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What Happens When You’re Away From The Shop?

I'm sorry to admit it, but my wife and I frequent a a particular fast food taco joint. I've noticed in the past few months since they open that their operation spins like a top. The place is usually spotless, the environment is comfortable (for a fast food joint), the service is lightening fast, and the employee are generally friendly and somewhat conversational.

Interestingly, several employees have made negative comments to me about their manager (who is basically a fixture in the place). You must understand, I have a tendency to ask probing questions whenever I'm at a business - because I'm interested. But I always found it interesting that more than one worker had a problem with the same manager - and was willing to spill their guts about it.

Today I stopped in - and guess what? The manager wasn't there. Guess what else? The place was a wreck. It took over 10 minutes to get our food, there were no straws, the sauces were piled up on the counter in cardboard boxes, ice had overflowed the drink fountain and was spilling onto the floor and it wasn't even busy. Instead, these people were just lost in space - it never even occurred to them to come out into the restaurant and check up on things.

It sounds like an all-too-common tale. And maybe it is. But the points I make are several.

One: When the boss is away, the workers will play. So be prepared.

Two: The success and failure of your operation isn't necessarily tied to whether or not the folks in the office like you. This manager wasn't liked, but she ran a tight ship (at least when she was there).

Three: All of the best marketing efforts break down at the point of sale. Marketing can easily become the biggest investment you make in your business. It can quickly trump your rent and your payroll. And for good reason - done correctly it can earn a much larger ROI than anything else you do. But watch out! Even if you don't own a taco stand and even if you don't have employees, you can be a victim of the same trick.

Vendors, colleagues, competitors, and even you can be your worst enemies at the point of sale. Think about your own business - and the process the customers you've paid to get must go through to do business with you. Is it worth paying for? Would it be worth returning? Would it be worth talking about? And importantly, when your back is turned, is it the same as it is when you're looking?

Michael York ( suggested to us recently that real change within an organization comes from personal development. At first that may seem obvious, but it bears re-reading.

Clearly, the workers at the taco place were submissive to this mean manager when she was there, but rebellious when she was gone. And why not? What kind of personal development is going on there? My guess is not much.

Your business should be different - and if the people within it, including yourself, are not doing something to develop personally, you are all paying the price.

What separates leaders from managers? I submit to you it is the ability to spark a small flame within the belly of someone else. I don't believe the taco boss is sparking many flames in bellies (although I feel a little something hot in my belly right now).

So what flames are you sparking? Don't worry about finding the perfect flame, either. Just pick something to be passionate about and start spreading it. Read a book.

Passion sells - it sells everything from your customers to your employees - your passion for certain ideals and goals will rub off on those around you and cause them to buy in.