How I Made It

CEO of Legal Sea Foods on how to crush your haters and create your own success

Legal Sea Foods CEO: Develop a 'maniacal' focus on quality

When you believe in something, you have to trust yourself, according to the CEO of popular restaurant chain Legal Sea Foods.

"There's always someone telling you, 'No, you can't do this now,'" Roger Berkowitz told CNBC. But instead of admitting defeat, he uses "no" as a motivator.

"When people say 'no,' they don't really understand what's in the back of your mind, what's driving you and what you truly believe in," he said.

During the recession, Berkowitz planned to start a seafood restaurant on the Boston waterfront, but many people were not supporting him. Legal Harborside, his company's current flagship restaurant, was projected to be over 20,000 square feet amid an economic downturn.

Naysayers considered the project a bold and risky move.

"At the time, the waterfront and the Seaport area of Boston were completely underdeveloped," the company told CNBC in an email.

Still, Berkowitz said that he had been determined to do this for many years, so when he found himself without the support of many, he decided to get the project up and running anyway. The executive had been in the fish business since before the company opened its first restaurant in 1968; he told CNBC that opening Legal Harborside made sense to him.

Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods, is having a 'Blacklisted Dinner' at his restaurant.
Suzanne Kreiter | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

"If I'd listened to them, I think I would have done more damage to the brand by not going ahead," he said. "That restaurant ended up in the top 10 restaurants ... in the country, and it's a great umbrella for the other things that we operate."

Today, Legal Sea Foods owns 33 restaurants along the East Coast and has approximately 4,000 employees. While it is a private company and doesn't disclose financial information, market research firm Technomic estimated the company had revenue of $186 million in 2013.

Of course, the CEO is not against taking advice, but he encourages entrepreneurs to listen to their gut.

"Listening to 'no,' I think, can get you in trouble," he said. "If you truly believe in something, you will make it happen."