By Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association
A few years ago at an industry social gathering, a local operator told me a customer had trashed his restaurant bathroom. The customer had separated the urinal from the wall, smashed it into the floor and destroyed most of the bathroom. The operator went on to tell me how he had spent most of the past week doing the repairs himself — tearing everything out, putting in new faucets and fixing the water-damaged wall. He spent days on his hands and knees, putting in new tile, attaching a new urinal and fixing the mirror. He relayed how proud he was of the cheap deal he’d gotten on all the parts and how he made it all work.
Another operator standing next to me revealed he too had just repaired a restaurant bathroom but hired out the work. The first operator teased the other about being lazy, said he paid way too much, etc.
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It’s easy to think how smart and savvy the first operator was that he got cheap parts and did the work himself. But looking deeper – are we so sure?
The second owner’s repairs lasted until the business was sold seven years later. But, the first operator’s repair work lasted about 18 months before a leak caused water damage and all of his repairs needed to be fixed again.
The operator was neither a tile expert nor a plumber. He took three days of his life away from being the best leader he could be, away from his family, from resting. He spent three days away from thinking about how he could increase sales and reduce expenses, away from greeting guests and away from solving the problems only he, as the business owner, could solve.
The professional who the other local restaurant owner had hired was good at laying tile, could do it in half the time and could lay tile for 10 others that week. The plumber came in and set the pipes so it would last a long time and worked so efficiently they could spread their costs and time over hundreds of other jobs.
Our business is hard. Our margins are small and we can’t do it all. You need to focus on the things that you can do to beat the odds. Not the ones that distract you from meeting your goals.
The Hedgehog Concept in the book, “Good to Great” and the principles of lean manufacturing point to where our industry needs to go. Both encourage us to only do what we are deeply passionate about and what we can be the best in the world at. How do we, as leaders, get out of the busy work like fixing the vacuum, worrying about the appropriate way to reply to a tweet and wasting hours sorting through résumés? And how do we go about finding experts who can do it for us more efficiently and at a lower cost?
There is waste in trying to be something that you’re not. You bring incredible value in being the best in what you do.
The concept is simple. Do what you’re great at. Find others who are great at the other things and let them be great at it for many.
As we adjust our business model, the Hedgehog Concept and lean manufacturing principles are likely going to be part of our solution moving forward. Please take the time to learn about them and about the value that your time has.