Mears says the smartest part of his company's attempt to reinvent itself and curb its losses was eliminating a level of bureaucracy: district managers. "We want each restaurant manager to be the general manager of their restaurant and the most important person in the company," he says. Toward that end, the company established a lucrative performance-based bonus program for the managers of its 37 restaurants.
The transition from being closely supervised to having a lot of leeway has been tough for some of the managers, but Mears says within a few years, he expects to see it pay off in the form of higher-performing restaurants throughout the chain. "If this transformation we're putting ourselves through is going to work, the restaurant managers are the ones who are going to make it happen," he says, "and they'll get part of the [monetary] results."
12. Start a New Company Every Year
Barnett and his partner, Bill Kutz, dismantle their Beaverton, Oregon, management consulting company, Barnett & Kutz Inc., every December and start fresh in January. They don't draw up new articles of incorporation or go through other formalities wastefully, but they act as if the company has shut down and they're starting from scratch. "We question everything, down to whether we still want to be partners," Barnett says.
Their aim is to underscore the idea that change can happen and that nothing about a company is set in stone. "The real outcome is that you find you've been dragging along baggage you really don't need," Barnett says. "So you just set that stuff aside and move on."
Three years ago, the pair set their sights on the speaking circuit, believing their future lay in Barnett making the rounds of association meetings and other speaking engagements, spreading the word about their style of corporate management. By mid-1998, both partners realized the speeches weren't getting them where they wanted to be. So their resolution for 1999 is to find a new way to disseminate their ideas.
"We don't want to stick to something just because neither of us is willing to stop doing it," Barnett says. "We'll never get off the plateau and start climbing again that way."
13. Go Back to School
Continuing education, innovation training and other self-improvement programs are good not only for employees, but also for the boss, says Richard Tyler, a Houston management consultant and author of Smart Business Strategies (Power Publishing).
Continuing your education keeps you stimulated and gives you vital business information, Tyler says, but he sees it as an unacknowledged management skill as well. "When your employees start to think they know more than you do about your business, the first thing they lose is respect for you, and the second thing they lose is productivity," he says.