Trust The Process

  • Trust the process is a saying that John Lee Dumas of EOFire uses almost every day when people ask questions about how to best use his Freedom or Mastery journal.  “The process” is also a catchphrase coined by Nick Saban, the coach of Alabama, as he was building his fantastic football program.
  • I wanted to call out the above people because as an outsider looking in all you see is someone who is at the top of their profession and as an outsider, all you can say is wow and how.  How can people, teams or companies consistently execute at such a high level?  The process is a set of systems that when followed get results.  The process never focuses on the result, instead, it focuses on the daily activities needed to follow to achieve the result.
  • As I have mentioned in previous posts, the difference between good and great is in the details.  The details are in the process or the systems that we have in our company that when followed lead to great results.  These details are fostered in the culture that you build within your organization.  Whenever I have a situation arise in one of my restaurants, the first question I ask myself is if we had a system in place that should have prevented it in the first place.  Most of the time the answer is yes, we had a system, it just wasn’t trained or executed correctly.
  • A few weeks ago I attended a one-day training seminar that featured multiple six-figure speakers and thought leaders in business and leadership.  By the end of the day, all I could do is shake my head in frustration.  Frustration because most of the advice and topics covered are already built into our company’s systems.  The real problem is that we do not follow our systems and trust the process every day.  As our organization grows and we open more stores it is imperative that all our leaders know our processes and understand why they are so important.  We need to define better what the process is, why it is important and how following the process can improve engagement and overall enjoyment.
  • Let’s take a look at just a couple of processes that we have in our business.  When we hire a new team member, we should take a picture of them on the IPAD and post in our company google account.  This way when any manager or owner sees this team member for the first time, we can call them by name and introduce ourselves.  What a great way to set a tone of we know who you are right from day one.  Another process we have is a security measure to combat quick-change artists.  Almost every one of our stores in Phoenix gets at least one quick-change artist per year.  Our process is that only a manager can take a large bill and give change.  The second stage which is the most important is that we only allow one money exchange.  If they start to ask for alternate choices our process is to close the cash drawer and end the transaction immediately.  We have so many of these little processes in our company that we may not even realize why we do things a certain way.  The process is why so many chain restaurants have such loyal fans; every store can execute consistently.
  • On a personal note, I also have a daily process and routine that I try to follow.  If I stray from that routine, I am not as productive and start to feel overwhelmed by the seemly insurmountable tasks ahead.  If I follow my process and use my journal, I can have an intentional plan of attack that gives me small wins every day.  Trust The Process! 

No Such Thing As A Bad Location

When we look at busy restaurants, we immediately say to ourselves that they picked a great location.  There most certainly are great sites out there, but I have seen great restaurants succeed in even a poor location.  If you have a great location, your chances of success are higher but your chances to put out a mediocre experience also increases.  A good location can make a mediocre operation look good just as a poor location can make a mediocre operation look bad.  The amazing thing to see is when a great operation can take a poor location and turn it into a huge success.  Last week we discussed how productivity was one leading indicator of a restaurants success.  Today I want to look at a few more factors.

  • One thing that can help make this reality is to have a passion brand.  Restaurants that offer exceptional food and service create loyal, raving fans.  These fans will go to the ends of the earth to tell everyone they can about your business.  In poor locations this type of engagement can lead to incredible success.  At the same time, if you do not go above and beyond to create and appreciate these loyal, raving fans they will stop going out of their way to support your company.  We see this a lot when a new store opens to enormous success, and then they never reach that level of achievement in the future.  I believe that if you are running a tip top operation and building your fan base that by the third year your sales should be able to exceed your first year’s sales.  Ask each manager to fill out a paper with 20 guest names and details, see how many struggle and see how many list 30.
  • Another key ingredient in building your fan base is to be entrenched in the local community.  Spend as much time as you can building long term ROI with as many people in the area as you can.  Take the opportunity to donate whenever possible.  My current goal as an owner is to spend at least 5 hours per month marketing my company in the community.  This can be as simple as wearing your company polo and always having some coupons to hand out to people that you meet.  You would be amazed how times per day I am stopped by someone when they see my Culver’s shirt to talk to me about our store.  Talk about a passion brand!  This should even be a standard practice among your management team. Every manager should spend at least one hour per week working in the dining room.  This is the best way to start to create those long term relationships needed to succeed.
  • Present and engaged.  These are the two words describe a successful restaurant.  You have to have a present and engaged owner and management team to be successful.  The people that spend the most time at the business need to be the face of the company.  They are the ones that will set the standards, when the owner & managers are present and engaged the details matter.  The details are what separate the good from the great.  It was a quote by Jon Taffer, the host of bar rescue that summed it up in one sentence.  “There are no such things as poor locations; there are merely bad owners, operators & managers.”  One comment that I tell every new restaurant team is that we should be able to look back at the end of the year and say that we did everything we possibly could to retain every guest that visited our restaurant.

Optimal Productivity

I wanted to take a moment to touch on an operational theory about productivity.  At Culver’s we measure productivity in terms of how many guest experiences (transactions) we have compared to how many team member hours we have scheduled.  Productivity is an interesting metric that can tell an even deeper story than your actual labor cost.  The term comes the base word productive which means being able to produce.  One of the synonyms of productive is fruitful.

  • One of the most dangerous threats to a company is low productivity.  Low productivity hurts team morale, guest service, and overall profitability.  People often say that a slow restaurant is harder to manage because they have limited resources.  From my personal experience I can say that the real secret to this statement is optimal productivity.  I have seen slow restaurants that are not productive that become a nightmare.  I have seen slow restaurants that are highly productive become a success.  I have also seen busy restaurants with low productivity have more operational issues than slower units.  I think that the busy restaurant may have a greater chance to fall victim to this than a slower unit because it can fly under the radar.  A busier restaurant can over schedule and it doesn’t stand out at quickly as a slower unit.  Below are a few main causes of low productivity.
  • To Many Team Members In The Building.  If you have too many team members and managers in the building people have a tendency to not feel responsible for getting the job done.  Most people believe that it is not their responsibility to get something done. someone else will take care of it.  Having too many team members in the building makes everyone feel that they are not required to work to their fullest potential.  Then when the time comes and they need to work a little harder they either cannot handle it or feel resentful.
  • Poor Training.  This follows the line of having too many team members in the building.  If there are too many workers the training is often sub par.  If you normally have only 3 or 4 people for 4 stations everyone knows that they need to train the new person really well.  If you have 5 or 6 people for 4 stations the tendency is to put less effort and emphasis on training.  The level of urgency is lacking during the entire training process.  When the level of urgency is missing during training, this can spill over to how the team member views the job.
  • Not Holding High Standards.  If there is inadequate training, this often leads to not being able to achieve high standards.  Once our standards are lowered we again lose the sense of urgency need to perform when it gets busy.  Short cuts are the crutch used by improperly trained team members when they cannot keep up.  When there are too many team members it is also for a lot of finger pointing when the standards are not met.  The most common answer is that they were not trained correctly.
  • Poor Communication.  Poor communication by both team members and managers leads to reduced productivity.  You need to be intentional and over communicate so everyone is on the same page.  As mentioned before if there is a void of communication it will be filled with gossip.  Gossip is an absolute productivity killer.  Spending a couple of hours communicating the right things to the right people can multiply 10X when it comes to those people being more productive.
  • Working Down.  As an owner of multiple restaurants the number one things that frustrates me the most is when I see our managers / leaders working down.  There are times during the day when you need to pitch in and help out but so many times our managers end up working down way more than necessary.  Working down is a direct result of low productivity.  You end up doing tasks for others that they should be able to handle.  The result of working down is usually working more hours.  The answer to improve productivity is never to simply work more hours.  The answer is to be intentional and get more of your team to work up.
  • Busy Is Bad.  All of the above causes of poor productivity can lead to the mindset of busy is bad.  Once your team develops this mindset the shift is lost before it even begins.  Your team will start to manage the store down to a lower level of sales thinking that they will not have to work as hard.  The reality is that as the sales fall you need to work even harder than before.  Do whatever you need to do to foster the right mindset that it is great to be busy.  I hope we are super busy tonight.  Are you ready for a busy day? 
  • How To Improve Productivity:
  • 1. Have the right mindset and get everyone excited to be busy.  As you think so shall you be.
  • 2. Schedule the minimum amount of people needed for the shift.  The way to know if you have the right amount is if you feel a slight pinch point at your peak times but feel steady during the slow times.  If you have been overstaffed for a while this transition may be rough at first.
  • 3. Get the most out of your training hours.  It is important to let people fail a little bit during their training.  They need to realize how much work is required out of them when on a station.  Make sure that the trainer acts like a coach, not a fellow player.
  • 4. Communication.  Use your shift goals, jump starts, one on ones, training tools, certification sheets, check lists and any other means needed to communicate the plan to everyone.  Make sure that the plan and expectations are clear.
  • 5.  If you see it say.  As we have talked about in other posts, praise and coach at all times.
  • All of these tips will lead to your team working up more than they are working down.  Working up is the ultimate form of optimal productivity.  The closer the level of productivity in the store is to optimal the more fruitful and less stressed we will be. 

A Culture of Learning

I am always amazed how annoying it is to sit in a wobbly chair.  The cause of a wobbly chair is often that one leg is slightly shorter than the rest.  Following up on last week’s post, we have a few options with how we want to deal with the chair.  The easiest choice is to do nothing, let the chair be wobbly.  When others sit in the chair, you can make an excuse for why the chair is wobbly.  You can say that it is a good chair or you can say that you have had the chair for a long time.  The next easiest choice is to cut the other three legs off to make all of the legs even.  This choice is typically what happens in our education system in America; we teach down so that the one student doesn’t feel left out.  In doing so, we end up bringing everyone else down in the process.  The people that make the tough choice and make things happen realize that they need to do everything they can to build the short leg up so that it reaches its full potential and the chair becomes stable.

  • As leaders and managers, it is our job to make sure that we create a culture of learning and accountability.  This is how you can help reduce the number of wobbly team members you have on your team.  Sometimes people are merely in the wrong chair, and by placing them in a different position, they no longer wobble.  There is the occasional time when you simply have the wrong chair on the team, and you need to get rid of it as fast as you can so that other good chairs don’t start to wobble in the process.  Keeping the wrong team member around isn’t fair to anyone.  The great team members will start to underperform and may even start to look for a new team.  The wobbly team member that you do not coach along the way will go to their next team and have no clue why they do not fit in.  By creating a culture of learning, it lets everyone know that it is ok to make mistakes and ask questions.  Creating a culture of learning leads to constant feedback.  Regular feedback creates accountability.  Accountability leads to consistency.  Consistency is what transforms good teams into great teams.
  • Five steps to help foster a culture of learning:
  • 1. The first phase of the process as mentioned many times on my blog is to build relationships.  Once you have a stable relationship and people know and feel that you care about them they will buy into the process.  If you want this method to work even when you are not in the building, you have to have the level of trust that is built through relationships.
  • 2.  Set daily shift goals.  Make sure that everyone on the team knows what they should be doing.  Clear, constant communication is paramount.  Gossip is what usually fills the void when there is a lack of communication.
  • 3.  Provide regular feedback.  Both positive and constructive.  Try to give the positive feedback in public and the helpful comments in private.  If you see it, say it!  If you see something, either good or bad, make sure to speak up.  What you quietly allow becomes what becomes the rule of your command.  Remember the 5 to 1 rule when it comes to feedback.  For every one time, you need to coach someone you should try to give them five compliments before coaching them again.
  • 4.  Learn and teach one thing every day.  This goes to having the right mindset as a leader.  As a leader, you should always have a goal to learn one new thing and teach at least one person one new thing every day.  This helps you develop the mindset of learning vs. a simply a mindset of accountability.  The simple phrase “let me show you how ____” goes a long way to help build the relationship and thus create the culture of learning that we are trying to achieve.
  • 5.  Never lose sight of the big picture.  Always remind everyone on the team of the “why” and the ultimate goal or vision of the team.  People don’t get burnt out from doing something; they get burnt out when they forget why they are doing it in the first place.
  • The most important part of these five steps is that every leader on the team must do their part in following all five steps.  It takes the entire management team working as one to create this type of culture. 

Leader vs. Manager

This debate may not be as age old as whether the chicken or the egg came first but in our current environment this is a well debated topic.  What is more important, to have a leader or a manager?  Even I have made a point over the past year of referring to our management teams as leadership teams.  In most of my blog posts I have always tried to use the term leader vs. manager.  We have even renamed our General Manager title in our restaurants to Director of Happiness.  It has struck me over the past few months that both sides of the argument are equally important. 

  • A leader’s main focus is on the people whereas a manager’s main focus is on the results.  In a recent Forbes article that surveyed 60,000 workers the findings were amazing.  The article stated that people that focused primary on the people were only viewed as great by their workers 12% of the time.  People that focused primarily on results were viewed as great only 14% of the time.  People that focus solely on results tend to lose the enthusiasm of their team.  People that focus solely on the people have happy, excited team members that may not be going in the right direction or paying attention to the details.   
  • The real answer to the debate is “Leadership”.  You can call yourself a manager or you can call yourself a leader, but to be truly successful you need to be able to focus on both people and results.  The study found that less than 1% of leaders / managers studied were able to focus on both people and results.  Those 1% were viewed as great by the workers 72% of the time.  To me this is one of the keys to successful employee engagement which we touched on a few weeks back and how it is at an all time low.  By focusing on both the people and the results, you are able to motivate and engage the team but still keep everyone on the correct path and paying attention to the details.  Leadership is a choice, management is a position. 
  • As we strive to always create loyal, raving fans as well as loyal, raving team members we need to remember what makes a great experience.  It takes a great, people-focused interaction to create the relationship and it takes a detail orientated, consistent interaction to keep the relationship positive.  We all need to be great leaders and great managers every day to keep moving ourselves and our business forward.  One good thing is that we can teach most good leaders to become good managers by having great operating systems in place.  Are you a leader, a manager or a combination of both?   

10 Action Steps To Add One Extra Degree

How can we make add that one extra degree in our business? 

  • 1. Think serve, not lead.  Ask yourself, how you can help and serve others?  
    • Our goal is loyal raving fans.  Not only customers but employees as well. 
  • 2. Companies don’t succeed, people do.
    • The focus is always on retaining customers but we also need to work on retaining team members.  
    • You can’t teach a smile or teach a personality but you can hire those items.
    • As Jim Collins always talks about, we need to get the right people on the bus, then get right people in the right seat and if needed ask the wrong people to leave our bus.   
    • People go where they are invited but stay where they are appreciated.
    • 5/1 rule.  For every one time you need to coach someone you should praise that person 5 times.
  • 3. Simplify the vision for success.
    • Jump start sheet.  What are the goals for each shift?
    • The “why” can personalize the task.  Give people the “why.” 
    • Give a line of sight from vision to success.
  • 4. When you are part of a team you are stronger than being alone.
    • Be excited about being busy
    • Have a can do attitude, attitudes are contagious.
  • 5. Communication, communication, communication.
    • Share what’s happening, share what’s coming up & share how we are doing. 
    • Set specific goals & coach / praise both positives and opportunities.
  • 6. Set the stage for innovation
    • Encourage new ideas.  Ask what others think.  
    • Ask team members what one thing could we do to make this a better place to work?
  • 7. Commit to excellence
    • Focus on the details and pay attention to the little things.
    • Chase consistency.
    • Praise specifically, out loud, what was done right.
  • 8. Take full responsibility for what we do
    • Don’t use the word “they” when complaining.
    • Our company coat of arms shouldn’t point at each other.
    • A great leader takes more than their share of the blame and less than their share of the success.  
  • 9. Measure results
    • What gets measured gets results.   
    • Feedback is absolutely critical for our success. 
  • 10. Example is the most important.
    • Everyone is a leader, someone is always watching what you do or what you allow others to do.
    • We teach others how to treat ourselves. 
    • We want to help people think better about themselves.

The Power of 2 Minutes

  • I wanted to post a quick idea surrounding the power of the 2 minute rule.  As people look to become more efficient and productive this is one tip that I like to suggest.  Create and follow your own set of two minute rules.  Below are a few 2 minute rules I believe can help you get more accomplished in your day.
  • 1. If a task takes less than 2 minutes, get it done.  Don’t put it on a list or try to delegate the item.  If it was someone else’s responsibility but it needs to get done, get it done then coach the other person as to why you had to take control.  Again you can remind them that it didn’t even take you two minutes to get it done.  This is one big difference between “try” and “do”.
  • 2. Meetings.  30 Two minute meetings will usually see better results than One 60 minute meeting.  Think about how many times you can direct and guide your team in under 2 minutes.  The other great part about this is that it feels informal and less like a critique.   
  • 3.  If you see it, coach it.  This is along the same lines but this also puts you on the clock to say something within 2 minutes of the incorrect behavior.  It has more impact if you can coach an item as it is being done incorrectly vs. talking to someone the next day.
  • 4. Negative thoughts.  If something goes wrong try to follow the two minute rule and after two minutes let it go and don’t let it bother you anymore.  There is no upside at all to remaining angry about something for days and days.  Remember every minute you spend mad is a minute lost in your life.
  • 5. Ask for a solution.  If a person comes to you with a problem and you are not sure if you have the time or the desire to deal with it ask them for a possible solution.  This also works well in a conflict situation.  Ask the person what they would like to see for the outcome.  If you like the idea it then turns into automatic delegation, if you don’t like the idea you can always say let me think about that and then follow up with an alternative solution.  
  • 6. Keep of a list of problems.  For one week keep a journal of every problem that someone brought to your attention.  It will take you only a few seconds to write each one down.  Decide if each problem really needs to be brought to you or could you redirect the person to someone else to help get a solution in the future. 
  • My goal is that you could have read this in under 2 minutes but I may have went a little over.  I hope these tips help you get more accomplished in the course of your day.