I tell my catering management students at Florida International University that “readers are leaders and leaders are readers.” Those of us in the catering business are no different. Personally, I love to read and try to learn as much as I can from others. Sometimes it’s new information, but many times, what I read simply confirms that I’ve been doing things right and doing the right things.
One little red book that I have purchased over and over again for many of my team members is 9 Things Successful People Do Differently. In less than 100 very small pages the author, Heidi Grant Halvorson, summarizes her nine main points. For each point, lets connect them to what we should be and are doing as caterers.
#1 Get specific. Do we have specific financial goals for our businesses? Do we have well thought-out budgets? Does everyone on your team know exactly what is expected from him or her?
#2 Seize the moment with if/then planning. We’ve all been guilty of making major plans, only to see them fall by the wayside when we allow distractions and emergencies to get in the way. (Trust me…I have excelled in that department by allowing distractions and annoyances to sap my energy.) As caterers we need to carve out time to work on major initiatives such as new menus, a strategic plan, a new initiative. If/then planning ensures that we add a time, place, and date for each step we need to achieve our major goals. It’s simply this, if it’s 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, I will invest two hours working on my major project. No if, ands, or buts.
“It’s great to say we’ll grow our sales 20%, but just saying that won’t make it happen. To keep our optimism realistic we must think carefully about the obstacles along the way, and have plans to deal with each challenge as they arise.”
#3 Know how far you have left to go. In my firm we set sales goals, and every week we acknowledge how far we’ve come and celebrate if we’re ahead of our plan. More importantly, we know exactly how much more revenue we need for each event producer…for the week, the month, and the year.
#4 Be a realistic optimist. It’s great to say we’ll grow our sales 20%, but just saying that won’t make it happen. To keep our optimism realistic we must think carefully about the obstacles along the way, and have plans to deal with each challenge as they arise. For example, in South Florida the Zika virus hurt us because destination brides and corporate planners decided to stay away. What did we do? We have focused more on local business with great success.
#5 Focus on getting better rather than being good. As a caterer I’m not happy being good: I want to be great. The key to that comes from the Paulist Fathers who wrote, “The highest point of achievement yesterday is the starting point today.” Just because we produced a beautifully catered event yesterday, we need to find ways to make the next one even better.
#6 Have grit. Successful caterers understand that if it were easy, everyone would be a caterer. Thank goodness it’s not easy, otherwise everyone would be our competitor. Few have the grit and determination to make it in our business! We are a select group of gritty professionals.
#7 Build your willpower muscle. If you’re like me, there are certain things in your business that you like to do and things that you don’t. For example, none of us like to fire someone, and I think we’ve all put up with one or more team members that would be better off not working for us, but for the competition. Do you have the willpower to take action, or will you simply let them hurt your business or perhaps ruin your morale? Successful caterers take action when it’s time to terminate.
#8 Don’t tempt fate. If any of you reading this tells me that you never took on more events than you could handle, I would suspect that you were not being honest with me. Each of us has tempted fate, by biting off more catering events that we could produce effectively. Hopefully we’ve all learned our lessons from this one. As my old boss used to tell me, “The biggest mistake is failure to learn from it and then make it again!” Successful caterers know when to say no and stick to it.
#9 Focus on what you will do and not what on you won’t do. Many of our goals focus on stopping something, rather than reframing them as to what you will do instead. Perhaps you want to stop booking unprofitable events. However, as caterers we love making people happy so we have all said, “Yes” anyway. Let’s face it, we’re people pleasers. Rather than taking the easy road by acquiescing, next time, don’t give an immediate yes. Tell the client you need time to think it over for 24 hours. Most of the time, after you’ve thought it through and analyzed the costs and hassles, you will say NO!
I know that this column has gone on way too long, but I’ll bet that most of you found one point that captured your attention. That’s the one you may wish to work on.
Bill Hansen is the CEO of Bill Hansen Luxury Catering and Event Production, Miami, FL.