Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Impossible, Nightmare, Take Over, Rescue MBA

The three things I’ve learned from watching Gordon Ramsey, Robert Irvine, Jon Taffer, Tabatha Coffey and Anthony Melchiorri about business – no matter the industry. I love these shows, it is like watching a train wreck turn into something new and possible. While the personalities of the celebrities are way different and so are their backgrounds, in the end there are a few things that jump out at me with each and everyone of them, and the same formula works for the turn around.

1. It's the Food Stupid (or room or drink or hair cut or whatever business you are delivering) – So many of the owners in these shows seem lost or full of their own ballyhoo / woo is me that they miss the simple truth. People go to restaurants for good food and good service; people go to hotels for clean rooms and good service; people go to bars for a fun time and fast good drinks, and so on. This first and basic truth is the most obvious thing in almost 100% of these problem businesses.  When asked what the issues is – they answer “the market” or “the recession” or “the competition” – meanwhile there is rotting food in the refrigerator, or roaches crawling on the bar, or a bathroom reeking of urine – there is more at play – something is deeply wrong and the owners are in denial. 

What can be applied to any business is the point – are you delivering on what you say you are? Do you have client complaints? Long lines? Unhappy staff? Are you living a lie of what the business was/should be vs. what it really is? Many years ago I had a client that I met with at lunch and after a review of the business and the idea they were developing (which was all great) I asked to meet them at their offices. They got a bit weird but said OK. When I showed up I came to realize that what they shaded on paper was no were near what they were. The offices were a mess, the employees were not interested in doing anything to help them grow and they were living in a PowerPoint dream.

2. It’s the leadership, or the lack of it. What I have come to realize is that the issues in the business are stemming from the business owners ability to lead, manage, direct the business. About 90% of the time in these shows the issue is all in the head or worse yet heart of the owner. They have gotten lost somehow. A family member has died, a partner hurt them, employees were caught stealing or worse yet they are in business with their spouse and are fighting to the point their marriage is on the rocks. Across the board, the show host and turn around person is focused on first fixing the leader and what is going on in their head. All the bad in the business is just a symptom of something deeper. 

What can we apply to business from this? Many times the leadership will say one thing and exhibit something different. I always like to meet with the owner first and them spend time with the team, one on one. Many times the leader thinks that the things they are doing are not noticed – not realizing they are sending unspoken direction. This goes through an organization like ripples on a pond. If a leader is distracted, worried, off focus or not engaged the organization will follow their lead. 

3. It’s about right now, the last meal, the last haircut, etc. So many of the businesses that were once great but now are a mess keep thinking and focusing on what was. Seeing a bar that 20 years earlier was the first of its kind to now be locked in a time warp and a total mess is sad. It is so hard for the founder to realize what was means very, very little if you are not living and performing in the here and now.

What this means to business is simple. What made you great in the past will most likely not make you great in the future. You need to live by the last whatever it is you serve/ do. The last meal served, the last product shipped, the last service call made. History in someway can be a burden of expectations – meaning you need to over perform, over serve to even meet the basic level of expectations. 

I love these shows, almost to an obsession. I see so much of human nature at play, so many of the things that make use great as a person also are the same weakness that can make us fall. Each show is like a case history, like a mini-text book on what we all need to do in business. We can’t all have a Gordon, Robert, Anthony, Jon or Tabatha in our business lives – but we can ask these three questions:

  • Is what we are selling/ offering really quality, are the customers really happy?
  • Are we in the business, engaged, truly here and in the here and now, if no why not?
  • What is today like, about, seen? Have we exceeded our past history and expectations or are we swimming in a stagnant pool of past success? 

The last thing is, sometimes we all need tough love. The yelling, the rubbing in their faces, the Look – Look are you seeing this!!!! Is about waking the business owner up to the reality. When we are willing to accept change, be awake and willing then the change will start.