Rib man speaks at Carlson School

Ingrid Skjong

Carlson School of Management alumni and students stood and did a cheer Tuesday as a “famous” Twin Cities rib man told them about enthusiasm.
David Anderson, founder and chairman of Famous Dave’s of America, Inc. and Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack restaurants, led a crowd of about 200 in a rousing mantra declaring health, happiness and enthusiasm for work.
“I get excited about what I do today,” Anderson said in his speech at the Radisson Hotel just off campus. “That’s what makes you a breath of fresh air.”
Wearing a shirt and cap emblazoned with the Famous Dave’s logo, Anderson spoke about his approach to attaining business success.
In 1994, Anderson helped found the Rainforest Cafe restaurant chain. Last year, the company posted profits of $8.3 million.
Three years ago, the Harvard graduate blended his love of barbecue and blues music into Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack. Restaurant expansions have led to bigger-than-expected revenue losses for the company.
But for Anderson, it’s not all about the money. Admitting that initial attempts at fame and fortune left him unfulfilled, he emphasized that a desire to make a difference within the community is essential.
That’s why he gives speeches such as Tuesday’s “Me Inc.” presentation. He focused on how employees, not employers, are responsible for their own advancement. The common attitude of “the company owes me” does nothing but create a stagnant employment situation, Anderson said.
“Employment is just a job,” he said. “Employability is when the company has become a learning place.”
He instills this belief in his workers by teaching life skills and technical disciplines through his restaurant’s informal but aptly named “Hog Heaven University.” Employees are encouraged to buy tapes and books on self-betterment.
Anderson’s own advice has brought him recognition in many circles.
“He has an incredible history in business and in civic things,” said Lori Bush, Carlson’s assistant director of Alumni Relations.
A member of the Choctaw/ Chippewa Indian tribes, Anderson was part of President Carter’s 1977 task force to study the problems of minorities in small business.
“Him being a minority I think I can compare a lot to him,” Carlson junior Elizabeth Chavez said. “I can kind of see myself a little bit in him.”
Despite his entrepreneurial success, Anderson remains humble.
“It ain’t me that’s famous, it’s the ribs,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just the cook.”