Having the privilege to be part of what I believe is one of the most hardworking, inspirational industries is both challenging and rewarding. You deal with the most dedicated and devoted owners where putting in 60 hours a week is normal. I’m talking about the restaurant industry.
Being CEO of a business that helps restaurant owners achieve operational and financial goals is an exciting adventure. But to achieve this feat, you need a team of very passionate individuals that can transfer their enthusiasm and commitment, along with their expertise and skills, to the client in order to produce outstanding results.
Being a service-based company, there isn’t a shiny product we can display, but instead, our “shiny product” is our knowledge, skills, confidence and capabilities: For our consulting company to be on point, our team always has to be on point.
After one year going strong as a startup, here are six lessons I learned on how to get the best from your team.
Related: Seven Ways to Boost Employee Morale
1. Work with people who are passionate about the cause, not about the money. Why say passionate about the “cause” instead of passionate about the “company?” Because we are a bunch of motivated and inspired individuals bonded by a common cause, which is to improve the restaurant industry -- one restaurant at a time. Everything else we do is meant to support that cause. The reason for our company formation is to become recognizable to the industry, the reason for a website is to create a “home” where our clients are welcome and get to know us and our expertise and the reason for participating in various social-media outlets is to provide content to validate that expertise.
But at the end of the day (and behind all the business-type activity) our true passion lies with our clients and putting our heart and soul into their restaurant. You need to define your cause, attract people who are equally dedicated to it and don’t lose sight of what you are trying to achieve.
2. Drive team alignment. Even though we believe in accomplishing the same goals, that doesn’t mean we aren’t immune from going in different directions to accomplish those milestones. Because of this, the team needs to be aligned and buy into a single direction. Five people working together and charging in the same direction will succeed more often and frequently than if we were disjointed and doing our own thing.
To accomplish this, our team needs to be in constant alignment and direction.
A parallel to team alignment with direction is team alignment with how we do things. To be consistent -- with both our internal and client facing processes -- we need to have a complete understanding and clarity on how we all will operate and get work done. Either written or verbal processes need to be adopted and followed.
3. Cut out the unnecessary “red tape.” Initially, I had this notion that we needed to act like a big company and do everything a huge corporation would do. I then realized the following:
- We are not a big company
- Neither I nor the team could create or sustain many complex procedures
- Having many overwhelming procedures is actually less efficient
If you are a small startup or just a small company, ask yourself do you have unnecessary red tape? If so, cut it.
4. Ensure the team is providing you candid but constructive feedback. We do not have a shy team when it comes to expressing opinions and concerns. (Which by the way, I love.)
If you don’t have people challenging the way things are done, if you are stifling creativity and inventiveness and if you are not allowing dissent, then you’re not going to have an engaged team. As a leader, you need to encourage diversity with thinking and approach, especially with people who have tremendous amounts of experience and a wide-ranging pallet of skills and talents. As long as the feedback is professional, has the cause in mind and will benefit our team and clients, I say, bring it on.
5. Pace your team. Set targets and goals in small quantities that are attainable and not overwhelming. Then sprinkle in more goals and targets as your team completes them. You’ll know when you set too many goals because some will start to lay dormant with no action. If you are laying out reasonable goals for your team, and they are simply not doing what they are supposed to, then you may have other issues on your hands.
6. Keep communication constant and centralized. One of the most important elements to a team is constant communication. Whether that is e-mail, phone meetings, in-person meetings or Skype, having open channels of communication is crucial to a company's success.
Another component to your strategy should be utilizing a centralized communication hub. We use Basecamp, an app that provides us various tools to stay organized. Having this structure is extremely helpful when files, events, brainstorming sessions, tasks and other items build up.