From Brown, HBS and Senior Exec…to a B&B


Here is an unusual résumé: Brown University, General Mills brand manager, Harvard MBA, SVP at Darden (the large company that owns Olive Garden, Capital Grille and Red Lobster), and…bed-and-breakfast owner/operator.

That is the résumé for my close friend, John Hatton. You might think that he has lost his mind. You might think that this is a very expensive midlife crisis. But, if you know John, this all makes sense.

First, John is a fantastic chef. Not a cook, but a chef. I remember well a dinner he hosted when we were business school students. He invited a few couples for a fun and memorable meal when we were about to graduate. It was amazing. Flowers on the table. Menu cards at each place setting. Incredible wine. Impeccable course after course after course. I vividly remember to this day a tray of homemade tiramisu.

He recalls that, at the end of the meal, I was lying down on the floor, catatonic, patting my full belly, to the delight of the satiated and tipsy group. I of course conveniently forgot about that.

An evening to remember.

Second, John is very willing to pursue his interests. Before it was common, he and his wife Amanda adopted old greyhounds that were too old to race and would be otherwise destroyed. While many of us during business school fretted about consulting or investment banking jobs, John stuck to the food service industry, because that’s what he enjoyed. He didn’t listen to the “wisdom of the HBS crowd.”

Third, as a very senior executive for a very long time, I’m sure he has a nest egg banked.

Since graduation, John and I have kept in touch. It is always a joy to hear his voice. And, it was no surprise when he shared with me his thoughts to leave Corporate America and blaze his own trail. It was no surprise when he confidentially sent me a business plan to buy, renovate, and then run a bed-and-breakfast. It was no surprise that it is one of the best business plans I have ever read. And, now that the business is open, it is no surprise that its TripAdvisor ratings are through the roof.

I run into many HBS classmates. Most appear happy. Some look downright miserable. John sounds very happy. In true entrepreneurial expansion, his business has expanded. They bought the property next door and have opened an inn.

As I continue to think of that fun dinner party at John’s, to which he invited three of us and our spouses, we four friends all ended being entrepreneurs. Dave O’Reilly has been at biotech start-ups for decades, Jon Philips launched a magazine, John has his B&B, and I started Kepha Partners. Maybe it is all coincidence, but the four of us quickly, or eventually, became entrepreneurs.

There’s a stereotype that HBS graduates are heartless corporate robots. I’m sure some are like that. But, the people I know well are down-to-earth, thoughtful and very fun. Many are contrarians. Many are entrepreneurs, too.

So, the next time you’re thinking of a vacation, think of Avery House, and tell John and Amanda Hatton that you read about them at Hope tiramisu is on, and if so, get seconds.

If not, I’m sure you’ll be very happy with the “crème brûlée french toast.”  See John’s blog post here and the pic below. With food, he is both artisan and artist.



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