Archive for April, 2013

BACK TO THE FUTURE

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Counseling has always been one of my most rewarding endeavors. In the past, my employees, and today’s young people are trying to understand life. As I started writing my book everyone commented on today’s youth and difficulties with the work force. The problem appears to be a generational change that has not been met with change and understanding on the part of their leaders and  management. I like what the younger generations are bringing to the table and when properly challenged and managed will give us a bright future.

In the book I use several metaphors dealing with goal setting and the future. Earlier in this blog I used the illustration of looking at the bugs on the windshield and not seeing the road ahead.  The advice I have given recently that seems to resonate best with the younger generations, is before you decide on today, envision where you would like to picture yourself 10 years from today. This exercise has created a lot of ‘aha’ moments. See where you want to be clears away a lot of confusion about how to get there.  I like the Peter Drucker quote, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Ignore what Yogi Berra humorously  says, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Rather listen to George Burns, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

One of my principle metaphors in the book addresses how goal setting and looking into the future  makes the immediate decision making more clear. Final statement on this topic comes from Jack Welch, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”

 

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AMERICA’S CUP – NASCAR OF THE SEA

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Sailboat racing used to be compared to the excitement of watching paint dry. With Oracle’s winning of the last America’s Cup in 2010, that all changed. If you have not tuned in I encourage you to do so(www.americascup.com). A standard multi-hulled boat was selected, the AC 45′ and an annual World Series was created. The  AC 45′ exceeds 20 nautical miles per hour or 23 mph (1 nmi = 1.15 miles). The series has taken place around the world every year since the last America’s Cup creating a lot of excitement and a growing audience for the sport. The T.V presentation is brilliant. Electronics capture the race with lines on the water and feedback from each boat. The boats are equipped with multiple cameras and the crews are miked up and all of the above is available with a free smart phone app. Yes! you can tune into specific crews and listen in to the chaos. The app also gives you the real time positions of the boats.

The speeds are incredible and  and crashes plentiful. During the last race we watched one of the Oracle boats hit the committee boat on the start, leaving a sizable hole! In July the competition begins for the Cup itself. July 4th is opening day and the schedule can be found on the web site indicated above. The important thing to note is we are now moving up to the AC 72. Pictured above is Oracle crashing their first boat…..see the crew hanging from the rigging. In another photo you will see the 72′ up on its hydrofoil doing in excess of 40 nmi! You can find great coverage on youTube. The America’s Cup final series for the Cup begins September 7th and if you can make it to San Francisco the races are visible from the shore, they call it ‘Stadium Style Racing’ and San Francisco is the perfect venue! I call it Nascar of the Sea!’ Sorry the infield  is off limits!

 

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AN INSTITUTION – NOT A CHAIN

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One of my favorite compliments was that, Friday’s was an institution not a chain. Cheesecake Factory is an institution – not a chain. When I left for my sailing adventure Friday’s had a 200+ item menu and we made everything from scratch, including the sauces and dressings. Through the insistence of the new owner we had over -expanded and were having trouble with the execution. The clear choice was to slow down and train but not compromise our fresh product. After my departure focus groups knew better and the menu was reduced by 100 items to reduce the degree of difficulty. This of course was the beginning of the end of Friday’s famous food culture.

In a few weeks, I will have the honor, to meet with David Overton, the founder of Cheesecake Factory. In preparation for our meeting I have been doing my homework. As a part of that homework I visited the Union Square CCF. I ordered a dish I knew would require a sauce with  complex seasoning. Wow! It was excellent! My wife and I ordered another dish simply because we have been addicted to it for years, Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes. Everything I believe and teach was being executed in the entire restaurant to a clear standard of excellence.

I introduced myself to the manager, Dave Schaefer, who was kind enough to give me a ‘tour’, which revealed David Overton has taken Cheesecake Factory to a level without peer. Everything is prepared fresh, including 136 sauces. With a menu in excess of 200 items and a back of the house compromised by building limitations, everything sang!  You could feel the energy and pride among the cooking staff online which carried into the small prep area. I mentioned Friday’s departure form the ‘culinary world’ because of the degree of difficulty. I was told that there had been a new VP that wanted to reduce the number of scratch sauces due to the degree of difficulty and ended his career, with that statement!

Friday’s achieved exceptional sales without advertising or discounting in any form.  David has taken this to a whole new level, as well. The store I just visited does $18 mililon in sales.  All of his stores set record volumes ever year without advertising. I will let you know how our beliefs and standards match up but I’ll bet they do.

Excellence comes with a degree of difficulty  but excellence = energy and pride of accomplishment and.. and…the list is endless.

 

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COMMON SENSE/INFORMATION/FEELINGS

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We are in what is called the information age. So it is logical to assume that we are more informed. The world has always faced major issues but in this age of enlightenment you would think we would be more informed about these issues and their solutions. It is true that we are in the information age and researching the issues is pretty easy (remember I am a Techno-Geezer). With that in mind try and have an informed discussion of today’s major issues and causes. I don’t care what your stand on the issues happens to be, as long as it has some basis in fact. You can try to have a fact based discussion about – solar power – wind power – charitable organizations – political parties – global warming – gun control – immigration – history – oil exploration – economics – organic foods – electric cars – taxes – the list of issues is endless and if you are armed with facts you will probably be the only one in the room. Emotion, misinformation and feelings manipulated by politicians and and special interests rule!  We are led to believe one thing, when the facts indicate the opposite is true. Pick an issue and independently become informed on both sides of the issue (it will be enlightening!). Then try and have an informed discussion. I am not advocating a side I am advocating being independently informed about what ever side you choose. IT IS JUST COMMON SENSE!

BOOK PLUG: “When in doubt look at the results!” – Daniel R. Scoggin

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INTERNATIONAL FRANCHISING

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Friday’s standard of excellence made franchising difficult. My domestic attempts ended with the buy back of the restaurants. It was  frustrating to have people pay you so much money just to ignore your direction. After the buy back, when returned to the founding principles, the restaurants returned to prosperity.

International expansion, however, could best be accomplished with nationals in each country. I established very strict requirements, increased training requirements and was very careful in partner selection. We were very fortunate to have as our first partner Whitbread, a large diversified UK company. The key to their selection and ultimate success was Tony Hughes. Under his leadership Friday’s was incredibly successful. Later, after his departure, things changed and a near failure took place. We tell this story in the last chapter of my book, with a happy ending. The book also establishes the clear pattern going all the way back to our near failure in the beginning of Friday’s history.  Can you say ‘Back to the basics!’

We established a clear and successful template for international franchise expansion. Prior to our entry, many franchised concepts modified their fare to accommodate local tastes and food preferences. It was my belief that even though the British drank their beer at a different temperature, had their salads in a different meal sequence, etc., we  were an American restaurant and would do EVERYTHING EXACTLY as we were doing it in the U.S.  At the time this was controversial it but proved to be a major component of our success.

We have watched Karen Forrester demonstrate CLEARLY  that the founding principles of Friday’s work whenever and wherever applied. We devote the last chapter of my book to her story. You say, but Dan, you are repeating yourself , and I say yes but I AM PROMOTING MY BOOK, so you will probably hear it again.

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FOUNDING HISTORY OF T.G.I. FRIDAY’S INC.

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I get asked the question quite often, what were the roles you and Alan Stillman played in the historical development of Friday’s?  Alan was the creative genius that created Friday’s. He came up with the name, trade dress and clearly tapped into  the hottest market of the century. Being a New Yorker and creative, his development stayed in New York and cleverly involved the other days of the week. In  69′ or 70′ he was approached by the Memphis Overton Square developers seeking to have an anchor for their development a New York style bar and  sidewalk cafe. A deal was done and they opened in 1971. Luckily for the future of the concept they were first class people and improved on the original design. Seeing small southern towns  as his opportunity Alan signed in rapid succession, Nashville, Jackson, Little Rock and Shreveport.  Support systems and operating manuals were minimal. The name, trade dress and market opportunity carried the day.

I viewed the opportunity as more universal and put together an agreement for 8 major cities and founded, what would become, todays T.G.I. Friday’s Inc. I brought business systems, controls, best practices and  maybe the first computer systems to the restaurant  industry from my 10 years of experience at Boise Cascade. Seeing a different future, I upgraded everything, a new prototype (the now famous raised square bar), doubled the restaurant and seating capacity, used first class artifacts, stained glass and Herbert Hughes as designer.  At one point Alan told me I was going to too much trouble, “just put up the red and white awning, hang the ferns and tiffany lamps and be done with it”. We focused on product improvement; hired Vic Smith for the bar and Joe Snouffer for the kitchen both of whom would go on to be legends in the company’s history. Believing in our future success,even before we opened, while at the Little Rock opening I suggested to Alan he merge with me. He politely laughed off the offer.  He would return six months later and we would merge.  Alan becoming a minor partner in my company. You see, we had opened with double the sales and triple the profits of any previous Friday’s. All the trouble had paid off!

In spite of these great beginnings we soon were on track to fail. Volumes were falling, as much as 50%, following our store openings like dominos in a row. What Friday’s was to become was the result of our reaction to this crisis. My development of the now famous ‘Theories and Philosophies’ was in response to this near failure. Within six months of implementing these ‘T&P’ we recovered and began exceeding original volumes, growing these volumes for the next decade. This story is what my book is all about!

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EXPERT VS KNOW IT ALL

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We have all met ‘EXPERTS’. Some real and some only in  their  mind!  I think we have all met several types.  First the “made a lot of money” and now I know everything about everything ‘mogul’. Second the EXPERT  in one thing that makes him/her expert in everything. Then there is the newly minted graduate with a degree from a prestigious University. Funny, these types are usually the least knowledgable because they no longer let themselves listen and learn. I discuss education in my book with a definition of education that is helpful to the concept of further learning.    

The smartest men/women I have met consider themselves students…..and they listen A LOT!

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