Monday, 9 May 2011

6 Steps to Work Smart and Increase Your Free Time in the Restaurant Industry


Too many restaurant operators needlessly end up hating the career they once enjoyed. I too often hear comments like these:

"I'm working more and more hours and seem to be accomplishing less."

"I'm so bogged down with managing that I can never get anything done."

"I'm not doing what I enjoy anymore. This has turned into a job I don't like."

Not a pretty picture, for sure. And still, there's good news! They can turn it all around, today.

And if the quotes above sound familiar - you can too!

As your business grows, you need more and more people to get the job done. Once upon a time it was your job to get your own work done. It still is, only now it's also your job to see that everybody gets their work done. You're interrupted almost constantly. It's damn tough to concentrate most of the time. You spend more and more time solving all those little problems that somebody else should take care of.

How do you feel about all this? You're beyond frustrated. You're so tired of spending your "dream job" doing things you don't like to do - things that don't even matter - that your own productivity suffers. You've even thought the unthinkable: forget the whole thing and move on.

You're not alone, but here's what you have to realize - IT'S YOUR OWN FAULT! This was your choice. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's time to suck it up and take ownership.

You are, by choice, stuck atop a pyramid you created. Every decision goes through you. People at the bottom of the pyramid need approval from the next row up; and those mid-ranking people need your approval, which you reluctantly provide and then watch it descend back down through the layers of the pyramid. No matter the question, large or small, it takes forever! You watch the process grind away at its glacial pace and your business suffers. You do too. It does not have to be this way.

I've created a process that will BREAK THE CYCLE. It's not going to be easy; it's going to make you uncomfortable at first. But remember: Your current system doesn't work. It's broken. At best, it's not getting you where you want to be. At worst, it will keep turning your dream job into a slowly worsening nightmare.

Trust this process and you will:

Get more done, faster
Hit your goals sooner
Make the most of your staff's talents
Be happier.
Get your life back (remember the family, friends and hobbies you used to enjoy? )

You can do this. Let's get started.

1. Identify What You Do Best

When you opened your restaurant, you were probably really good at a few things - perhaps the ones that got you into this business in the first place. But today, you do those things far less. Instead, you manage the books, hire and fire, watch inventory... and answer all those questions we talked about earlier.

So here's your first assignment: Reconnect with what you're great doing. Get out a pen and paper and write down what you do best. List about five items.

Now, this might be difficult at first. You've been doing a lot of less important things - perhaps for a long time. So take a few hours or days - the amount of time you devote to this is your choice - and "log your tasks." Every time you take on a new task, large or small, briefly it write down. That's it! Later, go back to the list and circle the tasks that you do better than anyone in your organization.

2. Do Only What You Do Best

From now on, do only what's written on your "What I do best" list. You heard me - you shouldn't be doing anything that isn't on that list. Make the commitment. I'm not a psychologist, but nonetheless, I can feel many of you tensing up as you read this. Do any of these quotes speak to your concerns?

"My business will fail if I don't do everything."

"It's my responsibility to do everything - that's the nature of the business."

"We're a small company with a limited budget, and my time is free."

I've been through this, so I get it. But here's the reality: If you keep trying to do everything, your business will fail. It's not physically possible to do everything. Even if you're pulling it off now, it's unsustainable.

You obviously decided at some point that you had to do it all. But that's just in your head. If the nature of your business forces you to do it all, your business model is broken. You'll burn out.

Finally, it won't cost you money to shift over to doing what you do best. Your time is invaluable: Consider how much money you lose while you're pounding away at unimportant tasks. That's time you could be reinvesting. BREAK THE CYCLE.

3. Train, Hire Or Outsource Every Task That You Don't Do Best

Identify tasks that "you don't do best" and train, hire or outsource to get them done.

There may be people around you who can be trained for these tasks. Often those people are quite capable - and want to be more involved. You've never trained them because training takes more of your time - time you don't have. BREAK THE CYCLE.

Set aside a certain amount of time daily to train a staff member to take a task off your plate. Most importantly: Document the training! Write down, record or dictate the steps you trained. This way, you won't have to be involved with training again.

For example: Have someone else record the training materials in a Microsoft Word file, in an online Wiki, in or in a series of YouTube videos made with free computer screen capture tools like Jing.

If you can't train someone who works for you now, consider hiring someone. Either way, give capable associates authority to handle questions and make decisions.

For example: Let these people handle any decision that won't cost the restaurant more than $25. If it's under that amount, they handle it. If it's over $25, they ask you. If someone makes a wrong decision, discuss why it was wrong and add it to the training you documented so it doesn't happen again. The goal isn't to have an infallible staff, it's to enable your staff to make decisions you don't need to make.
If you can't hire someone, consider outsourcing - for appropriate tasks. Again, record how to do these tasks so you won't have to train vendors more than once.

Note of caution: Get as much off your plate as you can, but as you go forward, hold people accountable. An hour or two of follow-up beats countless hours of doing the work yourself!

And be more than a watchdog. Work just as hard to catch people doing something right - and to briefly, sincerely say thanks - as you work to find and criticize mistakes.

Give people the benefit of the doubt at first, and for a while. If they still won't come through for you, you'll find out quickly through continued follow-up.

4. Eliminate Ineffective Tasks
Don't fool yourself into labeling tasks that keep you busy as "important tasks." Begin busy doesn't mean you're being effective.

For instance, maybe it takes you two hours to write your email newsletter. You're the best writer in your organization and you feel these two hours are important. Unfortunately, your newsletter has an open rate under 10% - very few people read it.

You're busy doing this, but you're ineffective! Kiss these tasks goodbye and never look back. Most likely, they add very little to your bottom line.

5. Reinvest Your Free Time

Your load should feel a little lighter now. What do you do with your new-found free time? REINVEST IT. Steer your time toward tasks on your "what I do best" list.

Every morning, rank the tasks on your daily list. Identify two important tasks that will make a meaningful, lasting contribution to your success. Getting them done will make tomorrow better than today. Give them top priority. Don't do anything else until these two items are completed.

Writing this daily, two-bullet list takes no more than five minutes. Do it every day for the rest of your life. You'll see your goals achieved faster than ever before.

6. Enjoy Life

Reinvest time into your business, but reinvest in your life as well. Too often, work gets the majority of our time and life gets whatever is left. BREAK THE CYCLE. With the system outlined above, you regain control.

Build a business and a job that allow you to enjoy life more. Spend more time with your family and friends. I've never heard of anyone saying on their deathbed "I was a great restaurant operator - I wish I'd spent more time at the restaurant."

Take the chance. Break the cycle. Decide for yourself, right now, what's really important to you, and use this system to get it. And then, enjoy it.


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