I may have some follow up questions.

36:36 Christine:
Sure. So I decided that I wanted to own a business. Mostly because my husband is an incredible entrepreneur and I was inspired by him. I picked up Martha Stewart’s book (The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage a Business) - I love Martha - she'd come to my restaurant recently at the time. She's like a force. Oh, she's so incredible. I had her book and I opened up to Chapter One and it's about being an entrepreneur, having a business, and she said, “Pick something you are more passionate about than anything else.”

And then she talked about the entrepreneurial spirit and she basically described my husband. She said, you somehow just keep going. You don't ever get sick. You need less sleep than the average human being. This entrepreneur described this superhuman, which was my husband, and then she said, you may not have the entrepreneurial spirit, but either way, choose something you're so passionate about because to be successful, you are going to live, eat and breathe. It's going to require so much time and so many years. And the perseverance is so intense that you won't succeed unless it's something you love.

So I immediately knew I was going to start Christine Eats, I was like, oh gosh, what am I most passionate about? I am most passionate about food. I am going to start a food company. I'm always obsessing over something really difficult in the kitchen. And I love to, it's again the process that I love. I happen to be obsessing over how to temper chocolate and make chocolate truffles. I wanted to know how to make a truffle. So I decided I would start with Christine Eats and I was just doodling with my new name. My name was Christine Emsley and I was going to become Christine Cole when I got married. So I was playing with the CC and the CE of my old and new initials. Emsley was becoming my middle name.

Anyhow, Christine and my little napkin doodle, Christine Eats came out. So I named it Christine Eats and I started to pick my favorite things I'd ever made and recipe test them further and make them products.

My company quickly got a focus, which was to be liquor infused confections. So I had a line of prohibition truffles and chocolate bars that I sold to Whole Foods AND Bloomingdale's and did amazing fashion events, and had so much fun along the way because I got to pick, oh, you want a lemon flavored one? Okay so we'll use limoncello. Let's see if that tastes better with white chocolate, dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Guess what it tasted best with? White chocolate.

And then I also had a line of bourbon caramels. My packaging was super fun, the branding, the culture of my team which was all out of our apartment. I mean temporary caramel chocolate machines and a one year old - you can imagine the scene. But yes Christine Eats was amazing. I decided to put it to rest once I opened White Street. I kept it going for a year into my White Street journey, but Christine Eats was about six years old at that point, I had a new baby, and a new company, White Street, and something's got to give. I obviously chose not to give up motherhood. And I didn't give up White Street at that point, even though I did a little bit later.

So yeah put Christine Eats to rest, but it lives long in me. I created it. I'm so proud of it, and certainly those products, I still try to utilize as much as I can when I do events.

40:59 Tony:
And there's a Flaweless recipe for chocolates right there so we can all benefit from that.

You are a serial entrepreneur. You have gone from company to company, to company. So for anyone who's listening, who's like, gosh, how did she just start three businesses in New York City? How would I ever do that? What would be your advice to someone who kind of thinks they might want to start a business? What's the biggest lesson you've learned?

41:31 Christine:
Make your plan: and it should be financially rooted. So A, start with what you're most passionate about. B, I'm surrounded by artists and I am an artist so what I'm trying to say is it's easy to get caught up in the vision and not have practical actions in place to create that result. So whether it's operating a restaurant, which is an entrepreneurial endeavor or another business, a tech company, or being an actor. You're running a business, being an actor. You have to know what your ultimate goal is, and then have practical, actionable steps and milestones that you hold yourself accountable for on a monthly basis, on a weekly basis, on a daily basis. And the goal can't just be an ethereal one or a “I want to have it,” it can't just be an idea.

It also has to have a financial goal, and that should have benchmarks along the way too, because ultimately you're not running a business if you're not making money. You're just doing a really intense hobby, and so it can feel like a sellout to artists to focus so much on the business side, on your spreadsheet, on your business plan, on your income. But it's not, it's actually the measure of how creative and artistically successful you are, is how much money you're making. Whichever is your goal - It doesn't have to be billions of dollars but if your goal is to make a hundred thousand dollars, you need to have the roadmap and accountability to get there and have that be a part of the measure of success, as well as whatever the goal is in general.

43:42 Tony:
I just want to keep asking you questions. I'm like, oh, there are so many things I want to ask. You are a mom, you are a great friend, and you also are this incredible CEO. So what are some ways that you take care of yourself? How do you practice self care in order to make all of these Flaweless things happen and come to life?

44:12 Christine:
Well, I really strive for a work life balance, but that's been a journey for me in my whole time, my whole 21 years in New York City. It definitely hasn't always been there. In fact, it's some weeks not there at all. And then I try to hone it back into focus and the way I do that is by getting enough sleep. I think sleep is really important. I also have so much going on in my mind that inevitably I'll have a night a week even that I will wake up in the night and not be able to sleep, so I believe in being grateful for the other 6 nights of the week where I can sleep those seven hours or eight hours, so that when I have that four hour night, I'm okay. It's all good.

I also love to box. It's incredibly stress releasing for me. So I like to be consistent in my workouts and especially boxing. I drink water. I try to drink a lot of water. It's not easy for me. I'm not a water drinker, but I fill a pitcher in the morning. First there's a big glass next to my bedside. And then I fill a pitcher that if I'm at my desk throughout the day, I must finish before the end of the day, and I connect with people. I make sure to prioritize my family and my friends whether they're far or near, I take time for them. And if I don't, I have a busy time in life and suddenly it's been a month and I haven't called my mom. I call her and I apologize for that, and I reconnect with her immediately, and now that's true of friends new and old as well. So yeah. I try to make time for the things that matter and not just get caught up in being really busy with work, which is really easy for me to get caught up in.

46:37 Tony:
I think that's so useful to hear. And what do you do on the night that you don't sleep? Do you just force yourself to stay in bed or do you get up and get to work?

46:47 Christine:
My mom says just to get up and iron, that's what she does, which I've actually done before. Ironing is so satisfying. It's pretty good. But normally the reason I get up is because there's a few emails I maybe didn't complete from the day before and they're front of mind. I'm thinking about the email or the proposal that I have due or something. So I just get up and I make my pot of coffee and start to write that email or write that proposal.

47:23 Tony:
We've covered a lot from starting a business to bringing hospitality and trying to change culture in your work environment. If you could wave your magical wand - which needs to exist - what changes would you like to make overall in the world of hospitality?

47:49 Christine:
This is a sensitive area for me to talk about, because I feel so deeply about the hospitality industry and I do see some positive growth in the areas I'm concerned about, but mostly I see an incredible deficiency in work life balance, and therefore how staff is treated. It's an industry where people are treated as replaceable and easily dispensable where managers are never trained. They're simply servers or bartenders who are really good at serving and bartending, and then one day someone handed them keys, which breeds stress for that individual, and that stress on top of having an expectation, perhaps a chef or an owner that expects you to work 80 hours and then doesn't train you on how to manage your people, causes you to become a tyrant.

Then you're like running around yelling at people. You're getting in trouble because you don't know how to manage because no one ever taught you, so then you put your team in trouble and then they quit or they don't show up. It's like this cycle that is chronic in restaurants and it breaks my heart, so I feel like I healed it where I could, but if there was a way to wave a magic wand and connect with amazing restaurateurs like Danny Meyer and Keith McNally, who've really got it figured out in terms of their people and therefore their restaurants are wonderful, to partner with them and somehow have an impact on the industry as a whole.

And if I really had a magic wand, I feel like it would take a turbo magic wand. I would cause every chef to stop working more than 40 hours a week and go home to their husbands or their wives, go home to their children, cook dinner for them, and then come back a happier, non knife throwing, non crazy chef, and see the impact that would have on their team. It would be amazing and I bet their food would even taste better. But I do not know how to solve that. It's a very militaristic old school French culinary culture that is just, you have to work 80 hours, get a lot of tattoos and throw knives to be a chef. So I don't know how to fix that, but I would love to see that fix. I think there'd be a lot more joy in the restaurant industry if I could fix that.

50:48 Tony:
Well, I think that you are the embodiment of that. And just by saying these words, maybe someone will share this with their managers and restaurateurs. So now taking a little bit of a larger view, you're the mother of an 11 year old.

51:04 Christine:
No, he's just about to turn 9.

51:08 Tony:
Where are my numbers coming from? So you have an amazing son, a beautiful family, an amazing husband. You live in an amazing city. That being said, we are seeing just crazy events going on around our world. So this podcast is about conversations with changemakers. You're clearly one. If you could make a wish, wave a wand, affect change, what would you change about the world? How can we make the world more Flaweless?

51:46 Christine:
I think that we need to have acceptance for the beautiful diversity that exists. And I think that food is an amazing connector. I think that we should have dinner parties with world leaders and artists and children all at the same table, and then we should play UNO at the end and have people skip together down the street as they leave and allow service and food and experience of the evening to cause a connection to people who are very different in maybe their religious or backgrounds or their political philosophies.

52:40 Tony:
I think that's brilliant and I hope that we get to see that happen.

52:48 Christine:
The food will be great for the kiddos and for the world leader, from wherever they're from.

52:57 Tony:
Okay, I can't wait. Christine, what is coming down the pipeline for you that you can share with us? What's next for you?

53:08 Christine:
Oh, I just want to have a greater reach. I want to have an impact and inspire people and cause change in brand culture and businesses and cause joy and kindness in this world. So I'm writing a book. I just want the world to be Flaweless.

53:39 Tony:
That's amazing. I also have to echo that, you are writing your work. There's so much richness there. I mean, you're a sommelier, you're a chef, so there's so much from you. So I'm excited to see that book come to life. Thank you so much for being here. Anything else you want to share before we sign off?

54:04 Christine:
Gosh, just thank you so much. I'm so inspired by you, Tony. And it's so kind of you to ask me these questions and give me a chance to reflect on what I want and what I've created. Thank you so much for having me.

54:24 Tony:
Thank you! I mean, we talk weekly, but it was really a wonderful experience and I'm just so excited for people to hear this. So for the listener who wants to get connected with you and they want to learn more about you, what's the best way to do so?

54:38 Christine:
Well certainly subscribe to my website and I'll stay in touch with you constantly. My website is Flaweless.com. You can also email info@flaweless.com. I would love to hear from you.

55:00 Tony:
Well, Christine, thank you so much for being here and I look forward to your book coming down the pipeline.

55:08 Christine:
Thank you.

55:12 Tony:
Hey, it's Tony. Thank you for listening. And I just want to take a moment to highlight a few things that Christine shared - remember that Flaweless started from anti perfectionism, so don't be afraid to take risks. And it's when we allow mistakes to happen, that we can create that “awe” in Flaweless. The process, or staying in the moment, is what creates the joy and the brilliance. So through doodling and wordplay is how she created Christine Eats and Flaweless. Finally, do everything with kindness - everything - and by doing that Christine is able to get a hug from someone she's just let go of.

I know that there are so many more gems in this episode, and I know for a fact that Christine and I would both love to hear from you. So take a screenshot of this episode and share your biggest insight, your favorite takeaway or your favorite moment, and make sure that you tag Christine @FlawelessLife and myself, @TonyHowell, so that we can see it.

Now, if you want to hear more episodes with other changemakers, be sure to check out our entire two seasons on your podcatcher of choice. And of course I would absolutely love it if you would subscribe and love you even more, if you would leave a review.

Of course, that's not all! Christine Cole is literally Flaweless.com. Her website's an amazing resource for incredible recipes, wine resources, from a sommelier, visual guides for event planning, changing your life and business. So head over to her website and you'll get a free wine pairing cheat sheet. And if you join her VIP list, you'll get more ways to bring world class hospitality to your life.

Now I would love it if you'd hop over to TonyHowell.me, we have a digital wellness quiz to grade your online presence and you'll get personalized recommendations from my team of what to watch, read, listen to, download. And I would absolutely love to be your guy to help create digital wellness and change.

So thank you for listening to Conversations with Changemakers. Now, please go out there and use your work to change the world.

I hope you and I can have a conversation very soon.

Christine Cole is the Founder and CEO of Flaweless, a world class hospitality company in NYC. A serial entrepreneur with two decades of owning, operating, and managing the top restaurants in the city, she’s a master in the art of creating awe. She’s hosted the Obamas, designed holiday windows on 5th Avenue, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Bloomingdales, and more. Listen now for her thoughts on hard conversations with your boss, agent, or other partners!

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