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Determine who comes first

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There’s no doubt that there are aspects of the marine industry and the individual companies that make it up that are unique compared to other industries and businesses.

But exactly how different the factors that drive success in a given marine business vary from a similarly sized business in another industry … well, that’s debatable. Are they 60 percent the same? 90 percent the same?

Today, I’m leaning more toward 90 percent. In a book I’m reading called, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” the author – one of the most respected entrepreneurs of the restaurant industry – writes about his formula for success, which involves providing “enlightened hospitality” to his customers.

One of his core strategies is putting employees first, a concept that can apply to just about any organization. Easy to say, harder to do. Especially in an industry like the restaurant business with all the turnover it experiences. But that’s precisely why he does it.

“There are five primary stakeholders to whom we express our most caring hospitality and in whom we take the greatest interest,” writes Danny Meyer. “Prioritizing those people in the following order is the guiding principle for practically every decision we make, and it has made the single greatest contribution to the ongoing success of our company.”

  1. Our employees
  2. Our guests
  3. Our community
  4. Our suppliers
  5. Our investors

When he says “ongoing success,” what he really means is sustainable profits, which he argues is near impossible to achieve without a team of dedicated employees providing the best possible service to your customers.

If you put investors first – and let’s be clear: when he writes “investors” he’s talking primarily about delivering a return on investment for himself, his friends and family – “there will inevitably be a revolving door of staff members who, finding themselves in a business culture that does not place their own or the customers’ interests ahead of the other key stakeholders, will quickly cease to feel particularly proud, motivated or enthusiastic about coming to work,” he writes.

But what does it mean

It’s easy to get behind an idea like putting employees first. But what truly interests me is how it’s practiced in the business.

So many companies will tell you about their “values” or “mission” or “culture,” but even when management has the best of intentions, it rarely seems to be reflected in the day-to-day experience of the employee or the customer.

Here’s a few ways that Danny practices what he preaches in his restaurants:

  • Staff roundtable discussions where employees provide feedback on how they feel the business is performing;
  • Monthly dining voucher program through which staff can dine at the restaurant in exchange for completing a detailed questionnaire about their experience;
  • Walk the Talk” survey where employees rate the company’s leadership and management.

The best dealers in the industry have found similar ways to improve and grow their business.

  • Marine Industry Certified Dealerships adopt an Employee Satisfaction Process that includes conducting an annual survey, sharing the results with their team and using their insight to improve the way they do business.
  • Other dealers ask employees to rate their managers as part of the company’s performance review process.
  • And still others use more informal strategies, like employee suggestion boxes (They’re not just for customers!) and asking for feedback during company and one-on-one meetings.
  • We want to know: Do you believe in putting employees first? Why or why not? And if so, how do you do it? Respond to this blog or email me at liz@mraa.com.

As I learn more about other industries, I’m beginning to suspect that regardless of the size or target customer of a business – or even the product, the foundation on which success is built is much the same.

As Danny writes, “You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Tags:  employees  experience  hospitality  satisfaction  sustainable profits 

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