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Last Update: Saturday September 18, 2021

Key Idea: Find Your Place To Serve

All of us who own our own business expect to make money. In fact, the more money we make the more people we can hire and the more customers we can serve. In addition to making money, the business owners in our library are big-hearted and generous. Bill Sugars loves his little town and he is part of why it is such a great place to live.

Key Question:


Find a place that you want to invest yourself in not just to make money but to make a life.

Q: Why did Bill focus in on a retail business located in a small town?

A: He was an Army brat and then went to work in a big company where his job required him to travel. By the time he bought in to Mickey Finn's he had reached the conclusion that he wanted to put down roots. He wanted to know everyone's name and he wanted others to know him. He wanted to be part of the leadership in the community that would influence the future of Libertyville.

Here at the Small Business School, we've studied many successful small businesses. We always ask the business owners about their motivation for starting and operating the business. No one has ever told us they started their own business because they wanted to make a lot of money and that they operate their business to make as much money as possible. Instead, we hear time and time again that small business owners believe if they have a good plan and execute it well and fairly, the money, well it just comes.

Michael Novak, the theologian-in-residence at the American Enterprise Institute told us that there is a difference between self-interest and greed and that self-interest is good but greed is bad. Bill was not being greedy when he came to Pat with a great idea to expand Mickey Finn's. He was interested in being an owner of Mickey Finn's and making it prosperous enough to support two owners and many more employees. Bill was interested in working in Libertyville and making friends and working to improve the entire historic business district.

What are you interested in? What are you trying to accomplish in your business? If you are motivated to provide a high level of customer service, to produce a quality product, to establish a nurturing environment for your employees, then that's your self-interest. That's what is important to you. That's not greed because greed is gluttony and avarice, the motivation to improve one's own lot without any consideration for others. Self-interest, on the other hand, is our passion, what motivates us, why we start our own businesses and make successes out of them. The Bible says, "Man does not live by bread alone, " you need some beer. Just kidding. Bill and Pat love being of service. It is rewarding and satisfying.

Think about it

What's your self-interest? What product or service could you offer that would bring you greater satisfaction? What could you do to improve your entire industry or neighborhood?

Clip from: Mickey Finn

It is hard to imagine at one time this downtown was bleak.

Libertyville, Illinois: Discover how two men changed the face and the fortunes of a town. Pat Elmquest and Bill Sugars invested in their local community when no one else would. They dared to dream an impossible dream. The old downtown was virtually abandoned -- over 60% vacancy -- with pawn shops and the like.  Pat had bought a little pub; then with a $2 million loan, they expanded to make a brewery and restaurant... and the old downtown transformation was underway.

They were true pioneers ...the visionaries.  Today, Libertyville is an award-winning historic business district.

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Mickey Finn's Brewery

Brian Grano, Today's Owner & CEO

Founders: Pat Elmquest & Bill Sugars
412 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Libertyville, IL 60048

Visit our web site:

Office: 8473626688

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1990

Find Your Place To Serve

BILL: I'm an Army brat, and I used to move every three to four years. I really had no roots. And it's so neat now. I've been here eight--oh, almost 10 years. You walk down the street and you wave. And it sounds sorta hokey...

HATTIE: `Hey, Bill.'

BILL: "Mayberry, R.F.D." But, you know, this is that type of community, and it makes for a very pleasant living experience. And number two is--giving to the community to get something back--number two is just the sheer joy of doing something that everyone thought you were crazy to do. Everyone says, `Why are you gonna mess with Mickey Finn's? It'll never work.'

HATTIE: So your corporate buddies, the ones that are about your age--and you've got a little gray hair; you're 50-something.

BILL: Fifty-one.

HATTIE: It sounds like--I mean, I would think that they're winding down and you're winding up.

BILL: Yeah. I think the thing that's important for people to realize is you'll know when it's your time to do something different. You can't--there's no formula--you can't say you're 36, you're 42, you're 45. I have a lot of people come in and say, `I really admire what you and Pat did. You had the chutzpa to go out there and take this risk and take this job.' Well, first of all, it wasn't as risky as people think. Yes, it's a restaurant, but the brew-pub failure rate's like 1/6th of what the restaurant failure rate is.

Secondarily, we had a lot of background data that knows, barring a catastrophe or a complete collapse of the economy, we're gonna be OK, not as good as we're doing now, but our worst-case scenario was pretty good. So the risk wasn't as high as everyone thought it was. But I think the thing is Pat knew when his time was right to leave corporate life and buy the bar in 1990. I knew when my time was right. And everyone will know. There just comes a time in your life when you say, `I gotta do some--I don't want to be doing this when I'm 65 years old.'

There's tons of resources out there, but you gotta be willing to ask questions. Most people are looking for something that'll land in their lap. They'll read these magazines about franchises and the get-rich-quick schemes on TV, these infomercials. Nothing's free. Nothing comes that's worthwhile unless you're willing to bust your rear end. And I tell my kids that. I tell all the people that come in wanting ideas and wanting us to help them get started. And I say, `Well, are you willing to do this, that, that? Do you have X amount of dollars? Do you have the financing?' `Well, no.' I say, `Well, when you do, come back and we'll talk.' But there's no such thing as a free ride.

PAT: We've talked to so many corporate people that come in, and they were tired of the same things we were. But it's a real big commitment, not only personally, but, you know, when you have a wife involved and kids going to college, it's gotta be a passion that you don't look back. And you've got to have that type of mentality. Money just doesn't necessarily do it. You can be creative with financing, but when you have to put your back to the wall, like Bill and I did, 100 percent, it takes a special type of person.

HATTIE: Are you gonna be brewing beer when you're 65?

BILL: I'll be drinking it. My goal in life is to consistently drink beer for the rest of my life. And our beer--see, we have one good advantage with our beer. Even though the FDA won't let us put it on the labels, it actually--with no preservatives and no chemicals, no rice, no corn--there's four ingredients--it actually has a lot of vitamin B, vitamin C. Our Oatmeal Stout is like drinking breakfast.


BILL: It's got oatmeal.

HATTIE: So it's your major food group, right?

BILL: Absolutely.

HATTIE: So what's in the future?

PAT: This is my future.

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