Are You Putting in Too Many Hours?

I recently had a chance to visit with a young man who you would have to call successful.  He owns two profitable fast-food restaurants. There are always lines at his drive-up windows and he’s even experimented with using a maitre de at lunch time to speed up the seating process when there are more customers than tables.  It appears that life is good.

But appearances can be deceiving.  Bob (not his real name) has a problem.  The problem is that he’s working way too many hours.  When he’s not at one restaurant, he’s at the other one.  He’s wearing himself out. He’s also limiting his ability to expand.  There’s definitely room in the market for several more of his restaurants, but there’s just no physical way for him to open them unless he changes his management style.

Michael Gerber, in his book "E-Myth Revisited" suggests that every business should be run like a franchise.  There should be systems and processes in place that work no matter who’s doing them. 

Every McDonald’s in the world serves the same french fries.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Chicago or Beijing, the french fries are all the same.  Why is that?  Because there’s a process.  Put the potatoes in the fry basket.  Put the basket in the grease.  When the bell rings, take them out.  It never changes.  It doesn’t matter who the french fryer is.  It doesn’t matter who the manager is.  The manager doesn’t even have to be there.  That’s how every business should be set up.

It doesn’t stop with french fry frying.  Every aspect of the business is governed by a system, whether it’s ordering, serving, cleaning, or doing the books.  It’s all there in black and white in the business system.  The owner of the business can be a hands-on type of guy (or gal) or not.  It doesn’t matter.

Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t have the system.  His restaurants are franchises.  He paid a lot of money to buy a proven set of processes.  His problem is he doesn’t trust the system.  That’s the hard part, isn’t it?  Whether we designed the system ourselves, or we paid thousands of dollars for an existing system, the real issue is trust. 

You have to trust the systems and you have to trust your own ability to hire people capable of using the systems.  If you don’t have that trust, you’re doomed to a life of ten-hour days and six or seven day weeks. 

Ask yourself these question: 

  • Do I have processes in place for every aspect of my business?
  • Are they written down?
  • Do I have the people in place to make the system work in my absence?
  • If space aliens grab me in the middle of the night and take me away in their flying saucer, would the business continue as if I were still here?

If you can’t answer "yes" to all four questions, you know what you have to do.

2 Responses

  1. No matter how good the system is the people that work for you have to understand it and accept it and that is where the problem lies. They either don’t get it or they want to add there twist to it. The labor pool like the gene pool seems to be getting a bit thin.
    I am loosing my Sewing machine repairman in Dec. He is the best I have ever seen in repairing machines. People that repair machines are very hard or impossible to find. I am now having to get back on the bench to start getting back into the swing of things. It’s been a while since I have been at the bench and I am having my issues. Some of the machines he works on I don’t have a clue as to how to fix them. Wish me luck.

  2. I feel your pain! The simple answer is that following the system is a requirement of the job. McDonald’s wouldn’t stand for someone putting pepper on the french fries instead of salt. But in real life, it isn’t that simple.

    The best answer I know to your problem is to show them that they get better results when they do it the right way. Once they’ve been shown that ad libbing makes them less effective, they should come around.

    As far as the mechanic is concerned, this is a big problem throughout the industry. Hopefully you have enough time to find a replacement before your current tech leaves.

    Good luck!

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