Keep It Down! 5 Business Lessons From a Competitive Eater.

A life of stuffing himself taught this founder some insights on patience, goal setting and adaptability.

learn more about Ben Pascal

By Ben Pascal

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether it's Philadelphia's "Wing Bowl" or Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in New York City, there's something grotesquely appealing about watching participants chow down on massive quantities of food.

If you're sitting on the other side of the table, competing in a frenetic bout of glutinous glory, it's a serious sport for those with ironclad stomachs.

In a former career, I was polishing off countless cheesesteaks, donuts and hot peppers in various eating contests. Though retired, it's ironic that I still have my hands full with a company that's developing tests for detecting foodborne pathogens and other microscopic bacteria.

Related: What a Hot-Dog Eating Contest Can Teach You About Problem Solving

As the co-founder and chief business officer of Invisible Sentinel, a biotech company based at Philadelphia's University City Science Center, I've learned a lot about growing a business from scratch. Here are some pointers.

1. Be perceptively patient. No matter how big the problem appears to be in front of you, it's about creating a strategic plan of attack. Several times it seemed as if our company had hit a dead end, but it's about pushing through when you think you've hit a wall. There are always going to be hurdles, but it's about managing each bite and understanding the long-term objective.

2. Set realistic goals. I was never going to be the caliber eater that Adam Richman is, but I understood that. We all create benchmarks for many reasons -- most importantly to feel good about achieving success. Many eating challenges track the success rate of people who can complete the challenge. Competitions with a failure rate greater than 90 percent were off limits for me. Sometimes it's a matter of tempering your passion by delivering a clear set of milestones achievable with the capital and time you have allotted. This will not only build personal confidence, but trust with investors.

Related: What Being Punched in the Face Taught Me About Business

3. Observe and adapt to change. In an eating competition, tasting the same element over and over again causes the brain to tell the body to stop eating. You have to change the taste of the food during a competition to overcome the "full sensation." It's the same in business. As an entrepreneur, there are no constants and your product and business model is going to change from your initial concept. At Invisible Sentinel, we saw an opportunity to test for a "bug" found in wine known as Brettanomyces. It was different than what we'd previously been testing for, but the discovery would lead to a partnership with a winery.

4. Choose your partner wisely. If the competition allows you to have a partner or teammates, make sure they can pull their weight -- literally. Eight years ago, I met my business partner and co-founder Nick Siciliano, the CEO of Invisible Sentinel. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. He is the eternal pessimist, and I am the eternal optimist. Together we make a great team and it's helped us to see problems differently, support each other during difficult times, and learn from one another.

5. It's OK to sweat a little. This is your life's work, it's not supposed to be easy. There will be good days and bad days, so appreciate the journey. In spicy-food competitions, you're going to perspire like crazy. You eat as quickly as possible just to make the pain go away. People will be watching through it all, but if you stay composed it will pass. As an entrepreneur, you'll endure a myriad of high pressure situations, but practice makes perfect. Just make sure you have a glass of milk handy.

Related: 11 Lessons I Learned at Startups That Keep Me Up at Night

Ben Pascal

Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder of Invisible Sentinel

Ben Pascal is a co-foundeder of Invisible Sentinel, a rapid diagnostic company based in Philadelphia. He currently leads the biotech firm through new business development, marketing and strategic growth planning.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.


Here's One Easy Way to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader in Your Industry

Learn how guest posting can establish you as a thought leader in your industry, expand your reach, drive value and attract new customers.

Growing a Business

How to Gain a Competitive Edge: 4 Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Your Competitors

More competitors are trying to scoop up market share, which means that doing a competitive analysis is only the first step to success.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

Twitter To Begin Removing Legacy Blue Checkmarks Next Week: The End of an Era

Those wishing to keep their blue checkmark must sign up for Twitter Blue, a contentious subscription-based program that users can opt into for $8 a month.