Here is some simple advice for complicated times.
Do remain customer centric. Right now, there are too many stories circulating about how so-called partners are treating one another and it is not pretty. The only thing worse than bad news is covering up the bad news. Simply put, bad news does not get better with age. It’s an industry full of adults that can handle the truth. What they can’t do is find ways to fix problems that they don’t know exist. Be honest, up front and collaborative. Don’t tell your customers what you can’t do for them. Tell them what you can do.
Don’t fear the changing industry landscape. Embrace the change and look for opportunities to use it to your advantage.
Do understand your core and look for opportunities to innovate within it. Innovation really does not like wide open spaces. Instead, it thrives in confined areas. One of the greatest examples of innovation that comes to mind is from the movie “Apollo 13.” With the astronauts running low on oxygen in the damaged spacecraft, NASA’s Gene Krantz, played skillfully by the amazing Ed Harris, dumps on to the conference table what looks like a collection of items a local Ace Hardware would sell. And from this collection of items, all of which the astronauts had access to on their ship, the engineers develop a new way to filter and safely bring home the Apollo 13 crew. That’s innovative.
Don’t try to be something you are not. The world is full of wonderful innovative ideas but not everyone is right for your business. New things are fun and intriguing. Everyone wants to be part of something new. But it’s important to remember what got you here and what pays the bills. Most importantly, you have to know the capabilities of your people and infrastructure as well as your customers’ appetite for whatever new idea you are considering. If you can’t deliver or your customers are not interested, it’s probably not the right idea for your company.
Do embrace tech and understand how tech impacts your customers and their customers. In other words, don’t chase technology. Put technology to work for you. The foodservice industry seems to be weathering a tsunami of technology-based solutions these days with each one more appealing than the previous. But implementing technology just for the sake of doing so or because it’s something you like in your personal life does not necessarily mean it’s right for your work life. Will a solution help with labor? Will it make doing business with your company easier for customers? How does this solution position the enterprise for success down the road? These are the important questions to ask when weighing any technology investments and can lead to positive outcomes.
Finally, don’t follow. Lead your business. The challenges the industry faces at the moment are many and complicated. Business leaders regularly find themselves facing unprecedented situations. While it is certainly OK to share best practices with your peers or even look for creative solutions from other industries, it’s not OK to take advantage of the situation or make decisions with only the near term in mind. Doing so will damage relationships over the long term and that is not anything anyone wants.