Before I Was Boss: Standing Sushi Bar owner had sauce packets thrown at him

ST06052015-1512570270/ Aziz Hussin/Phyllis Ho/As part of the SME spotlight feature on businesses in the Bras Basah area, ST will be interviewing Mr Howard Lo, founder of the standing sushi bar, at one of his outlets.
F&B entrepreneur, Howard Lo.

You may have heard of or eaten at his well-known establishments like Standing Sushi Bar, Tanuki Raw and The Secret Mermaid.

But did you know that the man behind these F&B businesses once held a part-time job where someone threw sauce at him?

Well, Howard Lo, 39, was at that time a teenager and on his third day on the job at a Taco Bell-Pizza Hut Express food stand in his hometown of Orlando, Florida.

It was not his first time trying his hand at a part-time job but what transpired was due to a misunderstanding between his then-manager and an unreasonable customer, said Lo, who was also a star on the second season of local reality TV show Eye For A Guy in 2005.

 He claims it wasn't too "dramatic" and he was actually hit by unopened packets of taco sauce.
Also, he quit that same day, right after the incident.
But he did not allow that one setback to stop him from pursuing other part-time jobs.
Until today, Lo still holds fond memories of his very first part-time job , when he was between the ages of 14 and 16, at a frozen yogurt shop in the United States.
It was also a "natural thing" for him to do, seeing how his elder sister and close friends also held part-time jobs at the time.
Lo told AsiaOne in an interview: "I was just one of the guys who would help dispense the yogurt. One of the great things about the job ...was actually the sense of trust that the owner had in me especially as a young kid.
Lo said his time spent working at the yogurt shop influenced the way he "manages and empowers" his current team of staff.
Lo explained: "A part-time job gives you additional life experiences.
"It's different from your school work because it's a different (type of) responsibility ... you're taking on because an owner is counting on you. It also exposes you to different types of people depending on the type of industry you're in."
For instance, he said that a 19-year-old part-time staff at The Secret Mermaid could be talking to and serving bankers and lawyers literally twice their age.
He said working part-time could be an eye-opening experience for those who choose to do so.
Lo did not stop working part-time even when he moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a university degree. In fact, he put some 40 hours a week working multiple part-time jobs throughout the four years he spent at George Washington University.
For instance, he manned the information desk at the Smithsonian Institution, a museum in Washington D.C..
He said: "I was that guy that said: 'Oh, the bathrooms are this way'."
He was also an IT administrator for his university's alumni centre, a shoe salesman at a sporting goods store and even waited in line for US congressmen - and got paid US$10 for it - who wanted to attend hearings.
In fact it was this contrast in his part-time jobs that made him learn a thing or two about people and the way they trust others.
Lo said: "I realised that no matter how powerful someone is, they always trust the shoe salesman to tell them if the shoes fits."
"Maybe they're making decisions (that could be worth) billions of dollars but they'd always ask you: 'So does this fit properly?'. And it's just 'Yes, it does' or 'No, it doesn't.'"
His big take-away: "The lesson from that is like as long as you know just a little more than another person in (a certain aspect), they will think you're an expert."
After graduating from university, Lo landed his first full-time job as an IT specialist at Microsoft in 1998, which led him to move to Seattle. Despite having what he said was a "well-paid" job there, Lo instead credits his part-time jobs for his success today.
Five years later, he asked Microsoft for a transfer to Singapore, where he started his first restaurant on the side in 2009.
He quit his job at Microsoft in 2012 to focus on his businesses instead.
"I'd probably still have my Microsoft job without the experience of the part-time jobs. I was a really good techie," Lo admitted.
Dishing advice for those looking for a part-time job , Lo sagely says that every job comes with value.
Lo said: "There's nothing wrong with leaving a job you don't like, but make sure you know what you want to do (afterwards)."  
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This article was first published on Asiaone.