I often seem to get inspiration from all kinds of places and today is no different.  I often wonder why the world is so fascinated with zombies.  They seem to just wander through life with no real purpose or sense of being.  It is amazing to see how many people seem to imitate this action in their own lives.  So many people seem to be on auto pilot and just seem to let life happen as it may along the way.  Very few seem hungry enough to attack life.   

  • I believe that there are 5 or 6 really big decisions that most of us will make in our lifetime that will forever change the course of our lives.  It isn’t apparent at the time but as you look back 5, 10 or even 20 years you can see how your life was altered based on a certain decision.  One of my favorite songs is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.  The very first line is “Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip.”  This is the attitude that I try to maintain as I approach new situations.  You will never know if a certain opportunity was that one opportunity if you didn’t give it 100% and see where it takes you.  I try to approach every new opportunity and every new relationship as it could potentially be life altering.  The first time I ever met my current business partner was when I was working for free.  I was at a new store opening in Surprise, AZ and I approached that opening (not even being paid to be there) as if I was a partner in the business.  I treated every minute of my time there and made every decision as if it were my own restaurant.  I would be among the first people to arrive every morning and then I would be among the last people to leave at night.  It was those few crazy weeks that led to the start of an amazing business partnership.       
  • Sometimes the decisions we make are based out of fear and we tend to make those decisions from a defensive mindset.  Decisions made from a defensive mindset are usually very limiting decisions.  They tend to limit the risk but at the same time they limit the potential upside.  I find it much more challenging, yet potentially more rewarding, to make offensive minded decisions.  So many great things can happen when we step outside of our comfort zone.  One thing I have found to be true is that you cannot change people.  As much as you may like to or think that you can, it is really up to that person to change.  For people to really make a monumental change they must be to the point where the pain is finally to the point where they decide to change.  They play defense and wander through life until they finally get knocked out. 
  • Challenge yourself to look back and see if you have made some life altering decisions in the past.  Look at your current situation and ask yourself, what if this is your opportunity?  What will you do moving forward to go all-in?  Five years from now you may look back and say that it wasn’t but that is a lot easier to live with than saying it could have been.  I never want to look in the mirror and think that I let something slip by. 

We do not want satisfied customers!

The term customer satisfaction is an interesting term.  Any company that strives for customer satisfaction will never become great.  All customer satisfaction does is to keep you in business.  A satisfied customer is someone that was able to get the minimum level of service they required to simply be satisfied. 

  • Our goal every day at Culver’s is to create loyal, raving fans.  This is a level way beyond a satisfied customer.  We have talked in previous posts about building a relationship with the guest.  The easiest way to move a guest from the satisfied bucket to a loyal, raving fan lies within our interaction with that guest.  Whether they had a great experience or a not so great experience, the interaction can turn the experience into a relationship.  I love it when I am out in the community and people start to tell me a story about “their” Culver’s.  They actually tell stories and you would almost think that they are part owner of the restaurant by the way the tell the story.  I am continually amazed how many people want to talk to me about Culver’s and those that will stop me just by seeing the name Culver’s on my shirt.  This is a true testament to the power of our brand and the relationships that are built day by day at every store. 
  • In a busy store we can serve over 1,000 guests per day.  What we all need to remember as we serve them is that we need to serve them all 1 at a time as if we only had 1 guest per day.  We need to pay attention to the details for each and every guest.  For us it may be the 100th burger that we are making that day but for the guest it is the one burger that they have chosen to eat.  One thing that Ruth Culver always did was to treat every guest as though they were the single most important guest that came into the restaurant that day.  It was almost like welcoming a long lost friend over and over again. 
  • There are 3 basic things that every customer wants from every business out there:
    • 1.  They want the item they purchase to be defect free.  They want it correct and accurate.
    • 2.  They want to get the item in a timely manner.  If it will not be ready in a timely manner the customer should know as soon as possible that it will arrive late.
    • 3.  They want the people that they are doing business with to be nice. 
  • When we look at the above model we are reminded that the level of the interaction can either improve or damage how well we do in the other two areas.  We should realize that the first and the last interaction are very important.  We should always make of point of making eye contact and engaging any guest within 10 feet of us.  A simple hello, how can I help you, goodbye, thank you for coming in can go a long way.  It doesn’t take a crazy, over the top act to make a connection with a guest, simply knowing and showing that we care and that we appreciate their business can produce a positive feeling. 
  • Loyal, Raving Fans!  That is where we can turn customer service into true hospitality!

It’s Not About The Game


As Culver’s was a sponsor of the Milwaukee Brewers spring training, I was able to attend two games this year.  I went one time each with one of my daughters.  It is very rare for me to be able to spend any time alone with just one of my children, let alone a 4 hour block without multiple distractions.  It helps that they have to watch for a foul ball to come our way so their phones are used very sparingly. 

  • The Brewers play in a small 8,000 seat stadium where you feel like you are almost on the field with the players.  The players are great at signing autographs for fans and tossing multiple baseballs into the stands.  It really seems to be the team’s way to help build the long term ROI (return on investment) with the fans and build a relationship.  The fans would clap and cheer every time a ball got tossed into the stands.  Even the visiting team would take time to interact with all of the fans.  It really is a unique experience that should make it on everyone’s bucket list.   
  • Here is the reveal, I am not even a big baseball fan.  I will watch the world series on TV but the only time I go to a game is for spring training.  This year as I was able to spend time with my daughters, I realized that it isn’t about the game at all, it is about spending that 3-4 hour time block with someone.  Baseball leaves a lot of down time for basic conversation, some coaching time where you can explain what is happening and of course you get to indulge with all kinds of overpriced food.  Food is always a great bonding experience, even when your daughter drops her spoon for her Italian ice twice and you get to go get her another one and another one.  It is these experiences that leave a lasting memory on people’s minds.  Thinking back to when I was young, a baseball game was one of the few times where I had some real alone time with my father.  I didn’t realize it until I was sitting there with my daughters and at the end of the game both of them said how much fun they had.  They created Instagram stories and even took a selfie with dad. 
  • This post isn’t a commercial for spring training, it is a reminder of how important it is to take the time to invest in building relationships with those that are important to us.  Did I have other things that I could have done with 4 hours of my time on a Sunday afternoon?  Yes, but what will have a lasting impact?  We need to remember that children and I believe team members spell love “T-I-M-E”.  I once heard my business partner Brian mention that we need to floss the teeth that we want to keep.  It was a great way to remind us that we need to make a daily effort in connecting with those that are important to us.  Take a few minutes every day or every shift and try to connect and build a relationship with the people that you spend time around.  You never know how much just one simple conversation can mean to someone.  As mentioned earlier food is a great bonding experience.  We are lucky to be in a restaurant every day where we can help create those special moments for others.  If people feel a connection with us they will be life long brand ambassadors.   

A Leadership Lesson In Lent

Today starts the unique religious tradition of Lent.  To some, lent is simply a 40 day period where they do not eat meat on Friday.  To others, it is a time where they choose to give up something as a sign of sacrifice for 40 days.  The 40 days originates from the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry.  The word lent actually comes from the word “lencten” which means spring.  I can still remember going to church as a child and writing down what bad things I did during the year on a piece of paper, taking them to a cross and burning them to signify a clean slate.  Most of us can probably think of a time in our life where we could have used a clean slate from which to start.  As a leader, I try to give everyone a clean slate from which to start.  If someone makes a mistake and we talk through it, I try to move forward without holding a grudge or holding that previous action over their head.  If someone really does want to change I give them the opportunity to do so.   

  • I am very big into journaling and goal setting.  Every month as I look forward to the new month, I write down 1 habit that I would like to stop doing to be a better version of myself.  Lent is always about giving up something or making a sacrifice.  My challenge to others is to also look at the other side of the coin.  Every month I also write down 1 habit that I would like to do more of to be a better version of myself.  I feel that this exercise really makes me self reflect every month as I realize that continual growth is foundation to becoming a better leader.  The other point that this helps solidify is the idea that you should only compare yourself to yourself yesterday.  So many times we look at others and compare ourselves to unattainable targets which leads us into despair.  The more we measure our progress against ourselves, the more momentum I believe we can build.  Challenge yourself by asking yourself the following 2 questions.  What should I stop doing and what should I do more?
  • One other thing that I have just recently started doing that I feel has really helped me focus is OTED.  One thing every day.  Everyday in my journal I write down one thing I need to do today to move myself forward “personally” and I write down one thing I need to do today to move my business forward.  Basically it is writing down the number one priority to accomplish in each of these two areas.  So many times we have a long list of things to do and we try to tackle the easy ones first to get more things crossed off the list.  The real question is if we were able to accomplish the most important task of the day to move towards our goals.  Brian Tracy is famous for saying “eat that frog.”  This leadership tip is to tackle that biggest task first no matter what.  Put the most important thing first. 
  • One final thought as we go through the Lenten season is that it is a time of reflection and a time where we should realize how lucky we are to live in such an amazing time and place.  We need to remember that we all have so much for which to be grateful.  Thank you to everyone that takes a few minutes out of their week to listen to my thoughts.   

It Starts with Heart

Last week I touched on how we need to work on building our relationships to thrive in building and sustaining a great organization.  I am so lucky and blessed to be part of such an organization in Culver’s.  It’s rare to find a billion dollar company in today’s world that still lives and believes in the values which made its very first location so successful.  This week I have been in Chicago meeting with various Culver’s owners.  The theme of the week has been, “it starts with heart.”

  • When the Culver family started their very first store in 1984, Ruth Culver treated everyone that came in as a long lost friend, as if she was welcoming that person into her own home.  She was really the driving force or the secret ingredient if you will to Culver’s reaching the heights it has reached today.  Craig Culver will repeatedly say that we are in the people business and we just happen to serve pretty darn good butter burgers and frozen custard.  When people taste our food with their heart first, it always tastes just a little bit better.  I can still remember the time during my 16 weeks of training in Wisconsin getting ready to open my very first Culver’s when it really hit me and I started to understand what makes Culver’s so special.  This is the day when I quit my job and really went to work.  Culver’s has become part of my life and living these values everyday have completely changed my life.  To really succeed in anything you do you need to have passion.  Passion is what gets you ready to plow through the wall every day.  Passion starts in the heart and passion is what makes your mind tell your body to act.
  • This week we were able to listen to a talk given by Simon T Bailey.  This was one of the most inspiring talks I have heard in quite a while.  He made a comment about hugging people with your words.  When we talk about Culver’s hospitality and the presence that we feel in the dining room with our guests, this statement sums it up perfectly.  He also talked about creating, owning and sustaining the moment.  This was a very powerful concept to learn about as he points out that the average person can have about 19,000 potential moments a day.   Think about our business and how many potential moments that we can “own” when we deal with our guests and our team members every day.  Think about how we choose to react in various situations and how those moments are altered either for good or bad based on our reaction.  Every time we interact with someone there is a potential moment. 
  • As leaders we need to lead by example and actively look for those moments every day that we can create and own.  As leaders it is up to us to not only own the moment, but then do everything we can do every day to sustain the moment.  Sustaining the moment comes back to doing all of the little things perfect every day and “chasing consistency.”  Consistency comes back to our leadership and what we do day in and day out in our locations.  We need to do the little things right ourselves if we expect others to follow suit. 
  • A few final thoughts to remember:
    • 1. Everyone that chooses Culver’s leaves happy.
    • 2. It takes two people to say no but only one person to say yes.
    • 3. Details matter and details are the difference between good and great.
    • 4. Look for ways every day to “create the wow” and own the moment.
  • Here is a link to Simon’s blog for more inspiration:

Team vs. Tribe

As Valentine’s Day was yesterday I think it may be a good time to re touch on relationships.  In the past, building relationships in the workplace were viewed as taboo.  Today, building relationships is a pathway to the top.  A recent survey was done and it found that over 70% of team members are not engaged at work, and only 4% considered themselves highly engaged.  These numbers are down right scary.  Of course the first question we need to ask is if we are highly engaged as leaders.  Chances are that if we are not highly engaged as leaders, our team members will sense that and find it hard to be highly engaged themselves.  If we take the time to build relationships with our fellow team members, I believe that we can increase engagement and overall job satisfaction.  Think about a time when you were highly engaged at work, chances are you were either new to the job or you had a great relationship with a leader in the company.   

  • People want purpose in their life.  Building relationships is a way to turn your team into a tribe.  A team exists as people come together for a common goal, while a tribe lives and breathes those beliefs to a whole new level.  Creating a tribe is a great way to give people purpose.  In a tribe everyone knows why they are here, they are passionate about each other, passionate about the brand and passionate about the guests.  It can define the entire culture of the organization and build a level of trust that far surpasses a team.  Imagine what the engagement level of a tribe would be.  It seems like the 4% would be the disengaged in such a culture.  The other great thing about a tribe is how they help each other in a time of need.  This is where the relationship piece shows itself.  Ask yourself if you are part of a team or if you are part of a tribe. 
  • “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”  This is a famous quote by John Maxwell that keeps running around in my head every time I see a manager trying to manage via title and wondering why they are not getting results.  Results are a lot easier to come by if you take time to build a relationship along the way.
  • Try to do one thing every day to build or positively impact at least one relationship.  Write down the names of a few people you would like to have a better relationship with and work on building those relationships.  Ask yourself if you are fully engaged in the task at hand before looking to blame others.  If you can learn to give 100% when it doesn’t matter it will be easy to give 100% when it does!    


Water or Gasoline?

I was listening to an interview with Rob Lowe the host of “The Giving Back Podcast” the other day and he threw a quote out there that almost made me drive off the road.  I don’t know why I found it so profound but it really inspired me to share it with others.   

  • “There is a space between stimulus and response and in that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankle
  • This quote should remind all of us the we all have the power and choice to choose how we respond in any situation.  We all need to take ownership of our choice and hopefully with practice and self reflection we can start to choose better responses.  I am always amazed when I hear stories about people like Oprah who have overcome so much hardship and turmoil to end up becoming such an amazing person.  It really shows how some people can use that response time to really grow and find their freedom.  It seems like the people that simply complain all the time about the situation they are in, will remain in that situation simply by their own choice of response.  If someone continues to blame others and make excuses, they will not grow and eventually find their freedom.  The power of response is the way that anyone can grow beyond the limitations of their own background.  The largest amount of growth usually happens when we step outside of our comfort zone. 
  • We all have the power and ability to do great things if we give ourselves the chance to respond to situations in a certain way.  This goes back to being grateful vs. hateful.  If you are grateful, you can look at almost any situation as an opportunity to improve.  When you are hateful, you start to assign blame and make excuses.  If you focus on helping others vs. helping only yourself in that response you can also find more meaningful results. 
  • At the end of the day you are the person that is ultimately responsible for yourself and your actions.  Your actions come from the space between the stimulus and the response.  In difficult situations I always remind people that we all carry around 2 buckets.  One bucket has water and one bucket contains gasoline.  We have the power in our response to choose which bucket we put on the fire. 
  • As leaders it is our responsibility to choose the right response to various situations throughout the day.  In our response, we allow others the opportunity to then be able to choose their own response to the situation that we have created.  People have an opportunity to choose a much better response if we are thoughtful and intentional about setting the right stage from the start.  If we choose a poor response it is much more difficult for others to make a choice that can overcome your initial poor response.   

The “IT” Factor

Have you ever been around someone that just has the “it” factor?  It seems like others flock towards these types of leaders.  The real question is what is the “it” factor and how can we all get better at developing our own unique “it” factor?

  • I feel that people can have the “it” factor in many different forms but at the end of the day, I believe that the “it” factor is simply making others feel great about themselves and helping others succeed.  Usually the people full of personality make others feel better about themselves when they are in their company because they are usually up beat and happy.  We have talked before about how important it is to build relationships with the people you are trying to lead.  Management turns into true leadership when a relationship is formed.  This is when people want to follow you instead of when people feel they have to follow you.  It is the soft skills of leadership that will either take you down or raise you up to the next level of leadership.
  • Here are a few adjectives that I feel describe people that have the “it” factor: leader, trust, self confident, firm, clear, safe, understanding, inspirational, encouraging, self esteem, loyal and one that inspires action.  Here a few words that I think kill the “it” factor: ego, pride, not being humble, being a know it all, judging, demeaning, always having an excuse and always having to be right. 
  • The good news is that your brain can get rewired if you are willing to feed it differently.  What you focus on is typically what will improve.  Here a few ways I feel that we can all work on developing our own unique “it” factor.
  • 1. Get to know little things about others.  Once a week ask everyone on the shift a question that is not work related to get to know more about them and start to build the relationship.  People’s favorite subject is usually themselves, their least favorite is usually you. 
  • 2. When someone shares a story, don’t try to one up them.  Truly listen and then ask them 1 follow up question to dig a little deeper, this will make someone feel that you really are listening and that you truly do care about what they are saying.
  • 3. Write down one thing that you are grateful for everyday.  After a few months, this one step can help rewire your ideas and thought process.
  • 4.  Say a sincere, specific thank you to someone every day.  If possible thank the person in front of others as well.  People tend to remember how you make them feel more than what you actually say.  I have learned this the hard way with my daughters. 
  • 5. Be consistent and communicate often.  The two worst things you can do to kill your “it” factor is to be all over the place to where people are afraid to approach you and to make others try to read your mind.  The more clear and consistent you can be, the more likely other people will reach the goals you set out which leads to a better relationship.
  • 6. No complaining rule.  Don’t complain about things around others that you are trying to lead.  I remember Zig Ziglar saying that the problem with a pity party is that too many people show up and no one brings a gift. 
  • 7. Don’t speak poorly of others.  Always try to build others up, don’t tear them down in front of others.  Other people listening will start to wonder what you say about them behind their back. 
  • The only way to really stir up someone’s soul is through a human connection and building a real relationship where you care about the other person’s success as much as or more than your own. 

It’s Not My Job

As we built our latest Culver’s restaurant there was a saying I heard too many times to count during the construction process.  “It’s not my job”.  On our next store I want to build a clause into the contract that charges our builder $100 every time I hear a worker say this statement.  The word accountability seems to have been erased from the dictionary over the past decade.  There were a few times where the people spent more time arguing about who’s job it was than it would have taken to simply do the item in question. 

  • When you are in the service business, as we are, everything is your job.  Our number one job is to serve others.  This means the customers, our coworkers and even the vendors that supply services to us.  Once you believe that statement, you will realize that you succeed even more as others around you succeed.  You will begin to realize that it may not technically be our job but it is our responsibility and quite frankly our privilege to serve others.  We need to build a culture where everyone knows that everything is everyone’s job.  It will be noticeable from our team members all the way to our guests if we all take on this level of accountability.  It is very hard to fake service.  It is easy to tell when people truly have a heart to serve others. 
  • Too many times people try to focus on becoming a person of success vs. a person of value.  Once you realize that the more value you can bring to others through serving others the more success that will naturally follow.  Serving others comes down to adding value.  When you are in any organization and you want to move up you need to add more value to those around you.  Whenever I look at promoting someone I ask the simple question: do they add value to the organization and help us move towards our mission?   
  • In closing remember that we as leaders set the standard.  If we make everything part of our job others will follow.  If our company coat of arms point at each other, others will also follow. 

$2000 Empowerment

I was listening to an interview with Horst Schulze, the CEO of the Ritz Carlton and he really inspired me to think about our organization.  One thing the company stressed whenever a new person came onboard was that the person was “selected”, not hired.  It made an every day position feel special.  He also made the point that the goal of every team member whenever they came in contact with a guest was to get that guest to return.  That is the #1 objective of everyone in the building, to make the experience so great that the guest cannot wait to return.  He mentioned that every team member is empowered to correct or fix any situation to make the guest happy up to $2,000.  Can you imagine every team member being able to say they have that kind of latitude?  That really takes our motto of it takes two people to say no but only one to say yes to another level.     

  • He mentioned that as an organization they have 24 key points / values which everyone in every hotel around the world reviews each day.  Every day they review 1 key point and set a daily goal for everyone that works to achieve that 1 value.  They do this every day of the year, once they get through all 24 they restart from the beginning.  This got me thinking about how we could use some of our SERVE core values and Rules of the Bus on a daily basis for our shift goals.  I think it would be pretty cool to continue building our culture daily by reviewing some of our key points.

Below is a sample of what the next 10 days could look like:

  • 1. Core Value #1 is to serve others and to create loyal, raving fans.  Ask the team to give you 1 example of how they went about creating a loyal, raving fan today.  Ask them if they learned a new guest’s name.
  • 2. Core Value #2 is empowerment.  We all have the power to make someone’s day a little brighter.  Challenge every team member to try to make someone’s day today.  Maybe it is a surprise and delight by offering 1 guest a free sundae.  Maybe it’s helping a fellow team member to do a difficult task. 
  • 3. Core Value #3 is renowned cleanliness.  The store may be clean but does it sparkle?  Ask each team member to make one part of the store “sparkle” and have them show you before they leave for the day.
  • 4. Core Value #4 is having a 360 degree view.  Challenge the team to look for a way to help out in another part of the store.  Have them watch during the shift for a time when a certain area gets busy and have them float over to help. 
  • 5. Core Value #5 is teamwork.  Tell every team member that before they clock out you want them to tell you of at least 1 time today when they helped out a fellow team member. 
  • 6. Create the Wow!  Print out a copy of the Wow! worksheet and have every team member focus on 1 item from that sheet today in their specific station.   
  • 7. One of our rules of the bus is to smile.  Challenge the team to try to get at least 3 other people to smile today.  Smiles are contagious and people can hear the smile in your voice.
  • 8. Another one of our rules of the bus is to choose a positive attitude.  Challenge everyone on shift to have a positive attitude and set a challenge of no one complaining for the entire day.
  • 9. Be grateful.  Encourage everyone on the team to say a specific thank you to someone today.  The more detailed your thank you is, the more impact it has on the other person.
  • 10. We should all have the opportunity to learn and grow each day.  Challenge everyone to try to learn 1 new thing today.  Maybe it is the kitchen person learning how to scoop 1 dish of custard.  This only takes a few minutes but it can make people feel more valuable. 
  • I think that if we keep our core values and ideals front and center, we can achieve and maintain a culture of greatness.  The more we can challenge each other to continually raise our standards, the better we will become as an organization.