Bologna, of both the literal and figurative variety, has surprisingly made its way into my life. For better or worse, this salty, run of the mill lunch meat has taught me a few things about quality and execution. These lessons, in turn, have helped shape my views regarding my business as one the Founder of Dion’s, and about state politics in New Mexico.
My First Bologna Lesson
The first time I was introduced to this particular lunch meat was in 1978 when my partner and I started Dion’s. We took over an old restaurant and the previous owner had offered a simple bologna sandwich, which we decided to keep on our menu. At the time, I was fresh out of college and had been spoiled from a food perspective. My grandparents had emigrated from Greece and food was the superstar of our family. My grandmother made everything from scratch and pork chops appeared on my plate far more often than white bread sandwiches.
As a result, I had never actually eaten a bologna sandwich until I tried the one we served at our restaurant. While it certainly did not make my taste buds jump for joy, we decided to keep it on the menu for continuity’s sake. A couple months later, I asked my partner if he had ever tried the bologna sandwich, to which he replied, “no way, it’s awful.” From that moment forward, the two of us came to an agreement − we would never put anything on our menu that we didn’t crave ourselves. While it sounds simple, it became the foundation of our company and serving “Great Food” became our number one value.
Execution is Key
Years after the meat came off our menu, I visited a restaurant on the east coast which serves sandwiches named after presidents. “The Richard Nixon” was on the menu and it aptly featured Bologna. I was not keen on ordering it, but the employee behind the counter persuaded me stating it was a customer favorite. To my surprise, the sandwich was fantastic. The freshly sliced bologna was fried and put between perfectly toasted, aromatic bread. This experience taught me another life lesson – execution is key. In reflecting on why our original sandwich did not satisfy, it was because we used poor-quality bologna, we served it cold, and put it on ordinary bread. If executed at a high level, the sandwich could have stood a chance.
Given the lessons I have learned about quality and execution in business, I often find myself being frustrated with politics in New Mexico. In particular, it seems that strong legislation that gets proposed is often not shared and/or enacted upon. For example, HB180 in 2018 would have routed more taxpayer dollars to the classroom instead of putting it towards school district administration. The bill was based on extensive data, had bipartisan support, boasted a whopping 23 sponsors, and had a solid execution plan. Despite the strong support for the bill, it died in committee because leadership did not see it as a priority, and most legislators did not even get a chance to vote for or against it. It is an example of high-quality legislation that would have made a significant impact on the state, but sadly never came to fruition.
There seem to be many quality bills that do not become law. Perhaps it is because our legislators do not get a proper “taste” of the bill, or there are other, sometimes more insidious factors, that keep these bills from being fulfilled. Additionally, even when we do get quality legislation passed, at times, it is not executed correctly, turning what could have been a gourmet piece of legislation into to a mundane sandwich that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Only when we are able to honestly look at our most pressing issues and move beyond party politics will we find a way forward to improve our education system, reduce our crime, and increase our quality of life.