Saturday, December 22, 2012

Business Lesson 'Impossible'

I generally don't watch a lot of reality TV, (I really prefer NCIS reruns) but I do have a couple reality of shows that I record on the DVR and watch religiously, Restaurant Impossible and Bar Rescue. Both of these shows follow the same format: an expert comes to a failing business and, in a fixed amount of time, resolves all of the issues with the appropriate  TV drama. The entire 2-5 days process is then edited down into a neat and riveting 1 hour package. While I don't pretend to think that I could gain significant expertise on any industry based on a 1 hour reality show (nor should you believe that you could either), these shows do provide some interesting insights

Here's my analysis of each show

Restaurant Impossible 

Businesses Type Fixed: Single Location Restaurant
Primary Product: A meal served
Primary Financial Issue: Food cost
Common Problems: Poor financial management, poor kitchen management, poor  personnel supervision
Common Management Issue (almost every episode): Owner/Manager doesn't understand the the restaurant business

Bar Rescue

Businesses Type Fixed: Single Location Bar
Primary Product: A good time for adults
Primary Financial Issue: Liquor cost
Common Problems: Poor financial management, poor bar management, poor  personnel supervision
Common Management Issue (almost every episode): General Manager (may be the owner) doesn't understand the bar business.

Other Observations:

While a bar and a restaurant may seem similar and may provide the same products (food and liquor), what the customer is buying is very different. In one case it's a meal served to you at your table, in the other case its a social environment and atmosphere. In the case of a restaurant the food is a critical component, at a bar  the atmosphere is critical.

On both shows usually the employees know what the problems are, but the managers won't listen to them.

Some Lessons Learned

1. Understand the business you are in. In just about every case, the person running the business never ran a business of the sort they are trying to run. They are completely lost as to the basics, not because they are incompetent, but because they have no idea what to do. Just because you are a customer of a business doesn't mean you can run it.

2. Solicit feedback from, and listen to your employees. Your employees usually know a lot about whats wrong with a business.

3. Understand the key drivers of your business. What is your customer really buying ? What are your cost and price drivers? What should your staff be doing ?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stupid Interview tricks

I've been doing a lot if interviews lately, and I have had the opportunity to see a lot of mistakes. Here are some of them.

  • Putting stuff on your resume you can't support. Be prepared to give examples/descriptions/details of EVERYTHING you wrote on your resume. Its likely that we chose to interview because of some of those things, If you didn't do them, your probably out.
  • Not being able to answer the 'strengths and weaknesses' questions. Yes it is a trite question, but we are going to ask it, so have an answer. If you can't answer that question, all it shows is that you are not prepared.
  • Its not about you. We want to know what you did to help your former company and co-workers, not what you did to help yourself.
  • Don't come in without doing some research on the company, the more the better, it shows you care. 
  • Don't badmouth former employers. We don't like to work with bitter people.
  • Don't say stuff like my passion is [something not related to the position you are interviewing for]. We want people passionate about the job we are interviewing for.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I Hate Best Practices

Definition of Best: That which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable. (Google)

I don't hate the concept, just the term. Best implies that there is none better, and that therefore it should always be used.

So this means that we should all use this practice. (It would be stupid not to if is the best). Of course this would mean we would all be doing the same thing there would be no competitive advantage.

Besides is there really such thing as a singular best way to do anything ?  If there was, than we would never have to improve upon it. I do believe that leaches were a 'best practice' of medicine in the middle ages.

Ok, so all you Best Practice people are going to tell me "No that's not what we mean, we mean that these are good ideas to look at, to see if you can apply some or all of them to your situation."  So  you are saying  they are not the best. But I guess that good-ideas-to-look-at-to-see-if-you-can-apply-some-or-all-of-them-to-your-situation  practices is too long to put on a business card. They were best somewhere for some period of time so we will just call them Best Practices even if its inaccurate. Besides it will sell more consulting hours anyway.

Who needs clarity in communication.

Thank you Ted Neward (@tedneward) for helping me solidify this train of thought.