A friend of mine, Scott Beck, is a serial entrepreneur behind the rise of Boston Market, Einstein Brothers Bagels, and more. He said something to me on a number of occasions that really didn’t make sense until I started thinking of it in light of what we’re talking about here. And he said this: the secret to growing a business is to reduce negative variance and increase positive variance. Connecting it to First Mile and Second Mile service, the First Mile is all about reducing negative variance. It’s how do we take the mistakes we’re making and reduce those to zero as best we can? But the second part, increasing positive variance, would be connected to the idea of Second Mile service; it’s that 10% more effort that yields 100% better results that we talked about last month. And so when I started thinking about this quote in those terms, it’s like the scales fell from my eyes and it suddenly made sense.
Reducing negative variance is about fixing all the problems related to where you’re not delivering what people expect. And increasing positive variance is about creating moments and generating ideas that people don’t expect so you can win them as customers. This idea of increasing positive variance is kind of the road less traveled – it’s never urgent to increase positive variance. On the other hand, it’s often urgent to fix the problems because they’re staring you in the face – you’re seeing them in the surveys! So, increasing positive variance is the important part but it’s never urgent, and a lot of times we don’t get to the important because we’re so consumed by the urgent. We have to remember that fixing problems will always be urgent but increasing positive variance is in fact, most important because the return on that is 9:1.
That concept holds true when we examine the service we are providing to our employees. In the same way that we’re trying to fix problems and create Remarkable moments for customers, we need to do that internally for our employees. How are we not only fixing the problems for them, but also creating these Remarkable moments along the way? For each of our employees, are we intentional about doing that, or do we leave it to chance?
The strongest cultures have the strongest intentionality to create Remarkable moments and fix problems. Yes, they do employee surveys and problems are identified and fixed. But they also try to create these Remarkable moments. Chick-fil-A is intentional about creating those moments for employees, whether that’s the Vision and Values tour that new employees embark on over their first 12 months (more on that in a future newsletter!), or celebrating a birthday, baby shower, wedding shower or work anniversary. The same way you do with your family at home, you can create those Remarkable moments that mean more than the day-to-day when an employee reflects back. What are those Remarkable moments that people will look back on and remark about years later?
A major consulting organization did a massive study of several hundred thousand people in which they examined the difference between what employees are looking for now in a career opportunity versus what the previous generations looked for. I’ll put myself in the previous generation – when my generation applied for a job, the two main factors that people considered were product and profit. You signed up for a company that had a great product and was very profitable, and that was the magnet that attracted people. The study revealed that today’s generation is less about product and profit, although that’s part of it, but it’s more about purpose and growth. The younger generation wants to do something meaningful and they want growth, which has a double meaning; they want to be part of a growing organization and they want to grow personally as part of their experience with an organization. So, the employee value proposition is migrating over time as well, from product and profit to purpose and growth.
In light of that, part of what we have to do to create a Remarkable culture, and create these Remarkable moments, is have a culture that values purpose and growth. So, what are we intentionally doing to add to the purpose of the business and enable people to grow personally and professionally (at an organization that’s also growing)? That idea of growing personally and professionally is the Second Mile service organizations can now offer their employees. What are we doing to enable people to grow personally and professionally? How are we taking a more holistic interest in people’s lives?
There’s a few ways we have done that at Chick-fil-A. For example, at our annual national convention, we host workshops on topics such as How to Be a Better Parent and Personal Finances. We don’t limit our thinking to helping people grow just within their career (although we offer lots of options for that) but we add things beyond that, that don’t directly benefit Chick-fil-A. Then at our Corporate Headquarters, we offer benefits such as onsite daycare and a free daily lunch which are built into the value proposition for our employees. Something like eating lunch together also has the benefit of contributing to culture creation, so instead of being viewed as an expense, it truly is thought of as an investment.
In addition to providing growth opportunities and a holistic approach to work and life, employers should be thinking about how to infuse what they do with purpose.
One of my favorite things to do while visiting with Chick-fil-A Operators was to ask them what business they are in because how we view things drives how we do things. And the favorite answer I ever got, from an Operator up in Virginia, was “I feel like I’m a Leadership Development Academy masquerading as a fast food restaurant.” Basically what he was saying is, ‘I’m selling chicken sandwiches, fries and drinks to fund my Leadership Academy, and my Leadership Academy is filled with teenagers in my area that come work for me and not only are they given a scholarship to develop as a leader, I will actually pay them while they’re here to be developed as a leader.’ Think about that value proposition for a minute; if you’re a parent and your child has an opportunity to go work for a competitor who sees them as a minimum wage worker – who’s going to pay as little as they can and cut their hours so they can maximize their profitability – versus for the Chick-fil-A Operator who says “I’m a Leadership Development Academy masquerading as a fast food restaurant”… which one is the parent more likely to choose and which one is more likely to have raving fan employees?
I think there’s a connection there for all of us: how do we view what we’re doing, and do we view it as selling chicken sandwiches, fries and drinks or do we view selling chicken sandwiches, fries and drinks as a funding mechanism for something far more important? Do we view our platform of business as an opportunity to GET RICH, or do we view our platform of business as an opportunity to BE RICH? This whole idea of Second Mile service is all about the Be Rich side. It’s all about the Leadership Development Academy side. You know we have to do the First Mile – if we’re not selling chicken sandwiches, fries and drinks, we won’t be able to fund our Leadership Academy. But if the end, in and of itself, is just selling chicken sandwiches, we won’t ever get to the Second Mile, and we’ll never get that kind of loyal, raving fan employee.
At Chick-fil-A, we often said that we were in the business of creating raving fans, and raving fans were customers that would do three things: 1) they’d be happy to pay full price, 2) they would come more often and 3) they would tell other people about us. So, in doing that, we created raving fans who became our greatest ambassadors to recruit new customers for us. Well you’ll never have raving fan customers unless you’ve first created raving fan employees! The level of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm behind the counter will dictate the level of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm over the counter. It’s almost like the level of excitement and engagement you create with your own employees is the level to which your customers will rise; you’re creating a lid of sort. If your employees aren’t excited, there’s no way your customers will be, so we have to focus on creating raving fans behind the counter.
Historically, there’s been this picture that we separate life and work; that’s changing toward most people wanting to integrate the two. That integration creates this Remarkable culture of raving fan employees because if you’re interested in all aspects of their lives, employees are more interested in all aspects of your business. In turn, they will be more capable of contributing to the organization in ways you wouldn’t have imagined. Employees in that kind of culture are more dedicated, more loyal, and have more passion to help the company succeed that’s helping them succeed. That’s how a healthy organizational culture can lead to Remarkable hospitality.
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Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.
Founder, Spark A Revolution