5 (Almost) Free Things You Can do this Week to Improve Your Business

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And who doesn’t like something for free? Of course, when I say “free” I don’t mean that these things are 100 percent free—they’ll take some time and a little creative energy.

Still interested? You should be, since applying these things can move your brand out in front of your competition.

In a saturated industry like ours you really don’t want to be stuck in the crowd. I’ve described this place as being in the Red Ocean. The Red Ocean is bloody from the fierce shark-eat-shark mindset that plagues those stuck in this market segment. Competition is for suckers who don’t know how to break free from its magnetic pull.

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To break out into the Blue Ocean you must push past fear and your comfort zone to become different.

1. Market More...Consistently

Whenever you think you’re marketing is good enough, that’s a warning sign. Those two words are the telltale flag of mediocrity. “Good enough” is the standard for losers. Most restaurant marketing is mediocre at best. The number one downfall is consistency.

Posting every other day is not doing jack in your quest to keep your brand top of mind. Do you think that marketing is about making sales? It’s not. Its purpose is to keep your brand at the mental forefront of your guests. You want to set up space in their heads so you’re the brand of choice.

To win the marketing game you must understand the mental game of the guest. Egos rent billboards or advertising from an obscure radio station. That shit is the short game, and while it makes you feel like you’re someone big, it’s a foolish move. The smart operator plays the long game and controls the mental real estate of their guests, constantly keeping their brand top of feed in social media.

Read this: How to Cut Your Facebook Ad Costs in Half and Increase Your ROI

If you’re really smart you’re also adjusting to the way your guests are consuming media, incorporating video and live streaming into your marketing message. Everyone has a story to tell and that’s what your guests want to see. Stop the easy, low-hanging fruit of posting that monochromatic picture of your plate of meatloaf and gravy. No one is noticing except your friends and family. How do I know it’s your friends and family? Just take a look at who’s liking that boring stuff you’re posting.

2. Train Your Team...More

Like your marketing, your training is adequate at best. Look at online reviews: they’re constant rants about bad service and inconsistent food. Restaurants that rack up poor reviews on a regular basis have a training problem at the root of it all. While average restaurants train until their teams get it right, the outstanding restaurants train until their teams can’t get it wrong. That requires a new mindset and a commitment to shift from a training culture to a learning culture.

Training cultures do their training on the front end of the onboarding process. The new team member starts, receiving the standard 2-5 day training program that 90 percent of operators use. Those who are out in the Blue Ocean and stand out in their market think of learning and constant improvement as their crucible.

Read this: The Importance of Beer Training for Guest Satisfaction

Let’s get this out there: You can’t train too much, you can ever know it all, you can’t reach the pinnacle, because there’s always another level. That next level always requires a new version of yourself if you have any chance of reaching it. That’s the complete irony of this conundrum: You can’t get to the next level of development without becoming a different person.

3. Improve Your Communication...with Everyone

I’m known for saying that all business problems are really people problems in disguise. Here’s the other side of that: All people problems are usually communication problems, consisting of either miscommunication or lack of communication. The good news is that communication skills can be learned and improved. The only real questions are:

  • Do you see this?
  • Are you willing to put yourself out there as a person who’s willing to realize they suck at communication?

Sadly, communication skills aren’t really taught to us in school. With the ever-growing popularity of smartphones, the younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) are missing out on valuable life skills that can improve every aspect of their lives, one of which relates directly to communication problems: You must know how to talk to people.

Notice that last line said “to” people, not “down to” people. Communication should be focused on learning and understanding, not about making sure your viewpoint is the only one. Conversation should flow back and forth like a tennis match. Too often it’s like a one-way street that leads to a dead end. That’s not good.

If you haven’t been very good at communicating in the past, don’t worry. This skill, like all others, can be learned and improved if—and that’s a big if—you really want to get better. Take an online class. Read a few books. Listen to an audiobook. You don’t have to enroll in colleges and major in communications to get better. You just need to have a desire to become better at communicating with other people.

Read this: Putting the Cult in Brand Culture

Here’s the bonus! When you improve your communication skills at work, they’ll spill over into your personal relationships, too! Contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t such thing as work-life balance, there’s just life. It’s your life, so take control of it all.

4. Read More...

Most people haven’t picked up a book since school. That’s sad, because we only rise to the level of our personal development. There’s a saying that learners are earners. Well, it’s true! Ignorance is not bliss, it’s just being ignorant! It’s time to stop whining that you don’t have time to learn and start walking down the path of knowledge.

With the internet and your phone (that you’re most likely using to read this) come a wealth of information. Instead of checking Facebook for the 12th time today, how about engaging in something educational? There are a lot of blogs out there (not as cool or awesome as this one, obviously) that can open your mind to new ideas and unlimited possibilities. Podcasts are another resource for those who commute and may find time for reading in short supply.

(Note: The I-don’t-have-time excuse is just bullshit. You don’t own time, you own your attention and focus. Both are delegated by what we deem are priorities. So, when you say you don’t have time, what you’re really saying is that it’s not important to you.)

Read this: Speakeasies with a Twist Surge in Popularity

Making time to improve yourself is the absolute best use of your time available to you. There are countless high achievers who dedicate time each week for reflection and reading. In fact, there’s a known law called The 5-Hour Rule. This rule was coined by Michael Simmons, founder of Empact, and he has written about it widely. The concept is quite simple: No matter how busy successful people are, they always spend at least an hour a day —or five hours a week—learning. That could be reading, listening to audiobooks, or even taking in some educational YouTube videos. No, watching America’s Funniest Home Videos is not considered educational.

5. Take Action!

Here’s the best free thing you can do to improve your restaurant: take action now! The road less traveled is bullshit. Take the express lane and get stuff done! So many people talk a great game about doing this or doing that. There comes a time when you separate yourself from the cult of mediocrity by stepping up and doing exactly what you say you were going to do.

When can you market more? Today.

When can you train your team more? Today.

When can you work on improving your communication skills? Today.

When could you take time to read and learn more? Today.

Your words are just a bunch of fluff that you say to others so they think better of you. Well, when all that talk doesn’t get backed up with results (that means taking action) you’ll soon start to look like the boy who cried wolf, and if you know that story you know it didn’t end well for the boy! “Less talk and more action” must become your new mantra. There’s a great phrase I use to keep myself in forward-momentum mode all day and it’s just two words: What’s next?

Read this: Bob Peters to Demonstrate Innovative Products at the Nightclub & Bar Live Bar

Those two words are on a wristband I wear all day. They’re also set as alarms on my smartphone all day long (at two-hour intervals). That little nudge of “What’s next?” throughout the day keeps me focused and in action all day long. 

What does it cost to set some alarms on your smartphone? Nothing

What’s the result? Do it for 90 days and you tell me!

Attending the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show? Donald Burns is sharing even more tips you can use immediately to improve yourself and your bar, nightclub or restaurant. Don’t miss “Competition is for Suckers: How to Become a Blue Ocean Operator” today, March 25 at 3:00 p.m., and “How to Herd Cats: 7 Secrets to Get the Restaurant/Bar You Want” on Wednesday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. Donald is also available for our Coaching Chalk Talks in the Expo Hall at booth 1434 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. and 3:00-4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26.

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