Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @Restaurant_Lady, Misty Young. Known for her relentless approach to systems development in restaurant marketing, leadership, financials, operations and service, From Rags to Restaurants author, Misty Young is a tried and tested professional. Her own multimillion dollar restaurant chain, the Squeeze In, now has 4 locations. Misty and her husband purchased the nearly 30 year old Truckee, California restaurant in 2004, worked it daily for two years IN the business, while Misty studied, developed and implemented systems and worked ON the business “nights, weekends and holidays.” For more info: visit http://fromragstorestaurants.com
SmallBizLady: What are The Five Irrefutable Laws of Small Business Success?
Misty Young: #1 The Law of Leadership – the ability to influence. Our job as business leaders is to model personal growth and expect successful behavior while we develop and hold ourselves and our associates accountable.
#2 The Law of Operations – every aspect of the business is systematized to efficiently and effectively meet stated goals through planning, policies, procedures and measured performance.
#3 The Law of Financials – with integrity and diligence, financials and products are tracked, monitored and adjusted to assure financial health, fitness and profitability.
#4 The Law of Products / Services – our products must be reliable and we must diligently serve our customers and associates with courtesy, appreciation, respect and kindness.
#5 The Law of Marketing – the business must use multi-media tools to communicate timely with customers and associates in relevant, meaningful ways.
Every small business requires leadership for success. Part of the definition of leadership in my mind, is accountability. The leader, by influencing their followers, whether associates, suppliers, clients or customers, sets an example of personal growth and development while holding themselves and others accountable. All other aspects of small business success flow from diligent leadership. When the leader is focused on successful results and holds others accountable, the operations, financials, products / services and marketing are more likely to be successful as well. It’s a closed loop system; the same exact laws fit all businesses, from A-Z, auto repair shops to zoos.
SmallBizLady: What are three accountability strategies you recommend?
Misty Young: 1. Written Job Descriptions, 2. Comprehensive Training Processes, 3. Standardized Performance Evaluation System
Assuming the small business has associates (employees) – systematizing the business is the critical first step. Making the business turn-key by creating written job descriptions, training protocols and developing a standardized performance evaluation system are basics. Business systematization should leave no question unanswered, no mystery to be solved, don’t expect your associates to be mind readers – they’ll do their best – of course, but it might not be YOUR best! Leave nothing to chance!
Even without associates, solopreneurs need systems, accountability, standards and protocol for how they approach every aspect of their business. The systems and planning provide the road map.
It’s not enough to say you’ll do these things; you actually have to do them. That’s the accountability part – what’s on your daily agenda matters! Making lists isn’t the same as completing tasks. I suggest all my clients put on their “STAR” glasses when setting about to develop accountability: Approach the task with Strategy (plan); Tactics (activities); Action (doing it!); and Results (what happened). Feed back the results into the strategy and refine in order to move forward.
SmallBizLady: Why is there no law directly about the customer?
Misty Young: The customer is the center, the true focus. The Five Irrefutable Laws of Small Business Success are all centered around the customer. Businesses succeed when they find a need and fill it, discover a problem and solve it. The small business then builds a firm foundation of success to attract customers with their solution, bringing them inside the business. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner or with a winning format. Unprepared or unprofessional small businesses risk making customers angry and repelling them if the solution isn’t ready for market. The universe requires order before motion. Being organized first helps build traction.
SmallBizLady: If you anger or repel a customer, what do you do?
Misty Young: As a restaurant owner, I created the LATTE approach to resolving customer problems. I believe mistakes are opportunities to learn – they are inevitable but don’t have to be fatal. In our restaurants, we strive to reduce the number of mistakes made in day-to-day operations. We learn from mistakes and evolve.
LATTE stands for:
- Take Action
Our goal is always to resolve the situation satisfactorily for the guest and evolve from the situation. The worst thing we can do is to send an unhappy guest out our door and the best thing we can do is learn from our mistakes. I believe excellent associate training is the ultimate fulfillment of a small business’ marketing promise – do it right! That circles right back to systems and accountability!
SmallBizLady: Do you have a guarantee in your restaurant?
Misty Young: Of course! Most small business people will guarantee whatever they’re doing, they may as well tell their customer! If you’re going to guarantee your products / services no matter what, always doing the right thing to take care of your guest or client or customer, you should let them know! We surely do, our outrageous guarantee is: “You’ll love our food or it’s free!” Our guarantee is on our menu, website, mobile app, even on our business cards. We don’t like to give away free food, so we work hard at consistency and excellence and circle back to training when we mess up (we’re humans, we mess up!). If you have a guarantee, tell the world. If you don’t have a guarantee, develop one now!
SmallBizLady: You’re a restaurateur; do you really think these Five Laws fit all businesses?
Misty Young: I know they do, I have other business interests besides restaurants. The Five Irrefutable Laws of Small Business Success are a great model for every business from A-Z, auto repair to zoos, there is nothing missing. Whether a business is building boats, selling fishing nets or serving smoked salmon, success requires Leadership development; Product / Services reliability; Marketing mastery; Operations proficiency and Financial literacy. All successful businesses stand firmly on the Five Laws.
SmallBizLady: How can Small Businesses apply your “STAR” concept?
Misty Young: When you think of STAR as an envelope, the context, it’s a simple concept. We approach whatever we do with a plan (strategy), activities to carry out the plan (tactics), do what we need to do (action) and measure the outcome (results) and feed back into the closed loop. We see the synergistic beauty of the STAR approach. Many businesses are operating right now without a strategy, a plan. They might say, “We’re already successful without a plan, why have one?” Here’s the easy answer: businesses with a strategic plan tend to be more successful, more profitable. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
SmallBizLady: What do you see as the weakest link for Small Businesses in the Five Irrefutable Laws?
Misty Young: Most small business failure can be traced back to a lack of financial accountability. It’s not for a lack of love or proficiency in the Products / Services, that’s the place of our expertise, our love, right? But financials? Many small business people don’t know how to decipher financial basics, balance sheets, profit and loss statements or cash flow statements. As small businesses, we don’t have to become CPAs, but we have to be able to talk to CPAs and understand what they’re saying. Anything less is a disservice to ourselves, our customers, associates, communities. Small businesses are the economic engine of the world, and strong financials are the firm basis on which the successful ones stand.
SmallBizLady: What’s your approach to Law #5, The Law of Marketing?
Misty Young: One of my favorite marketing gurus is Dan Kennedy. His book “The Ultimate Marketing Plan” is one of the most dog eared in my massive collection. Kennedy says, “Little hinges swing big doors.” That statement made a huge impact on me. I do whatever it takes to be successful in business. Sometimes that’s a ton of little things, or one big thing. I market, measure, repeat, carefully evaluating what works. I keep what works and toss the jerks. I’m a bit of a nerd about analytics, metrics and measuring marketing success through ROI review. I don’t like wasting marketing dollars. Strategically investing money in marketing is an important business concept.
Finally, I manage my agenda carefully, and learning is on it every single day. I never stop learning and specifically seek more information and knowledge about marketing (it is a first love of mine, after all). That means I’m always finding great content and ideas about marketing, whether from sources like you, SmallBizLady, or Hubspot, MarketingProfs or through my MasterMind group, I make learning a priority.
SmallBizLady: What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from a mistake?
Misty Young: Fast isn’t always best, although the Universe loves speed. Be quick but don’t hurry, move forward once you have enough information. You don’t have to know everything to make a decision; you just have to have firm confidence, and continue to ask questions. I really believe a strong question set is important – and not just any questions, but very specific questions. Instead of asking “How can I make money selling tires?” ask, “How will the tires I want to sell save lives?” Take enough time, be specific, trust your gut, and then make your move. God gave you feelings for a reason, trust them.
SmallBizLady: You’ve grown your company 400% in the last five years during a bad economy, how did you do it?
Misty Young: I’m a people, systems and efficiency junkie. I have been relentless at systematizing and documenting everything in my businesses, literally living and building The Five Irrefutable Laws from the ground up. It started, quite literally, with checklists, which became operations manuals and developed into a full-fledged, values-based Code of Business Conduct. I created comprehensive multi-media training systems and performance indicators to hold myself and others accountable to results. I stayed true to marketing, financial literacy and operational excellence while taking great care of our customers and associates. It hasn’t been easy, but through developing my own leadership, and developing leaders within the organization it has been worth the intense effort.
SmallBizLady: What one thing would you say is crucial for small business success? What’s the “one thing?”
Misty Young: What you do every day matters for the long haul. If you don’t decide what you want for your life or business, you leave it open for others to decide for you. In other words, you can live your life by design or default. Set your own agenda, and live to your expectation. Take control of your time and make your desire come true.
Napoleon Hill, in the all time classic, “Think and Grow Rich,” said, “Thoughts are things, and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with the definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their translation into riches, or other material objects.”
Be definite in your purpose and persistent in your action to translate your burning desire into business success.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.