Things You Don’t Want to Hear at Dinner


The other night my wife, and business partner, and I went out for dinner. We like to be in the mix of the action so we sat at the bar ready for a great dinner. When you sit at the bar you never know who might sit next to you. We have struck up conversations with incredible people and those experiences made for memorable nights. Other times everyone is in their own little world so much so that they forget that other people can hear their conversation. That was what happened the other night.

What made this particular evening memorable enough to write about it was the couple beside us that appeared to be partners in life, as well as business. They were also not shy about discussing the problems facing their restaurant business. I am not a creepy eavesdropping type of person, but I could not help hearing everything about the problems in the business.

Here is a sample of the statements the husband/boyfriend was saying to the wife/girlfriend along with my inside voice in response.

Why do we want to open two new locations when our only restaurant is suffering?

Good point. Fix what is wrong before you venture forth with new locations. Whatever challenges you are facing in your current business will likely exist in the new ones.

What the *$(& is wrong with our staff? They are so &#(&)# unappreciative.

Whoa. Where is this going?

They are a bunch of uneducated, stupid, unappreciative &*#(&#>@ bastards

Hmm. Starting to understand why there may be some problems in the business.

We should cancel the Christmas party and just use the money on a vacation for ourselves.

I bet that would be a delightful time.

Why do we bother training them if all they are going to do is quit in 4 months? In fact, we shouldn’t train them at all. Training is overrated. Any moron could make a pizza?

I hope this jerk goes to the bathroom so I can tell his partner to RUUUUNNN. This person isn’t good for you. Your business isn’t going to work out. We won’t tell him where you went. GOOOOOO!

Meanwhile we are sitting in a restaurant that we have been going to for about a year, and for the most part the host, servers and cooks are all the same. Why can this restaurant keep staff and this couple has a revolving door of staff coming and going?

There are many reasons of course, but the main one based upon this conversation is that if you don’t care about your staff, they aren’t going to care about you. It is that simple. I remember as a student working for a company that only wanted a body to fill a role. They couldn’t care less about training, motivating or developing me. As a result, I had no loyalty to the company. As soon as I found a better job I was out of there.

With that experience I have always been sensitive to the needs of our employees. Beyond paying our employees a fair wage, our company has been focused on having an engaged work force that feels personally and professional fulfilled and appreciated. Our thought was that if we did that right in turn they would give their all to the company and each other. Ultimately, just like we want loyal clients we want loyal employees that don’t have one foot out the door all the time.

If I was foolish enough to interject into the conversation of the frustrated partners I would have suggested that they take a step back and ask a few simple questions. Why doesn’t their staff  appreciate them. What are they doing as business owners that leads to such high employee turnover? Instead of blaming the employees for all of their problems I would ask them to shine a light on themselves, and ask what role do they play in employee discontent.

Have they asked their staff how they feel in their job and what do they need to feel more engaged and loyal to the company? I would suggest that they consider their staff as a type of customer, an internal customer if you will. If you have surveys for clients that come to your business, why not survey your staff to find out how they feel about their job, the business, and the owners.

Running a business is really, really hard.  When things get tough it is very easy to blame others for these problems, rather than look in the mirror and confront the ugly truth about our role in our declining business. The first step to putting the business on the path to success again is looking at what we are doing as business owners to cause the business troubles. Everything stems from us, and if we aren’t doing a good job leading a business then the only results we can expect are troubles. The answers are within us, we just need to ask the right questions.

This blog was brought to you by Oculus Insights – Bring Business Education and Training to the Veterinary Profession. Check out www.OculusInsights.net to see the various programs that Oculus Insights offers to help you run your business better. They will give you the skills to make changes right away to your business.

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  1. Hello Mike,

    I liked your article. The subject of how companies treat their staff is one I feel strongly about. I own and manage a small business, a Pilates studio in Paris, France. My business model is such that the teaching professionals working at the studio are essentially my “customers” as they rent studio time from me and collect teaching fees directly from their clients. Although clients taking sessions at the studio perceive us as a unified entity we operate as a network of independent professionals. Nonetheless I consider the teachers, even if they aren’t my employees, to the be the most important asset of my business, and I treat them as such. I do everything I can to make sure they have what they need in terms of equipment and services to be able to focus on their teaching and not to have to worry about other aspects of the studio. Before opening my studio I worked for some time in a start-up venture which was growing quickly. The entrepreneur running the organization frequently referred to the people he wanted to recruit as “paid monkeys” and paid them even less money and respect. It just doesn’t seem to make good business sense to have people working in one’s business for whom one has only contempt and to consider them idiots; why hire such people? What that entrepreneur was really expressing was “people who work for me must be idiots if they allow themselves to work for me under terrible conditions; I soon quit. As a business owner I always make sure everyone working for the company or on its premises are happy and treated fairly, because I know this will trickle down to a positive experience for the end customer. It’s amazing that not everyone has figured this out: it’s 2016!

    1. Andrea, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for your eloquent defence of taking care of your staff. Indeed, it is 2016!!

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