This is the story of two business owners. It is true. It is real-time. Both stories occurred last week, and I was present in both conversations.
The first story is one of disaster. A restaurant owner I work with was sabotaged by a trusted key executive. Since the executive is missing, why and exactly how are still something of a mystery, and there are numerous legal issues still to be cleared up.
That’s not really the story, or at least not the one I am telling. The result of the sabotage was that on a Friday morning, the busiest day of the week, the business found all 8 of its locations closed. Over 100 kitchen employees, from chefs to prep cooks and dishwashers, had been dismissed. Every procedure, recipe and piece of operational documentation was gone.
To add an Olympic degree of difficulty, the owner was overseas on vacation. He couldn’t get back until late Saturday night, by which time the entire company had been dark for two days.
It is now two weeks later, and he has reopened two of the eight stores so far. The lost revenue alone would have sunk a less established company. Rebooting the operations with new staff and regaining the customers’ confidence is a mountain yet to be climbed.
How does he feel about all this? He is excited. He has seen his managers step up in all areas, from cleaning the floors to re-engineering recipes. Staff has come by just to help out. His customers have traveled across town to reopened locations that they usually don’t patronize, just to show their support.
He knows that this is a seminal moment for his company. The culture has been reshaped in a way that would have never happened if things had been “normal.” There is a level of pride and “can-do” attitude that will carry over forever. The financial hit is painful, but he sees benefits that will make it up many times over.
The other business has just come off a record year. Even more exciting, the first quarter of this year was far ahead of last year’s record. The second quarter was ahead as well, but not by much.
That owner is worried. The atmosphere among his management team doesn’t feel exactly right. They aren’t missing their operational metrics by much, but they are all missing them. Their attitude seems to say “Hey, we hit it out of the park in Q1. So what if we drop back a bit in Q2? We are still doing great.”
He knows how hard it is to regain momentum when it has dissipated. He has never believed that it is acceptable to have performance that is “Just OK.” He worries that complacency will spread like cancer in his highly competitive business.
Many employees who read this will make the mistake of thinking that the second owner is greedy, or is never happy no matter how well his people perform. Only another owner can understand the importance of feeling what is happening even when the evidence tells you differently. You need to feel what is going on in your business long before it is obvious to everyone else.
Both stories are exactly the same, only the circumstances are different.