Start While You Are Winning

With the calendar rolling over to a new year, leaders of many companies are reviewing their budgets for 2007 and perhaps revisiting their strategic plans. Successful managers do this to ensure the necessary ingredients are in place for what they hope is the coming year’s recipe for success.

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Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief
Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief

As you start thinking about the year ahead, I would like to share some of the wisdom offered up by Phil Hickey, chairman and CEO of Rare Hospitality. Hickey shared these thoughts as part of his presentation during the third edition of Chain Leader Live. Although his comments were pointed at chain operators specifically, the points Hickey made struck me as being applicable to the entire foodservice community, hence my reason for sharing them with you.

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From a corporate perspective, Hickey encouraged foodservice professionals to do the following:

  • Pick your partners wisely.
  • Listen early. Listen often. And don’t stop listening. “We are obsessed about market research, both internally and externally,” Hickey said.
  • Dream. “Before you accomplish greatness, you have to believe you can accomplish greatness,” he said.
  • Replace fear with knowledge.
  • Practice active servant leadership. “Our lowest paid people are in charge of guest satisfaction, so they have to know you are there for them,” Hickey added.
  • Celebrate small victories. “It does not have to cost a lot of money but people love recognition,” Hickey added.
  • Build trust through honesty.
  • Keep the money informed. “Every business has a source of money and you have to keep them informed as you turn your business around,” Hickey added.
  • Cultivate magnetic restaurant qualities. “If you don’t have something the guest wants, it does not work,” Hickey added.
  • Drill the basics relentlessly. “Don’t let the winners be obscured by the under-performers,” Hickey said.
“To use a football metaphor, don’t outkick your coverage by trying to grow too quickly. All it does is leave the rest of your team in a poor position to tackle their responsibilities in support of you.”

These tidbits Hickey shared may seem basic to some people, and new to others. Regardless, I think a quick refresher course on these fundamentals is important to help keep them top of mind and our skills sharp. That is because unfortunately, once the frantic pace of the foodservice industry kicks into high gear, it’s easy to push these principles aside just to make that next meeting or answer an e-mail or phone call. The reality is, though, fundamentals such as these can serve as the intellectual cornerstone for most any business and allow it to withstand the many tests of time.

Perhaps it was Hickey’s over-arching message that might have been the most powerful. Most companies don’t realize that their businesses need to change or evolve until they are in some sort of a decline. If gaining market share is hard in today’s business climate, and most of you feel it is, then reclaiming lost business is twice as difficult and can cost even more.

That’s why it is important to, as Hickey put it, “grow sanely.” To use a football metaphor, don’t outkick your coverage by trying to grow too quickly. All it does is leave the rest of your team in a poor position to tackle their responsibilities in support of you. In addition, be sure to take regular doses of vitamin E, as in “entrepreneurship,” another Hickey-ism. It’s important to stay true to your company’s entrepreneurial roots, no matter how far the organization has come since its inception. Doing so will allow you to stay focused on those fundamentals listed above and, as a result, ensure you and your company have a happy New Year.

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