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Rob Bowman

Chick-fil-a

04/02/12

REMARKable Guest Experiences: The Secret Ingredient

I don’t know about you, but I love a great deal. I love walking away from a purchase with the feeling I got more than I paid for. My family recently visited the Rock Ranch.  It is an active ranch opened by Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-a, which also creates REMARKable experiences for families. Equipped with a kid-sized western town petting zoo, shooting cannons, and corn mazes, it is really a fun experience. Each time we go  to the Rock Ranch it has something new, an event, a ride, or animal to pet. This adds value to the experience for me, but something else makes it a great deal and truly remarkable. There is a special ingredient that exists in the Rock Ranch experience. This same ingredient is available and can be utilized in every business in America.

So what is the secret ingredient? People
A great product will get people in the door initially, but people keep them coming back. Therefore, as leaders, our people decisions are the most important and most difficult decisions we make.    The following are a few lessons I have learned over the last 13 years as the owner of a Chick-fil-A restaurant related to engaging great talent. To be honest, some of the following I have learned the hard way.

Lesson 1: Examine your reality.
  Begin by asking the following questions:

  • What soft skills and hard skills does my team need to possess to accomplish our purpose and future vision? 
     
  • How do individual members of my current team align in skill sets required? Sometimes the reality is that not every member of the team will be a part of that vision for varying circumstances. In these situations, a leader must have the courage to release current team members that will not be a part of the future vision either because they do not have the capacity or are proactively hindering where the business needs to grow.


Lesson 2: Engage the best talent
  Once you have identified what is needed, start the recruiting and selection process.

    1) First, enlist talent ambassadors to assist with recruiting:

  • Inside the business. Eagles typically soar with eagles. Begin by asking your best team members if they have friends that are looking for a great place to work and grow.
     
  • In the community. Build partnerships in the community where great talent pools exist. College Deans, Youth Pastors, and Civic organizers are great sources to be talent ambassadors.

 

    2) Second, select the best of the best.

  • Interview strategically: Face to face interviews can either be a lump of coal or a pot of gold. Consider the following:Learn about them personally.
     
  • Figure out who they are, what motivates them, what passions they possess. Connecting personally often times translate to determining a fit professionally.
     
  • Learn about them professionally Ask open ended question that allow you to discover their ability to demonstrate those necessary skills. For example, during interviews I focus on team work and a heart for service. I am looking for someone that has a history of serving others sacrificially. To discover, I ask questions concerning volunteering in the community, roles on various teams, etc.

 

Lesson 3: Create a REMARKable Environment
  Next create an environment, or culture, where team members feel valued, cared for, and invested in.
  Three characteristics of a great culture (there are many others):

  • Focus is on others. For example, we often say,” If you are not helping a customer you’d better be helping someone who is helping a customer”. It is a place that treats every employee and customer with honor, dignity, and respect. Serve your employees and treat them with the highest respect, in turn they will do the same for each guest. In reality, executing an “others focused” culture every day is harder than it sounds. It requires a lot of accountability from top to bottom. But as the culture grows it becomes a lot easier because it begins to police itself. If a person on the team is not exuding team work it sticks out like a sore thumb and often time’s leaders do not have to intervene, team members will address it on their own. When this happens, ownership has transferred and a firm culture is in place. 
     
  • Individuals' strengths are matched with roles in the business. Leadership expert, Jim Collins states “Now you have the right people on the bus it is time to make sure they are in the right seat.” If you have some performance issues from an employee and you know they are a great hire then it could be all your fault. They could be in the wrong seat. You have them in the wrong place in your organization.  You have to be constantly assessing, do we have the right people and are they in the correct job.
     
  • Individuals are equipped and growing daily. Team members need to have clear expectations of the role, be equipped to execute their role, and then developed for future contribution. In my case, the food service industry is known for high turnover so potentially this can get expensive. I have learned that if you put a lot of intense training up front to get them up to speed in the beginning, it costs less in the long run because expectations are clear and confidence and competence are present. For example, we try to have new team members experience some of the most challenging positions or tasks in our restaurant first with our greatest talent at that position or skill to set the expectation high up front. In addition to initial training, assessing progress of team members, regular performance reviews, and identification of future value ensure each team member adds value now and in the future. Set goals and give lots of feedback. Everyone needs to know how they are doing. The more specific data you can compile and share the better. You cannot take pride in or improve something you know nothing about. By the way, I have learned that sharing value as well as areas of opportunity goes a long way making someone feel valued.



In conclusion, the secret ingredient to REMARK”able guest experiences is PEOPLE. Select them wisely, engage them strategically, and help them grow daily. As you do, your team members and your guests will leave getting more than what they paid for.

 

About the Author:

Rob Bowman

Rob Bowman has owned and operated a Chick-fil-A restaurant for 15 years in LaGrange, Georgia.  In that time he has been able to attract and develop amazing talent while running a successful business.

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