I keep a little notebook next to my favorite TV chair. Whenever I hear something or get inspired by a movie or show I write it down. Often it’s a quote. Other times it’s a fact or two. I picked up that notebook yesterday and thumbed through it to see the collection. Sandwiched between a quote from NBC’s “Hiro” (Heroes) and “Achmed The Dead Terrorist” (Jeff Dunham) is a list of what looks like my business goals. Based on the dates I apparently had business on my mind just after the New Year kicked in (go figure).
My teenage son is an addict of the Food Network and attends culinary classes at his high school. Earlier this year the two of us tuned in each week to the train wreck reality show known as “Kitchen Nightmares” hosted by the loud and abrasive Gordon Ramsay. In each episode of the show, Chef Ramsay takes a featured restaurant struggling to make ends meet, gets real brutally honest and proceeds to bash and clash the egos of all the primary players in the business in an effort to turn things around and raise it from the pit of certain doom.
While I’m not a big fan of his antics or loud mouth ways (belittling and cussing the owner of a business where he’s a temporary guest), he is a noted “expert” and very successful in his field. These restaurants obviously agreed to the terms of the show’s “reality” as it were. His brash approach is his shtick and it garnishes ratings.
But let’s face it, when’s the last time you either asked for help or had someone you really respect – a Business Consultant, Marketing Professional or objective outsider take a look at what you’re doing and tell you what’s NOT WORKING and what YOU NEED TO CHANGE in order to continue any further? Could you be objective in listening to the advice? Can your ego handle it?
- ASSESS – what’s really going on with your business? Step away from the office and really be objective. Ask yourself: from the front to the back what is the experience? How is your story told? Are there questions that need answering that you’ve overlooked? Is your theme and offerings understood? Get out of the kitchen and get fresh! See what other’s in your industry are doing and compare it to what you’re doing and serving so you don’t get stale and out of date.
- SIMPLIFY – what do you do? In the TV series, nine times out of ten Chef Ramsay ultimately whittled down what seemed like 125 menu items to 15 outstanding ones. So, are you trying to be all things to all people with your services and products? Back in the early 90’s I worked at an exhibit design house that offered every product out there. Soon they realized the line was too wide. It wasn’t until the niche was narrowed and enhanced that sales went up. The same simplification needs to be applied to how you produce your goods today. Evaluate how much time and energy you’re spending to get it to the table. Why take ten steps when you only need three or four? Quit working so hard at it. Time is money.
- SET STANDARDS – are you proud of what you’re serving? Do you occasionally let something slide despite knowing it doesn’t measure up to your own expectations? The pride you have for your work and the experience your customers receive through your products and services is the base of your brand. Raise the bar, set it there and vow never to go below it. Put it in writing and teach your employees the recipe and hold them accountable…but, it starts with you.
- COMMUNICATE – I’ve had THAT boss. You probably have too…Mr.”Move out of the way, I’ll do it myself”. Everyone in the company was hired to perform certain tasks. You’re not a one man show…or at least you shouldn’t be. You’ve got to utilize your shop talent! Find out what motivates them, assign tasks and get out of the way. You’re burning up valuable time, energy and resources if you’re the micro managing, ego driven type that can’t LET IT GO! Does your team know what you want and why it’s important to the success of the company? Tell’em exactly what you want them to do and get out of the way.
But, Nobody Does It Like Momma
In my early years in Radio Promotions, I loved taking the norm and turning it just a click or two to change it up – adding a fresh new angle. Sure, consistency and standards are one thing, but if you’re too close minded to reach and try new flavors, not only do you miss great opportunities you’ll most certainly end up back where you were…stale and out of touch. Momma’s cookin’ is always a sure thing everytime, but even she knows how to add that something special.
It’s June. This is just as applicable now as it was at the beginning of the year when I took note of Ramsay’s pattern on the show. With the economy the way it is right now, consider a self-audit on the way you’re currently doing things. If you don’t trust yourself, enlist one of your respected peers to do it for you. Take them to a restaurant where you’ve always gotten outstanding service and take notes. I am.