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Leadership Advantage: What Atlanta’s finest steakhouse teaches us about process

September 19, 2022 -  By
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I’ve heard it many times: The landscape business is not rocket science. But you wouldn’t know it by the chaos that we seem to create constantly in our daily business experience.

(Photo credit: Liudmila Chernetska / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

(Photo credit: Liudmila Chernetska / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

I have yet to meet a landscape professional who isn’t committed to quality and service, even at the expense of redoing a job to make a client happy or to satisfy his or her own quality standards. But why can’t we seem to get it right the first time and every time, consistently? Let me draw an analogy between running a landscape business and operating a fine dining establishment.

One of my favorite entertaining spots in Atlanta is New York Prime Steak House. I never have to worry about having a fantastic dining experience when I visit with clients or friends. The team delivers excellence each and every time. How do they do it?

A process for everything

Successful restaurants, or any businesses for that matter, consistently deliver an excellent experience to their guests with a proven set of processes combined in a system that guarantees success. They don’t leave it up to chance.

One recent night after a great dinner with friends, I stopped to thank and compliment the manager, Jim. I asked him to share how he consistently “gets it right” time and time again.

The first thing he said was, “It’s my people — they’re great!”

“Yes, they are great,” I replied, “but what makes them great? I mean, a lot of places hire great people.” He said, “What makes our people great is our process.”

“Your process for what?” I asked.

Jim smiled and greeted another guest, then he said, “The process we have for everything.” He continued: “Our process for buying only the finest quality ingredients, our process for storing them in the safest way to keep them fresh, our process for choosing our menu items and our process for training our team, the process for how we greet you at the door, the process for how we seat you and serve you …”

Jim went on about how effective processes organize tasks into manageable groups that can be easily taught, measured and improved. He noted that while his people are sharp, the processes make them even sharper because they can focus on the guest experience rather than dealing with the chaos that can come with managing tasks.

I asked him how he set up all those processes and got his team to buy in. He replied, “Our entire business is made up of our system of delivering a quality dining experience to our guests. We realized that if we could become really good at delivering one fantastic meal experience, we could figure out how to replicate that.”

Some of Jim’s ideal dining experience outcomes include:

  • Profitability (not giving away meals because of incompetence).
  • Comparing current to ideal outcomes to identify gaps.
  • Prioritizing gaps in outcomes to build processes to yield desired outcomes.
  • Measuring gaps to boost processes.

By now, I hope you realize that this is not an article about the restaurant business. Market-leading companies don’t leave success up to chance. Operations intentionally design systems and processes that guarantee ideal outcomes.

Take-home message

What did Jim teach us about processes? Processes allow us to organize tasks into groups, help sharp people be even sharper, consistently achieve our ideal outcomes and focus on our clients rather than on tasks.

Process development starts by identifying ideal outcomes and comparing them to existing outcomes. Our businesses are composed of a multitude of sales. Each sale follows the same sequence from contract to completion. If we can determine how to produce one sale effectively and efficiently, and develop and document the process, then we should be able to replicate that process for every sale.

So, how many times do we need to hear about the value of standard operating procedures? This industry is too competitive to give away work or re-work, for that matter. Most landscape companies stuck along the way have failed to identify, develop, document and implement standard operating procedures.

Now that you know, don’t be one of them!

About the Author:

Thomas, founder of Envisor Consulting, has owned three of Atlanta’s most successful landscape companies. He is the COO of The Greenery and principal of Envisor Consulting. Reach him at kenthomas@envisorco.com.

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