Fresh eyes on a problem is always going to net some interesting feedback. If the new eyes understand what they are looking at, they can give insights as to the cause of the problem and suggest how to fix it. New eyes can be a consultant, a trusted friend, or even better, someone who has dealt with your problem before. The new eyes can also be you. You just need a new prism to change the angle of how you are looking.
Semi-Hypothetical Case Study
A coffee shop owner had a problem. Let’s call him ‘David’ and his shop ‘Roasting Co’. The business is a coffee roasting company with 3 retail outlets and a wholesale roasting facility. Business is good and it is expanding. Employees are loyal and are being promoted as the company grows. So far, this is a company without a problem. David is proud of his growth and has dealt with the expected pains of expansion well.
Brian reached out to a trusted consultant friend and said, “Something is wrong inside my company and I can’t put my finger on it. I am fully engaged with my employees. They say this is a great place to work. I have lower than average turnover. But I can feel the discord in both my employees and myself. Could you please spend a couple of days in my company and poke around? You have complete access to anyone and anything you want.”
On the first day, the consultant went as a secret shopper to the different retail outlets. It was interesting to see that the culture of celebrating the coffee was a top-of-list priority for almost all of the employees. Later in the day the consultant observed the operations of the roasting plant. In 24 hours the consultant was able to make a pretty strong conclusion as to why there was discord in the company. Now the task was to get the owner to see the solution.
The second day started with interviews of key personnel. The key question was, “What exactly do YOU do here?” The answers were very telling.
Barista 1: “I am responsible for the customer experience. We make espresso and hand drip coffees.” He then went on to explain step by step how he completed his tasks.
Manager 1: “I do all of the scheduling of shifts, initiate training, manage consumable inventories, and monitor the quality of our drink making and customer service.” She then went on to tell the consultant, “There are a lot of other things that seem to be getting piled on but my team handles it ok.”
Roaster / Production Staff 1: “I get the roast schedule for the day and then weigh, roast, weigh again and do an inventory check to make sure we don’t run out of stock on anything.”
Operations and QC Manager: “It seems like I do everything around here. I oversee the retail mangers, the roasting staff, equipment maintenance, staff trainings and run the cupping room to ensure the consistency and quality of our coffee. I create roasting profiles and blends. I never seem to get everything done though because priorities keep changing on me.”
Owner: “I try to move the company forward in both sales and quality by delegating responsibility to the management team and then following up. I don’t get good reporting so I often don’t know about simple problems until they are big problems. I am trying to concentrate my time on growing wholesale so we can continue to grow. That seems to be going ok. Retail, though, grabs my attention all the time because as an owner I will walk through the shop and see trash on the floor and dirty counters. It drives me crazy so I tell the ops manager to figure it out with the retail manager. That never happens so I just go take care of it.”
Does any or all of this sound like where you work? Well it should because most small businesses, as well as departments of large businesses suffer from employees not knowing the answer to, “What exactly do you do here?” So what is the problem with this company? Why are they frustrated? EASY!
Only the lowest ranking employees know what they are supposed to be doing because there job is well documented. They have checklists, forms and structure. Expectations have been set and they strive to exceed them. Upper management does not hold themselves to the same rigor of purpose and transparency of job tasks. They don’t know exactly what they do in the company.
On the last half of day 2, the consultant called in the Owner and the Ops Manager and said, “Congrats! The top two most experienced, loyal and dedicated people in the company are the cause of the problem. You have over the years created checklists for your stores and roasting operations, and nothing for the new and more complex management tasks you are facing. You have no idea what to do, when to do, it or priorities. You work on what’s in front of you. The good news is, you are empowered to be the ones to fix it. Now role up your sleeves because this is going to be a 30 day job and you will have changed everything.
Step 1: Document what you do down to the granular level. Everything must be reduced to tasks with a beginning, middle and end. Also write the actual time per week in minutes or hours it takes to accomplish each task. No task is trivial; nothing done during your work week should be ignored.
Step 2: Arrange these tasks into logical groups like Meetings, Roast Production, Retail Store etc. Now add up how much time you are spending on each group for which you are responsible.
Step 3: For each group you need to make a checklist that you will actually check off each day and week. On the checklist will be the name of the activity, when it must be executed and a checkbox where it can be marked done.
Step 4: Review each week the tasks that got done and those that didn’t. Try to place the undone tasks in next week’s schedule such that they are likely to get done. Redo your checklist to better match your current priorities.
What happened to David and Roaster Co.?
The Ops Manager figured out that by being promoted, he didn’t really have a job. The Owner never gave clear job functions to the Ops manager without the tools to organize the chaos. When his task list was complete he discovered he did not actually have many real responsibilities. He merely over managed others to fill time. David discovered that his actual day to day tasks only accounted for about 55 hours per week. When he put them in an organized, time activated checklist he was able to give about 30 hours to his Ops manager in an organized way with expected results. He was then able to focus efforts where he wanted to grow. And the company did.
For more detailed suggestions for fixing your business; suggested reading is ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Gerber.
Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com