Chkn-N-Mo Owner Bob Hemphill: A Conversation About Business and Success

By Sandra Williams

You could say it was an accident that Bob Hemphill ended up running a successful southern style restaurant in downtown Spokane. Always an entrepreneur at heart, he owned both a cab company and a used car lot before working as a contractor, but a work accident left him with a broken back, effectively putting him out of business.

Laid up for over a year, and unsure what direction to take, Bob’s friend Katy asked a question one day that would turn things around for him. “What are you going to do now,” she asked, “you’ve been out of work for a long time.” He answered that he didn’t know, so Katy asked what he thought we had a need for in Spokane, and Bob answered, “well, we need a Southern Restaurant in the downtown area.” Katy’s reply was, “well that’s it. Do it.” And he did.

It was July of 1992. Bob got the paperwork to start his business, sent it in, and started looking for property. The first property that he found was on Howard, and the owner was going to rent it to him, but before he could raise the money to cover the rent, she had already rented it to somebody else. He was understandably disappointed, but, the owner told him that she owned the entire block and to walk around the block and “whatever property you want I’ll give it to you.” So, he went around the block and saw a place that was vacant on the corner of Sprague and Stevens and Ie called her up. “She said you’ve got it.”

The rent that she offered him was unheard of, Bob said, so he got the money together and opened his restaurant, with no idea of what he was doing, and no one to help him. Twenty-three years and few ups and downs later, Chkn-N-Mo is still going strong.

So, what is Bob Hemphill’s recipe for success? “I wake up every day knowing that I am going to be successful,” he said, “knowing that I am going to put out a better product today than I put out last year, last week or yesterday, and I lean on that. I don’t lean on what other people say about me, or what other people do to me.”

Bob also shared the affirmation that he used daily. “I had an affirmation that every day I would get up and unlock the door, every day I would come in here and I was going to be a success. I just believed that opening that door would open a way for me to succeed in anything that I did in here. I grew every day. I gained and I moved forward.” He added that the only way to succeed in life is “by waking up every day knowing that everything is going to go your way, learning from your experiences, learning from the fact that you are alive and that you are doing something, and that you’ve got your hands in to something.” Bob says, “the more you rest in the idea that you are going to be a success, it will happen. I don’t care who you are.”

Bob believes strongly in the principle of duplication and points out that the principle can be found in the bible. “One of the greatest stories that Jesus ever told was in the book of Matthew, the parable of the three servants.” A man had three servants and he gave them each a gift, he entrusted them with his money while he was going on a trip. The first servant he gave five talents, the second two talents, and the third he gave one talent. The servant with the one talent hid his gift out of fear of losing it. The other two went out and duplicated thier gifts, so when the man came back, they had doubled what they had been given. The two were considered good servants because they increased what they had been given, but the one who had buried his gift was considered a no good servant because he didn’t do anything with his gift. “I think this is what happens with most people,” says Bob, “They have all of these gifts, all of these talents, and they bury them, they don’t do anything with them, and that’s what hurts them. There’s nothing under God’s Earth that you can’t do. God has given you the ability to do anything you want to. Now it’s your job to wake up in the morning, hitch the horses to the wagon and drive the wagon down the road to your destination. Find out where you want to go in life, because if you don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for you.”

Bob’s goal, he says, is to follow his own advice and duplicate what he has. “This time next year, I hope to have another one of these, and after that to have another one. The most challenging thing is going to be my health. If I can stay healthy, I’ll be able to do anything that I want.”