Ely Sakhai is a former civil engineer and a successful businessman. He graduated from Columbia University after immigrating to the United States from Iran almost 50 years ago. Throughout his education, he worked to cover the cost of his studies while aiding his family overseas. Eventually, he opened his own Italian restaurant and achieved unprecedented levels of success. Those interested in coming to “Pasta Presto” that Ely Sakhai owned did not even mind the never-ending lines, and his endeavor flourished. Also, he is the founder of a youth center called Chabad de Roslyn for children aged one to seven.
What do you believe is necessary to start a successful business venture?
There are quite a few things that have to align perfectly to be successful. First, you have to know exactly what you want. If your business has a wide focus that compensates for lack of detailed planning, you are set to fail. Also, you must spend countless hours learning and adapting to the environment. In fact, the key difference between successful ventures and those that end abruptly is people’s willingness to experiment. As a business owner, you must accept the changing nature of your surroundings and find ways to stay ahead of your competition.
Are there any qualities that are a must-have to succeed as an entrepreneur?
Quite a few actually. Most importantly, however, you must be dedicated enough to overcome adversity. The times when you could make a company and become profitable fast are behind us. Nowadays, the barriers to entry in almost every industry are high. Meaning, those companies that you will be competing against are not just going to let you enter the market. Instead, they will try to undercut you with things like lower prices, more efficient service, and so on. So, you must be dedicated to a point where no opponent can prevent you from getting your share of the revenues.
How do you advise people to deal with failure?
Learn from them. Every time you fail, there is a valuable lesson that you can take with you. Simply put, you would not fail if you knew what was necessary to succeed at that particular moment. But once you realize that you must adapt, you can always use the failure to point yourself in the right direction. Ultimately, never let failure become a long-term obstacle that undermines your confidence. Even the most successful entrepreneurs find themselves in situations where they do not win. Unlike many others, however, they do not dwell on the past.
Was your experience with restaurant development more intense than your career in real estate?
After I bought the building in which “Pasta Presto” was located, I started looking at real estate. So, I was a restaurant owner long before I ever started dealing with property transactions. That goes to show how real estate requires a lot more initial capital. As far as the level of complexity, there is no right way to rank one over the other. The restaurant business is extremely hands-on, and you have to know what is going on at all times. Real estate, on the other hand, comes with a large portion of passive work. You research investment opportunities and make decisions based on data. In the end, you are simply waiting for values to go up so that you can realize gains.
What do you think is a growing concern for business owners?
I think that technology and bilingual nature of the business are becoming more dominant than ever. People who are looking to build long-term brands must become educated in various fields that go well beyond their areas of expertise. A few decades ago, that was not the case, and you could simply be good at what you do. Today, things evolved. Consider, for instance, a businessman who works in accounting. Not only do they need to know applicable laws, but also a great amount of software that pertains to their industry.
Additionally, the globalization is moving fast enough to push everyone towards becoming bilingual. Whether you own a small, family business or a nationwide corporation does not matter. The odds of you are serving customers who do not speak the same language as you are high. I learned Spanish when I was in Panama, and it was one of the smartest things I ever did as an entrepreneur.
Do you have any last-minute words of encouragement for striving businessmen, businesswomen, and young adults?
Never give up! The success that you might be chasing is closer than it seems at times. All it takes is one right decision and some luck. Give yourself time to learn, adapt after you fail, and always improve by learning new skills.