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Soccer Development Plan

Finding Our Barracuda

By H.B. Mertz, 01/27/12, 1:35PM EST


Three Lessons For The Underdog

As a small businessman, just over 5'9", I have a bias toward the underdog. I love small companies that run circles around bigger competitors. 

Last January I had one of the best meals of my life at a little seafood restaurant in Aruba called Wacky Wahoo's. I later found out that has ranked it the best restaurant on the island.  

Why is Wacky Wahoo's considered the best? 

It isn't due to a great location. Wacky Wahoo's is off the beaten path, half a mile from the busy stretch of restaurants, high rise hotels, time-shares and tourists on Aruba's Palm Beach. It sits in a tiny strip mall next to a sex shop. My 73-year old mother, Lasik and all, misjudged the entry doors and walked into "Sextasy" on her first trip to the restaurant.      

It isn't due to its size. Wacky Wahoo's has fifteen tables in a leased space that one online review described as roughly the size of a pizza parlor. But those fifteen tables are always full. Good luck getting one of them if you don't make a reservation at least a week in advance.

And it's not due to marketing. Wacky Wahoo's doesn't advertise - at all. No local television, no local papers, no tourist magazines, not even a beach flyer. Just word of mouth and word of mouth at scale, via social media like TripAdvisor, where the reviews on Wacky Wahoo's food are over the moon.   

So with these perceived disadvantages, how can Wacky Wahoo's be ranked the best restaurant in Aruba? Because their product is simply the best on the island. Harald and Roxy, the owners, are relentlessly focused on the most fundamental of fundamentals: the quality and presentation of their product. Gordon Ramsay isn't needed here.

As I ate the barracuda that Harald and Roxy had personally caught in six-foot waves that same morning, I was struck that Harald, who is a trained chef as well as a fisherman, had cooked up the best thing I've ever tasted - from something that I didn't even know was edible.   

Harald has great imagination. His menu is outside the box that his competitors operate in; it's fresh, and - I can't think of a better way to say this - it's cool.   

It's cool to eat barracuda. And so Harald's product transcends food and becomes fashion: color, imagination, and enough antioxidants - read 'quality' - to please my nutritionist wife. Barracuda, fragrant lime, fresh salsa, plantains in brown sugar, bright yellow rice... 

No wonder Wacky Wahoo's patrons are starting to resemble a cult. They email Roxy their reservations from around the world weeks and even months in advance of their stay in Aruba, where they will dine one, two or even three evenings at the restaurant. 

Harald says his customers are always asking him why he doesn't expand the restaurant.  He knows that he could double or triple the size of his leased space and undoubtedly he would fill it every night. But Harald isn't interested in being bigger.  He's content to be the best.  

We take three lessons from Wacky Wahoo's as we work to be the best youth soccer development company in the United States: 

1.  We need to find our barracuda.  We need to continue to develop our new training and camp pathways and present them to our customers with color, imagination, and maybe even a sense of fashion. Think less; Imagine more. Adidas Condivo. Tangerine Tango... 

2.  We need to treasure relationships.  Our 1,100 Facebook likes and 800 Twitter followers are merely the first arrivals at our YES party. Devote yourself to making your customers look good, then ask them to invite their friends. That is our advertising.

3.  We should remain unconcerned about the size of our business.  Not the biggest; just the best. Embrace the fact that we can outmaneuver our competition and change directions quickly, responding to what works for our customers, and what doesn't. And enjoy our days as the underdog. They won't last long...


H.B. Mertz has four kids and three Pittsburgh-based small businesses, including YESsoccer. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @YESPres