Erik Kober serves restaurateurs, retailers and small businesses – serving those who serve others, as he puts it, so they can achieve sustainable growth and excellence.

The Second Secret to Owning a Successful Business: 

CULTURE

The Secret To Owning a Successful Business: Culture

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH.

As I highlighted in “The Secret to Success in Owning a Business,” the special sauce to having a successful restaurant, small business, or non-profit resides in three simple, but profound ideas: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

Last time we focused on leadership, the ring leader.  Now, let’s focus on the elephant under the big tent.

CULTURE.

Everyone is talking about it, but few have a complete understanding. There is an expression “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Similarly, as Dr. Chris Kolenda so appropriately said in a recent post, “culture always collects.”  Don’t underestimate the power culture has over your business.

CULTURE IS ALWAYS ON THE MOVE.

In a 2017 blog post entitled the 2020 Workplace: The Future Workplace Trends to Know Right Now“, Nikos Andriotis did a great job doing what we should all do if we are hoping to be proactive, instead of reactive.  The business environment is constantly changing, and with it, the culture within.  Niko’s blog itself is case and point, promoting “the most-affordable and user-friendly learning management system on the market.”  Since when did how we learn our jobs efficiently and effectively make so much of a difference?  It’s a fact.  The world is rapidly getting smaller.  It’s getting progressively hotter.  And if you’re not ahead, you will find yourself behind faster than ever before!

And like a plant that has all the sunshine, water, and soil nutrients it needs, your business’s Sustainable Growth relies upon a healthy culture.  An unhealthy culture steals away the very sunshine, water, and nutrients necessary, and adds a powerful herbicide to quickly choke out your business’s Sustainable Growth.  So, what does a healthy culture look and feel like?

HEALTHY CULTURE.

If it is the restaurant culture we are thinking about, we can probably visualize a healthy culture, right?  It should:

  • Be inviting and keep customers coming back for more
  • Reward values like friendliness, cleanliness, expediency, and precision.
  • Maintain accountability by disciplining behaviors such as dishonesty, disrespectfulness, and laziness
  • Retain talented and engaged employees by incentivizing and motivating programs and processes.
Sustainable Growth will never come if you are not continually striving to be better in aspects of your culture.

Quick-action Steps to Sustainable Growth.

Here are three small things that may serve you well in your endeavor to be the best in your business:

  1. Do a quick mental assessment of your business culture: How happy and motivated are your  1) employees?  2) customers?  3) you?
  2. Ask your team what they think about the culture (even better, have someone else ask and capture feedback).  Any trends?  Any negative surprises?  Anything positively noteworthy?
  3. Lastly, reflecting on what we have envisioned a healthy culture, list 3-5 tangible things that are keeping you from increasing the health of your culture.

So, how is your business’s culture?

  • Do the location and your people say everything you want them to say? Are they saying something you don’t want it to say?  How do you know?
  • Are your employees well-versed in reflecting the culture you would like? If not, where you do start? We have many tools and resources that can help you get where you want to go! Check us out!
  • If you are unsure of the message your culture is sending, it is worth the time and effort to get help from someone outside your organization.

Tackle this critical task today before the unhealthy aspects of your culture eat the positive aspects of your strategy and leadership for lunch.

LET’S GET OUT THERE AND DO IT!

The Secret to Owning a Successful Business:

LEADERSHIP

The Secret to Owning a Successful Business: LEADERSHIP

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

Sustainable Growth, the cornerstone of any successful restaurant or business, rests on the shoulders of three profound elements: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

In this article, we’ll focus on Leadership.

LEADERSHIP

What is Leadership?

Countless volumes of books, articles, podcasts, blogs, and conferences do their best to help leaders every day to get better at this thing we call Leadership. I always like to go simple and start with a definition from one of my best friends, Merriam. Webster, of course.

The dictionary defines Leadership (noun): as a person who guides or directs a group; Leadership (verb): to guide on a way especially by going in advance or to direct on a course or in a direction.

NOT EVERYONE IS A LEADER

Contrary to some contemporary thought, not everyone is a leader. Leadership is about more than influence. While there certainly is a special essence of influencing those who are being led, there is also a clear depiction by the definition of guiding and directing while also going in advance of those who are led.

Admittedly, in every organization, there are far more people that should assume Leadership that don’t and to paraphrase something Pat Lencioni shared in a recent conference I attended, there are probably a lot of people leading that should not.

WHAT DOES LEADERSHIP MEAN TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Now that we understand the essence of Leadership and leading, what does that mean to your organization?

Can we look at any organization with the same lenses?  Yes…and no.

Sustainable Growth rests squarely on the shoulders of Leadership, and the balance of that Leadership is dependent upon the context of your business, and your organizational dynamics.

LEADER DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY

When analyzing influence in your restaurant or business, you should begin with two concepts:   leader development and leader diversity.

LEADER DEVELOPMENT

Sustainable Growth best occurs when there is more than one leader. There must be depth as well as a breadth of Leadership.

If you are reading this as a restaurateur or even a small business leader, ask may yourself, “Am I the only leader on my team?” The only excuse for answering that with a “yes” is if you are the ONLY person in your organization (even then, a Sustainable Growth MindsetTM ensures you don’t stay that way for long)!

Over time, hiring and investing in middle-level leaders and helping them take the initiative to improve their leadership skills will pay considerable dividends: for them, for you, and most tangibly, your organization.

LEADER DIVERSITY

Think about what type of leaders you have in your organization. Certain leader types may be more effective than others in your space.

Some leaders love details! Details energize and make them tick. Surely you know somebody like this?

There are still some that are exceptional at helping everyone see the BIG picture, visionary and inspiring as they articulate the 30,000-foot view as few others can.

Additionally, there are those of us energized when surrounded by people–the team we work with, a robust audience, or countless customers and clients.

Lastly, there are those empowered by the closing of a door, finding themselves alone in peaceful solitude with their ideas.

Which of these is good?  Is one worse than another? Can there be a “good” or “bad”?

DETERMINE YOUR LEADERSHIP TYPE?

Are you a Maverick or Pioneer? An Operator or Reconciler?

What about those on your team?

In the fast-paced restaurant industry, where the customer’s desire is instant gratification, Leadership is critical, details matter, and self-awareness is the beginning of a leader’s growth journey. Your team’s future growth depends on it!

Take our short, quick persona quizzes (click here) or have your whole organization figure out where they are on the spectrum. It will help you and your team see yourselves in a different way, and improve, regardless of where you are.

3 QUICK-ACTION STEPS TO SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

Here are three actionable tasks that may serve you well in your endeavor to bring out the best in your business through Leadership:

  1. Assess yourself and your team’s personas. Send SLA’s Leader-persona quiz (FREE!). This exercise alone will increase self-awareness and learning.
  1. Bring the team together—in whole or in parts—and share personas. What do you see? Any surprises? Any trends or fresh observations?
  1. Lastly, ask yourself, “Are we balanced?” Do you have gaps? Blind spots? If so, generate some options that will improve your team’s balance.

LET’S GET OUT THERE AND DO IT!

Why Help the Restaurateur?

Why Help the Restaurateur?

Serving those who serve

Why am I passionate about helping the restauranteur?  After serving in the military for 23 years, why would I now choose to work with restaurateurs and quick-service franchisees?  The answer is quite simple: I want to continue to serve by serving those who serve!  Can you think back to some quick-service restaurant that broke the monotony of your day-to-day?  What fast-casual dining restaurant answers the age-old question of “what’s for dinner?”  Food remains integral to building relationships, our country’s economy, our culture, and our way of life. The restaurant industry is one of the most dynamic, cut-throat, and often unappreciated sectors in today’s marketplace. 

GUTS – Radical Courage

It is no easy road to be an entrepreneur entering such a demanding industry.  It takes real GUTSradical courage—to join such a space.  Food expenses are rising.  Operating costs, to include the rising cost of wages, are a challenge. The increasing price of leased real estate is a looming foe.  In addition to these costs, the complex nature of marketing, sales, and communication make running a restaurant no easy task. Never mind trying to infuse a level of sustainable growth.  

Key Trends

In the NRA’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, they highlighted five key trends that continue to be at the forefront of the challenge:

  1. A competitive business environment.
  2. Staffing as a top challenge.
  3. Pent-up [customer] demand remains elevated. 
  4. Technology incorporation continues.
  5. Food preferences continue their rapid evolution.

Past performance does not dictate future success

Unfortunately, these trends do not soften the statistics of the past two decades either.  As you often hear it said, past performance does not dictate future success, but hindsight makes it clear that it is a significant challenge to be a successful restaurateur in today’s environment.   The numbers are staggering, with no relief in sight. Research has estimated some 60% of restaurants don’t survive their first year; Anywhere from 70-85% of restaurants either change the owner’s hands or go out of business in the first five years according to a 2005 study.  And personnel turn-over within the restaurant space is commonly observed to be as high as 70% annually. There is much to be gained as a restaurateur. However, it takes something special to not only survive but grow. 

How can I serve you best?

I have spent the past six months transitioning from my career in the Army and thinking about this VERY blog.  My aspiration: how can I serve YOU best?  I have visited a countless number of quick-serve and fast-casual dining restaurants.   I have watched and spoken to the men and women who are doing it, day-in and day-out, and my hats off to you! 

Three action steps

Here are three small things that may serve you well in your endeavor to be the best in your business:  

  1. Take deliberate time to reflect on this year’s five trends, and rate your restaurant? How are you doing in those challenge areas?
  2. Rank order them. Which presents you with the most formidable challenge? Is it staffing? Are you meeting customer demands? Are you integrating the newest tech? Is it staying food-relevant? Rank-order them, one to five.
  3. Do ONE thing about the top three. You can’t fix everything, but you certainly can do one to three tangible tasks to make your business better today.

You can do IT!

Don’t know where to start? Please feel free to reach out. You can do IT. Whatever IT is.

Eat More Chicken

A Veteran’s Observations of Army-Navy 2018…Eat more Chicken

Thank you, Chick-fil-a!

It’s always one of the first Saturdays in December. While the stadium might change occasionally (88 of 119 have been in Philadelphia), it is also almost always a blustery-cold winter day. A few other things are also always a constant. The Naval Academy’s Midshipmen and Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets are always in full attendance, and will conduct one of the most impressive march-on events ever witnessed. And, no matter what either team’s season has been, the slate is washed clean when it comes to these two teams taking the field. This was the 119th Army-Navy rivalry match-up, and it was no different than the 118 that preceded this one. Both teams prepare all season for this one game, and they leave nothing to spare–everything is left on the field.

This was one of many of the Army-Navy games I have watched in my own 26+ years of serving in the military, but only the sixth I have actually had the privilege of attending. Let me just say, it was one of the most special, and if the picture above and title don’t give a hint as to why, I will explain.

There were a couple of things that were different this year that made the 119th Army-Navy Game one of the most memorable of any game ever, and it was all because Chick-fil-A did what it does so well: going the second mile (and beyond)!

Observation 1: An External perspective.

This year, Chick-fil-A, which has been a proud supporter of the Army football team, went “all in” on hosting an amazing event. The Army-Navy Watch Party. Just 15 minutes north of Lincoln Financial Stadium, Chick-fil-A reserved the 23rd Street Armory, built out its mobile pop-up restaurant, and filled it with enough seating for easily 500 people. All this was to not play favorites–Army or Navy– but to bring the two veteran sides together, recognizing each and every veteran as an equal, and thanking them in ways that words marginally do justice. The Chick-fil-A Director of Military Relations was personally handing out excellence coins with an engaging handshake, a sincere smile, and a “thank you for your service.” The Director of Marketing was on sight personally ensuring everything was saying what it was intended to say in just the right way. And, in addition to executive leaders from within Chick-fil-A, they hired a host of talented team members to engage, videotape, photograph, and thank the veteran audience that turned out.

Chick-fil-A decked out the Armory out with two huge flat screen televisions, a turf mini-football field, and even a marching band! As the crowd began to pour in at 1 PM, the maestro engaged them right away in fun activities like Simon SaysRock-paper-scissors face-offs, dance-offs, and more. And they were certainly not left wanton, as Chick-fil-A was providing its iconic chicken sandwiches, sweet tea, and fresh-squeezed lemonade at the window. How much you ask? All free! What’s more, Chick-fil-A recognized some 10 veterans and their families with the biggest surprise of all–tickets to the game. Sweet enough deal, right? Well, how about on-field passes, and a limousine ride to boot? Talk about a memorable experience…and all Chick-fil-A’s way of saying “thank you.” Well, as a veteran myself, I have to say, “thank you!” What I saw was simply beautiful, and it was all done in a top-notch, positive way, bringing Army and Navy, (as well as some Air Force and Marine Corps folks) together to share in the historic game.

Observation 2: A unique internal perspective.

What I witnessed as just a spectator and veteran should be enough for you to understand what made this Army-Navy more special than any other, but what I have to share in my second observation expresses what made the whole event and day so special for me personally. First, I was able to share the day with someone who a mentor introduced me to. I spent the day getting to know a man who is a leader-legend in his own right. Being with this humble hero is what truly enabled me to clearly see and experience this second observation. I was able to see firsthand the selfless team that came out to make this whole event so special. Several Owner-Operators, many veterans themselves, came from all over the country at Chick-fil-A’s bequest to provide the unmatched support and leadership necessary to make such a special event happen. Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina. The amount of planning, time, consideration, and resources that went in to make this day happen was evident everywhere you turned!

One of Chick-fil-A’s National mobile kitchens was on site making hot, juicy sandwiches in no time flat! A team of probably 75-100 folks helped set-up, execute, and clean up when it was all said and done. A top-notch event, executed and overseen with the utmost precision and care.

I found myself humbled

Unbeknown to me, I found myself humbled with the great privilege of being able to tag along with a couple of the Chick-fil-A Corporate leaders who were ensuring all was going as planned, and what I saw was simply awesome. They were engaging veterans, making time to talk to cadets, midshipmen, and senior military leaders alike to reiterate their gratitude and provide in any way they could for those they came in contact with. It was more apparent than ever to me how important an organization’s culture is to the success of an organization. For me, Chick-fil-A’s one-in-million way of service made this Army-Navy one of my most memorable experiences. And its because they not only focus on the big things but the little things too…and they do it all with a spirit of excellence and gratitude.

The game ended (happily for me) 17-10, with Army taking the victory, as well as the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy home. Both teams have much of which to be proud, because this day is always so much bigger than the game itself, but at the same time, for three hours, it is ALL about the game itself, in a good old-fashioned family rivalry.

As one veteran said so astutely as I listened, “Only 3 hours on a Saturday does the Army and the Navy go at it like this–otherwise, we are brothers and sisters in arms, willing to fight and die for one another given the chance.” Amen to that! If one has never served, that may seem foreign, but I assure you, it could not be truer. The Army-Navy game represents everything that is good. The guts, the grit, the determination, the resilience, and professionalism of an all-volunteer military, of which we, as a Nation, can surely be proud. The Army-Navy game is just a slight representation of what is special about our Nation’s sons and daughters that decide to serve, and it was an even more special Army-Navy to see a Corporate team-mate like Chick-fil-A come alongside and share in the occasion. Thank you. And to those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who continue to serve and may even this day be in harm’s way to protect our freedoms, we thank you!

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not in any way express the views, opinions, or expressed interests of the U.S. Armed Forces, the United States Army, nor Chick-fil-A, Inc.

By: Erik Kober, Owner Kober Strategic Leader Consulting