Advertising, or marketing? What’s the difference? I believe traditional advertising is changing faster for the independent, small and medium sized businesses. If you happen to have millions of dollars to throw around, then big ads might make sense and be the way to go. For us smaller guys/or gals, marketing our business alongside and partnering with other local, community organizations, groups or families is much healthier for everyone involved.
This fact actually became more obvious for me after reading “A Brief History of Everything” by Ken Wilber. In his book, Ken introduced me to a model he called AQAL. An integrated, holistic model for life and business which stands for All Quadrants – All Levels and has served as map for how we could integrate the health of our community with the health of our business. Instead of throwing money into traditional advertising methods like newspaper ads and door hangers that litter the neighborhood, we market with the community. Here is a summary of how we do it…Not only is this information avaliable to our competitors, we wish more would practice this form of marketing because it ultimately stregnthens the community as a whole. It’s not just about us, it’s about the big picture.
As always, we would love to hear your comments.
What about culture?
What does the amazing stuff that goes on inside companies such as Apple, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Zappo’s have to do with your average dry cleaner, plumbing supply house, local restaurant or corner grocery store? You don’t need to be a big sexy company in a sexy industry to have a sexy culture. We can reap all the benefits of a world class work culture, including more enthusiastic teams, lower attrition, more innovation, better customer service and ultimately better financial performance - simply by disciplining ourselves and our organizations to make culture top of mind in every decision we make and every action we take!
Last week I had the opportunity to open the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, sharing what I believe to be some essential steps and tools to creating this type of culture, in any industry or company. That’s our story, so what about these world-famous companies? While in Las Vegas, I took advantage of the tour Zappos gives of its company and culture. It was a great site to see how Tony Hsieh created a dynamic culture in Zappos. I loved seeing how they took the office environment of a call center and broke all the rules. It truly looked like each person was happy and enjoying being there. I loved that you really couldn’t tell who the boss was, if there even was a “boss.” I learned that the person sitting in the front cubicle of a section of cubicles was the team “lead,” not a “manager.” There were all kinds of unusual things going on throughout the whole facility. What I walked away with was even more evidence that if you provide a place for people to be happy and enjoy their work, they will be more productive. A couple of years ago I read Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivery Happiness” and I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for ideas and examples of this happy place to work.
Now I really know it doesn’t matter what business you are in or what your widget is. Ultimately, we are in the people business and making the culture of our organization (from the root word organism) a conscious choice is our opportunity.
Here we are about 30 days after our all-team meeting and I sit with a question of how to keep the team on track and energized. We all agreed on our vision and lined up our energy and set out to accomplish some big, hairy goals.
There probably isn’t a perfect answer to this and I am sure that in many companies with different environments, it might depend on many moving pieces. We for sure have our own challenges within the restaurant business; having so many part time people doing many other careers and being students. We are finding that our discipline with our fiscal huddles is the perfect opportunity to keep the team aligned and on track, or maybe even change tracks if need be.
Put the profit and loss statement on a big board for the team to see all week long. Include the most relevant line items that make up you gross margins. Make sure the critical number is on top and in bold. Have team members own a line item for the period (or month). With each line ownership comes the responsibility to forecast that number, report the number and deliver results on the number.
Keep 25% of the board open for action steps that can be kept public and keep the big goals present on this board and relate the progress back to the goals. Celebrate the behaviors that support great progress, high five the team and get out of the way! Trust the team and the process, keep the discipline and track the results.
We have not perfected this process yet and I bet others have some other ways to stay on track with vision; let me know what works for you!
For years I have been working towards a flat company, which in many ways we have made great strides. Then in November, Scott, our operating partner in Crystal Lake moved on to work for the Northern Illinois Food Bank and we decided not to replace him with another operating partner and instead support the team to run the restaurant. This was my big chance to really get flat.
I could probably write a whole book on how this works. Oh wait, I did! A Slice of the Pie will be coming out in September preorder your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Slice-Pie-Build-Little-Business/dp/1591844584/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331140754&sr=8-1
For now I will just share one essential process.
How does the team work through conflict and problem solve systems and processes? A Safe Space meeting to herd up the Moose and get ‘em out!
We have a communication tool we call Safe Space (copyright Rudy Miick) that we teach day one in orientation and use every day that has 8 bullet points. One of those bullet points is “moose in the room”. Imagine there is a server in our restaurant who has stepped up to the huge responsibility of writing schedules, and as you might guess the transition and new learning for this server isn’t perfect. Well that is the scenario that happened here (and could happen in any company), and a few of the servers found themselves talking about the misses they were experiencing, which was now becoming a “moose in the room” (definition of moose in the room is similar to what many call elephant in the room. It is that big stinky issue that everyone smells and knows its there, but no one wants to address it) for the service team. In our culture the next step in creating “Safe Space” is to squash that moose! So the team called a meeting for anyone who wanted to attend, and as the memo said “bring your moose”. No managers, no bosses, I only showed up to take pictures. The woman in the white top sitting down on the left is Alex, the schedule writer, and she also facilitated the meeting with great success.
The servers felt heard, they brought out their moose, big and small, and it was done with dignity and respect, through all of our values…and in less than an hour. Perhaps some people felt uncomfortable to start, and that is ok, because the result is a culture of “Safe Space” .
To me this is what I call success in building a business of business people. The team has the tools the need to run the company and be their own bosses, holding each other accountable, because they care, and expect to be the best. It is not perfect, and this is a another great example of why we don’t need managers if we are brave enough to build a flat company and trust the team to be high performers.
My team and I are so happy to have McHenry County Living capture the essence of our Business on Purpose and our values system. It was a pleasure working with everyone there and we are thrilled with the outcome of the article and how well they captured the spirit our Nick’s Pizza & Pub.
Small Giants is a great group of forward-thinking small business leaders who are succeeding in business in more than just financial ways, including being involved in their communities and building a positive culture among their team members. They call it “business mojo.” At Nick’s Pizza & Pub, we call it purpose and values—and I’m honored to be taking part in an upcoming Small Giants Leadership Chat to discuss exactly what that means for my business. The hour-long webinar chat starts at 2 p.m. CST on February 23, 2012.
If you’re interested in participating in the chat, which is limited to just 15 members, you can register here. If you’d like to join the Small Giants community, you can do so here.
I’ll be reporting back here on the blog after the event on the leadership conversations there were generated. I’ve had a one-on-one chat with Small Giants founder and author Bo Burlingham before, so I’m interested to see where a conversation among a larger number of people takes us!
The Community Stepped up to the Plate: On Purpose -
I’m honored that the Inc. Well blog from NBC Chicago invited me to write a follow-up post about how our community has helped us overcome our recent financial challenges. Read the full blog post here.
Enabling Small Business: On Purpose -
I’ve been noticing there are more big organizations recognizing small businesses who are making better choices. It’s about giving back to the community. I love this trend. Intuit is one of those companies, and we are so honored to have been selected as a recipient of the Love A Local Business $25k grant. It gives guys like me more inspiration to keep doing what we’re doing at Nick’s Pizza & Pub. Now that we’ve turned a corner financially, I can continue to not worry so much about the bills, but more on hiring the right people and growing our company. Intuit’s generosity allows us to focus on hiring and training the right way. For more details on the grant, read Intuit’s blog entry here.
It was now or never to bring the bank our plan. Jim Nixon, financial expert and friend of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Elgin, approached the bank on our behalf and presented the case for refinancing. I was anxious at first, but found a calming comfort in Jim’s kindness and his dedication to preserving Nick’s place in the community. If you have never been to one of these types of meetings you are not missing anything. Let me tell you, they are not fun. No one was happy to be there and none of us wanted to be having the conversation we were having. Yet, I felt that the bank was not against me personally or my company, it was all just business. I felt like we were in the room to create a win-win situation that would benefit everyone . Jim’s experience and expertise supported this and his presence made it visceral.
After a few meetings, we came to an agreement with our bank—who I’m now proud to call my COMMUNITY bank—to defer our principle payments until the end of 2012 and make only interest payments for this extended time. The bank in turn has also asked the SBA to defer our payments for the same period. It’s what we needed to allow us to rebuild sales again while construction of the new retail developments is completed across the street from our Elgin restaurant.
Guests have been comparing our story, our journey over these past three months, to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Cheesy as it may sound, it doesn’t matter. I’m forever grateful to the community for believing in Nick’s and to Jim, my Clarence, for his compassion to show us the way.
In business, and especially as an owner, you will hear everyone’s opinion on how you should solve every problem, which is not always a bad thing. The challenge is to filter through all of the options, choose the most effective, and ultimately find the one that fits who you are. For us, we are an integral part of our community. And more often than not, the answers are in the community, right there in front of our big moose nose.
Approaching the bank was another business lesson in itself. On one hand, I thought I was pretty fortunate to have some pretty high-level fiscal experts from all over the country that could help me with the mortgage situation at Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Elgin. The problem, as it turned out to be, is that these experts were basing Nick’s situation on what the big banks do in the big cities. Our situation was unique and needed to be dealt with that way, and at first I worried that the community bank would not act in that manner. The funny thing is that as hard as you try to be proactive and stay current with payments, banks won’t really take you seriously until you start missing payments…
Enter the man on the white horse, or perhaps he was my version of Clarence; My angel: Jim Nixon. Jim was the right guy at the right time with the right strategy. With all the great support I mentioned from the email note that I had sent out, some 400 emails also came in from businesspeople with all kinds of messages for me. Within that group were a handful of people who had some real expertise and were willing and interested in helping me and my company. Jim was one of them. He had a very extensive financial background with years of experience and was a local fan of Nick’s. He was a family man who had raised his kids on Nick’s pizza and a frequent guest–a great values match for us.
He reached out and offered to take a look at our books and even join the negotiations with our bank, free of charge. I felt overwhelmed by his kindness and generosity. He wasted no time and dove deep into our numbers. Although Jim is a kind man, when it came to the numbers and our performance, he was tenacious. He asked all the tough questions to be sure that we had made every tough choice we could make. Nothing frivolous was to be left uncut. Then we worked as a team to be realistic about our projected sales, none of my pie in the sky optimism was to be accepted.
Armed with this knowledge, we prepared to approach the bank.