September 19, 2012 |

New Year Strategy

By Dave Ostrander

It’s time to think strategically about the new year. If you want to achieve growth you need to organize your tasks, set clear goals and implement a plan of attack. Each business has different needs, but there are some things all operators should take into consideration when making their New Year’s Resolutions. Here, then, is a list of 10 things you should vow to get done as soon as possible.

  1. Get Your Financial House in order. I can’t count the number of operators I work with that use really sorry financial statements. Most of them are unreadable and give little or no timely, useable information. Most of us aren’t accountants. Most of us despise paperwork. Most of us can’t critique a good or bad balance sheet or P&L. Still, you can and should hire someone who will do the job or enroll in a college level accounting course. One of my many mentors was a CPA. My books were such a mess he refused to take my case until I passed two semesters of Accounting. Don’t let this happen to you.
  2. Get a System that organizes you. I’ve been using a Franklin – Covey Planner since 1990. It’s with me, always. Every contact, calendar and promise made is written down. My daily to-do list stares at me several times a day. When you get organized you can get your managers and key people on the same system. Now you’ve created a delegation and measurement tool. My manager knew what I was doing and I knew what he was doing. We were literally on the same page. We set deadlines, goals and objectives and met them — but only because they were written down. Today’s newer technologies almost make the written word a thing of the past. Look into hand held organizers if you are techno savvy. Little floating pieces of paper don’t cut it anymore.
  3. Get a Grip on Food and Labor Costs. The importance of portion control and tight scheduling will make or break your operation. The tools are out there to pretty much automate the process. You can only make menu and financial decisions based on timely information. There is no excuse for running a business that leaves the two biggest expense categories to luck. On the low end you’ll receive a $200 a week raise. On the high end I’ve helped clients pocket over a thousand a week. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make pricing decisions. Income has to rise faster than expenses or you’ll go broke.
  4. Develop an Annual Marketing Plan. Every one of us has said, “The reason XYZ restaurant is so busy is because they advertise all the time. Take away their marketing and they wouldn’t be able to maintain market share by selling mediocre food.” Marketing is the only expense that creates and increases sales. Develop a 12-month plan and budget it, just like rent and utilities. Your message will eventually get imbedded in the minds of your market and influence new customers to buy from you. The trap here is to figure out what marketing strategies work for you. Every campaign needs to be graded according to its return on investment. The strategies that are lame get tossed aside. The brilliant ones get tweaked and repeated.
  5. Over-train your employees to the point they don’t need you around anymore. Remember; EO or CEO. You make the choice. This may take half of your time in the shop. Trust me; the rewards will be worth it in the long run. Hire the best, pay a little more. Expect high productivity and less attitude. Fire the rest. Foodservice is not for everybody.
  6. Set achievable personal and business goals for next year. Write them down. I put sticky notes all over my bathroom mirror. Share your business goals with your crew. Reward them when the team achieves them.
  7. Review your insurance policies with a professional agent and possibly your attorney. By not doing this I had to cough up over $150,000 after a big loss. You are undoubtedly underinsured for a worst case scenario, just like I was. Spend the extra few hundred bucks a year and sleep easy.
  8. Be a Student. Somebody knows something that will change your life. It may come to you in a seminar, book, video or mastermind group. Every three years it seems that my knowledge base increases twofold. I’m always looking to friends and strangers to challenge the way I do or see things. Ask questions of successful people. They are most often happy to share their secrets. If you were arrested and charged with impersonating a professional restaurateur, would there be enough evidence to convict? All professionals religiously attend educational retreats and workshops. This is where the newest information and ideas are found.
  9. Plan two or more vacations for next year. At least one should be designed to completely relax you and quiet your mind and body. Make it long enough to get the job done. Plan another working vacation. Fun, friends and excitement folded into a learning environment. I can’t think of a better place to get the job done than Pizza Expo. Budget for it. If you can save 20 pounds of cheese a week and shave an hour a day from your schedule, you’ll have all the money you’ll need to have a life.
  10. Be fearless and have fun. Don’t allow anyone to steal your dream.