If you’re a quitter, don’t waste your time reading this article.
If you don’t want to grow your business, move on to another blog.
If you’re afraid to face the facts, by all means: keep your head buried in the sand.
And if you think you know better… good for you. Now, PROVE IT!
“Harsh words to start off the New Year, Mr. Strikwerda,” my inner voice whispered. “For a moment, you sounded like that annoying English chef from ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. Why be so confrontational? The new year has barely started. Why not write a nice poetic piece about splendid resolutions, good intentions, high hopes, big dreams and snowflakes? That should go down well at the start of the New Year. Cut your readers some slack!”
CREATURES OF HABIT
A 2007 survey of over 3,000 people conducted by psychologist Richard Wiseman led to one conclusion: 88% of all resolutions end in failure. Why?
- People are stubbornly set in their old ways
- People lack willpower and self-control
In my experience, good intentions are just as effective as wishful thinking, and are as lame as the word ‘try’.
Hopes and dreams usually get stranded on a beach named “One day….” And if we are to believe behavioral psychologists, most of us will do more to avoid pain than to experience pleasure. In other words: you and I will put more effort into running away from the things we don’t want, than in moving toward the things we desire. Provided we even know what we want.
When asked, most people can tell you exactly what they don’t want: “I want to stop smoking. I don’t want to be overweight.” We tell our kids: “Don’t touch that!” And what’s the first thing they do?
Making changes can be a painful process. If you’ve ever watched the show “Kitchen Nightmares,” you know exactly what I mean. Even if you’re not a fan of reality TV, and even if you can’t stand Gordon Ramsay (the foul-mouthed British chef who turns failing restaurants around), I’d like you to consider the following: is there something you and I could learn from this show and apply to our own business?
Let’s be honest: for many of us, last year hasn’t been the best year on record. I know that some of you are seriously thinking of giving up. Others are still wondering what went wrong. But even if the past year wasn’t too bad, you want your business to grow and do even better, don’t you? So, if quitting is not an option, how can you overcome your challenges, and make this year the best one ever?
Problems are never solved at the level they were created, and that’s why I find it very helpful to look outside of my own field. Success does leave clues, and you don’t need to be a CSI-specialist to find them. That’s why I’d like to take you inside ‘Kitchen Nightmares,’, and identify some of the ingredients of failure and success that may very well help us turn our businesses around.
STRATEGY FOR CHANGE
From a therapeutic point of view, Gordon Ramsay’s show follows a classic approach for bringing about change. There are three stages in this strategy:
1. PRESENT STATE (a.k.a. problem state)
3. OUTCOME STATE (a.k.a. resolution state)
“Kitchen Nightmares” starts off by showing us why and how a restaurant is failing (present state). Then, top-chef Ramsay comes to the rescue, offering his experience and expertise (resources). Following his advice, changes are put into place and the restaurant has a successful re-launch (outcome state). A few months later, Ramsay returns to the scene of the crime to find out how the restaurant is doing.
Okay, let’s rewind. If you’ve watched “Kitchen Nightmares” a couple of times, you must have noticed a common theme:
Businesses don’t fail. People fail.
People are the biggest asset and the biggest obstacle. If you wish to turn a business around, you must turn the people around. Now, why is that easier said than done? Here are a few clues.
Once upon a time, all owners had a dream: to run a restaurant. Lack of culinary skills and the absence of business acumen did not stop them. Years later, their beloved business is one bill away from bankruptcy. Strangers can smell the smoke from a distance, but the owner pretends that there’s no fire. Denial is one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road to transformation. Why make changes if you don’t believe something’s wrong? Ask anyone who’s ever been in therapy.
In the next scene, Gordon Ramsay enters the restaurant. He usually orders the signature dish. Fans of the show already know the food is going to look terrible and will taste even worse. As Ramsay tries to describe his disgusting dining experience, some of his words have to be bleeped out. Leaving most of the meal on the plate, he storms into the kitchen where the chef/owner is obliviously bragging about the menu.
“Bloody Bleep! That’s probably the worst *** I’ve ever tasted,” says Ramsay. “Are you out of your mind? You could have killed me with that raw fish. How dare you serve that load of ***?”
Instead of taking this as a wake-up call, most chefs are as shocked as they are in denial. They get the food back, but can’t take the feedback. Instead, most respond by putting up a wall of DEFENSIVENESS and BLAME. They’ll say things like:
“I’ve never heard anyone complain about the fish. It’s bought in. All I do is heat it up. Besides, who do you think you are to criticize me? The ‘great’ Gordon Ramsay? Give me a break!”
As tempers flare, the camera captures close-ups of tired sous-chefs, worn-down waitstaff and desperate significant others. The same words are written on their faces: “We’ve tried to tell him many times, but he just won’t listen. He always knows best.”
Let’s leave the show for a minute or two, and talk about your business.
At one point in your life you had a dream. What happened to it? I’m sure you’ve invested a lot in professional demos; you use the right gear; you did tons of auditions; you have an online presence and we can find your innermost thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But did it get you anywhere? Have you made any money lately? Did you break even? Do you even know how much you’d need to make in order to do that? Or do you happen to run a non-profit the IRS considers to be a hobby?
Listen, this is not rocket science. If you feel lost, the first thing you need to do is admit it. Don’t be like the typical guy who drives around in circles because he won’t concede that he has no idea where he is. Instead, you have to determine where you are and how you got there. Only then can you start thinking of where you want to be and what path to follow. Better still: step out of your box and ask for directions! Preferably, ask someone who knows the area; listen carefully and make notes.
When asking an expert, I suggest you get down to specifics. Sure, you want things to be ‘better’ but compared to what? Do you want to make more money? Who doesn’t?
Most motivational speakers would give you a nickel and tell you: “See, you just made more money!” You probably want to make more than you’re making right now, but how are you going to determine that, if you don’t know how much you need to earn? You have to be as detailed as you can. Vague ideas lead to vague results. The only people ever to make money off vague ideas were impressionist painters. But by the time their paintings were worth millions, they were long gone.
MORE TO COME
This was just the first course. In the next installment, we’ll continue our Kitchen Nightmare, and I will tell you about creating a wholesome crisis, as well as the devastating effect of ‘premature closure’. And no…. this has nothing to do with shutting your business down too early.