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Leading from the Heart

Leadership is a wide-ranging, always relevant topic that’s important to all industries, but it’s especially important in one that’s immersed in creating authentic experiences for clients. How we carry ourselves behind the scenes and support each other makes all the difference in catering work and building strong relationships.

Over the last decade, many leaders have been taking a closer look at vulnerability and heart-centered leadership in the workplace and how it has an impact on morale, retention and a company’s long-term success.

“Heart leadership” is exactly what Anthony and April Lambatos of the Denver-based Footers Catering had in mind when they created MIBE, their passion project aimed at building an intentional work culture around love and open communication. This month, they share what exactly MIBE stands for and how it helps them create a thriving company culture.

Anthony and April Lambatos

Family business & catering

Footers Catering, like many family businesses, was born out of passion when Anthony’s father started the business. Ten years ago, they purchased the business from him and decided to carry out his legacy. Today they coordinate 650 events a year with 40 full-time team members and over 100 part-time team members.

Family history is a major influencer of how children identify themselves as second generation leaders. The first generation teaches the upcoming one the profession, how to pour their hearts into their work. At the same time, many of these up and coming leaders realize what could be done differently. Anthony recalls his father’s passion but also the chaotic energy that would oftentimes result in a management style that would leave employees feeling uneasy.

“Anthony and I both grew up watching our parents dedicate their lives to their work,” April said. “At the same time, we saw the stress that it caused.”

This history helped inspire Anthony and April to clearly define the leaders they wanted to be. “We decided if we were going to spend that much of our lives dedicated to the business, we make sure that it was fun,” April said.

See Anthony and April at Catersource! Registration is NOW OPEN for Catersource 2020, co-located with The Special Event! Click here for more information or to register! Click here to view their session time and description.

The power of a mission statement & values

One of the first things April and Anthony did to define themselves was bring their team together and create the values and mission. The entire process took six months, and for the last ten years, they’ve lived by one powerful word: MIBE, or Make It Better Everyday. MIBE is centered around four convictions: Lead, Love, MIBE and Tribe. Here’s what they stand for:


  • Value people for more than the job that they do. People aren’t separate from who they are away from work and at work.
  • Look at people as people and help them through every phase of life. Everyone has a psychological need to be appreciated, validated, understood and affirmed. We often forget to do the meaningful things that make the most impact in our employees’ lives.
  • 87% of employees expect their employers to support them in balancing work and personal commitments. We have to understand where people are at all different points in their lives.

So how does one embody this conviction? First, once a month, every employee has a one-on-one with their director to discuss their lives—which is a mix of personal and professional topics.

“This is where we can use our resources as leaders,” Anthony said. “A lot of times, we don’t know they need the help unless we ask.”

They also organize something they call “Origin Story Lunch and Learns,” days where team members have a meal together and listen to presentations about each other and where they are from.

“This is our opportunity to learn something about every one of our team members that might not come up in everyday conversation,” Anthony said.


• Open your heart to be genuine, open and vulnerable.

• “Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.” -Brene Brown

One of the team’s favorite book club authors is Brene Brown, the award-winning speaker on shame and vulnerability. One of her leadership communication tools they use with employees is “the story I’m making up is…” from her book, Daring Greatly.

Another love tactic is the notes of gratitude team members write each other, which they reflect on throughout the year.


• There’s always more to learn and room to improve.

• There’s power in tiny gains and doing one percent better every day.

• If you want people to contribute good ideas, you have to be willing to hear their bad ones.

• Apply the 90 percent solution: getting 90 percent of the way there. It doesn’t have to be perfect.


• Work doesn’t have to suck; surround yourself with a kick-ass team.

• There is power in finding the right people. Your team is not a fit for everyone.

• A team isn’t a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” -Simon Sinek

• What are you doing in your company to create a space where people can be their authentic selves?

“We’re looking for passionate, enthusiastic team members who want to grow,” April said. “We ask a lot from our team, but we give a lot back.”

When the Footers team wants to hire someone new, they outline a process. They compare the person to the process, not to everyone else going through the interview. There is a series of steps—a phone interview, in-person meeting and an assigned project, which the interviewee presents to team members in every department.

“This process allows you to find those people that are going to be motivated for the right reasons and be a great cultural fit,” Anthony said.

Footers Catering is a proud member of the ICA. For more information, visit

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit