Our Place or Yours

Delivery has become the next great adventure for many in the Fast Casual space, and Dickey’s is no exception. As aging Millennials with a good share of economic buying power demand convenience, restauranteurs are adapting to provide them with their food where they want it and when they want it.

At Dickey’s, an entire department is dedicated to building our off-premise sales to ensure we are meeting the needs of our guests. In addition, significant resources have been activated to build the technological infrastructure, operational guidelines and standards for Dickey’s Delivery experience.  As any CEO will tell you, launching any systemwide initiative that impacts how guests enjoy and experience our barbecue comes with its own set of challenges, which is why I always come back to the key reason we decided to launch delivery.

On any given week, there is a night Laura and I opt to stay in and have our dinner delivered to our home. We’ve had positive and negative experiences, favor certain packaging types over others and continue to have robust discussions surrounding what type of food we’ll be ordering.  There is a key component of our delivery evaluation that always solidifies a positive delivery from a poor delivery: the consistency between the delivery experience and the in-restaurant experience.  In other words, do I feel the same way about my meal eating it in the comfort of my own home as I would dining in the restaurant? 

The focus on experience, and for us, the experience of good barbecue, is what I believe has differentiated barbecue delivery from all others.  When you eat Dickey’s Texas-style barbecue, you expect to smell the hickory smoke, taste the tenderness of the brisket, see mouthwatering proteins and sides, hear country music in the background and perhaps wash it down with an ice-cold beer.  While we can’t control what our guests hear at home, we can ensure they have the best barbecue delivery experience that touches all their other senses. 

That’s why we’ve taken to asking our guests “Our place or Yours?” when they order. Authentic barbecue shouldn’t be limited to our stores because the experience should be available to anyone, anywhere. I look forward to delivering in 2019 bringing Legit. Texas. Barbecue. to families at our place or theirs.

A Blessed Tradition and a Bright Future

The holidays mean something special to all of us, because this time represents something deeper than a super sale or drop in temperature—it represents tradition. For the Dickey family, this season is marked by the start of a barbecue legacy. As that legacy turned one year older this October, I am reminded that sharing and carrying the traditions of my family through the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise is my greatest blessing.

Every one of us has an history, but traditions behind those lineages are often unknown. As for me, the rituals and traditions of my family were passed down with a care and understanding that I always remember where my values originate. Those deep seeded values planted firmly by my family sprouted into what became the world’s biggest barbecue franchise. I belong to a legacy which still stands like an unwavering hickory tree grounded by its’ roots and continues to climb to new heights and branch outward and onward year after year. It is my privilege to know where this journey began, and thereby I make it my duty to share its’ glory and take the world’s greatest barbecue where it has yet to go. With this, I write to the following groups who have helped make us, shape us or will take us to the place where this legacy has yet to live.

To our millions of guests:

It has been my distinct honor to continually serve each and every one of you for the past 77 years. You’ve graciously let us into your communities, homes and hearts and so we thank you for letting us in and giving us a seat at the table.

To my extended family:

I’m thankful to all of you, who not only believe in our barbecue and this business model, but also share and embody the values I hold dear. It is my hope that every Dickey’s franchise owner knows that true to form I’ll always support you and see your success through. Lastly, it is because of the work you do that we can facilitate the spirit of community and share delicious Legit. Texas. Barbecue. all around the world.

Lastly, I speak to anyone searching to start their own legacy or become a part of a legacy already in place to please know this: The tallest trees have the deepest roots, and the organizations that successfully stand the test of time always know you can’t get where you want to go, if you don’t know where you’ve been. 

While our holidays may differ and how we celebrate this season is unique to each of us, we all hold dear memories rooted in our own family traditions. Ask anyone what their holiday rituals include, and you’ll find most recollections include a certain dish or an annual party. For the Dickey’s, this season is marked by the start of a barbecue journey, and as the legacy grows, I am reminded that what I’m able to carry on for my family is not a blessing—but a privilege.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Franchise system, our extended Family

The energy of the Dickey’s brand, at the Home Office and amongst franchisees, is palpable as we enter the heart of the fourth quarter and the holiday season kicks into full swing.  Our system is experiencing a great boost in sales, we’ve engaged new internal and external partners and all the hard work is resulting in greater profitability for our franchisees.

After the restaurant recession in 2016, our system experienced challenges, we believe it is the strength of our family franchise that has enabled the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit brand, and Dickey’s franchise system, to flourish. 

Family is at the core of what defines the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  And at Dickey’s, family means so much more than being a direct descendant of my grandfather, Travis Dickey, or my father, Roland Dickey, or my wife, Laura Rea Dickey. Of course, there would be no Dickey’s Barbecue Pit without the Dickey Family, but there would be no name recognition of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit without Dickey’s franchisees who have embraced my family’s love of Legit. Texas. Barbecue. and shared it with their communities. The Dickey’s brand is comprised of our family, from the Home Office to every single franchisee from Oahu to Omaha, and Akron to Abu Dhabi. 

I firmly believe the Dickey’s Barbecue franchise is the biggest and best in the world because of our collective commitment to authentic, Texas-style barbecue. We frequently say that our barbecue is a process, not processed, and I believe the same holds true for our franchise system.

Throughout our 25 years as a franchise, we’ve shared successes and struggles and will continue to do so as we expand both stateside and nationally. As the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit brand, we share more than just my grandfather’s name. We share a passion for barbecue and a drive to master the process of perfecting it, and those who share and espouse these standards are the pulse of our Dickey’s Barbecue franchise family.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit Franchise heads north to Canada

Dickey's International

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is now bringing Legit. Texas. Barbecue. to our northern neighbor, Canada. Continuing our international expansion in 2019, there will be 20 stores opening in Edmonton, Alberta, Calgary, Regina, Saskatchewan and Saskatoon. Check out this great article to find out more. I couldn’t be more proud of the Dickey’s team.

https://www.fastcasual.com/news/dickeys-fires-up-canadian-expansion/

Legit. Texas. Barbecue. arrives in the Middle East

Dickey's Barbecue Pit International

The Dickey’s team has recently introduced a brand line that describes the heart and soul of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  Under the leadership of my wife, Laura Rea Dickey, we announced what I believe to be the perfect description of our brand: Legit. Texas. Barbecue.

Legit. Texas. Barbecue. encompasses who we are as a brand and what sets us apart from the competition.  I believe our authenticity is rooted deep in my family history and defined by our artisan approach to barbecue: pit-smoking our meats low and slow, overnight, every night.  A technique that results in Texas style barbecue served daily to barbecue lovers in Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchises across the nation. 

As I reflect on this brand line, I believe my grandfather and Dickey’s original founder, Travis Dickey, would nod his head in approval.  Our Legit process for smoking our meats has developed barbecue enthusiasts of all ages, and now, across the world.  On October 12, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit opened our first international location in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  The store opening was an amazing success.

I am incredibly proud of the team at Dickey’s, particularly my wife, Laura Rea Dickey, for her dedication to Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. as CEO, our international expansion and her hard work behind the scenes. I’m especially pleased with the seamlessness of the opening events for our Abu Dhabi store. We have an excellent international partner in Serenity Hospitality, who is committed to bringing the Middle East Legit. Texas. Barbecue. I feel fortunate to collaborate with a great partner, look forward to their future developments and appreciate our shared love of our Texas style barbecue. 

In a few months, I’ll be traveling to Dubai, where our second international location will open.  To be honest, I am humbled that Dickey’s Barbecue has transcended 77 years and into an entirely new continent.  It’s an honor to lead my family business and ensure the legacy of our Legit. Texas. Barbecue. carries on for many years to come.  

How is net worth truly measured?

Roland Dickey Sr.

“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.” -William Bruce Cameron

When describing net worth, it’s simple to calculate it with hard numbers, data and assumptions surrounding financial performance. But I get caught on that word “worth” – isn’t there more to it than that? Shouldn’t personal values be figured into a person’s worth as well?

In the strictest terms, net worth is defined as everything you own of significance minus what you owe in debts. But who determines what is “significant”? Who says gross profit is more significant than charitable giving or enjoying the sunset in Key West?  My wife, Laura, and I try to consider a more inclusive idea of “net worth” when we face a decision. To us, true net worth includes:  

Knowledge

Knowledge can’t always be measured, but there is a wealth in knowledge that’s crucial to fulfillment in life. The possibility of education surrounds us, whether from a classroom, from your parents or from your work. I had the opportunity to learn by watching my dad run a business, and now that I’m the one running it, I try to keep an open mind to the opportunities around me to learn and improve. Away from work, I’m committed to learning as I read about the historical greats of our time. Someone else’s life challenges and successes can be a treasure trove of insight and new perspectives.  

Perspective

When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by planes and aviation. I now get to travel quite a bit, and I love how this life-long passion is a regular part of my career. But it’s shown me something else – the value of perspective. Just as my view from a plane makes small details vanish and a larger vista emerge, taking a broader view allows me to freshly consider everything from large business decisions to where we might go on our next long weekend getaway. I try not to let the many details of the decisions we need to make every day cloud my vision of the bigger picture.

Charity Work

It has been so rewarding to me to devote time and energy into giving to others, particularly our own charity, The Dickey Foundation. What a feeling to know that, due to the hard work of our foundation and the generosity of the Dallas community, we’ve helped the Dallas Police Department be safer as they keep us safe: we’ve helped provide them top-of-the-line ballistic armor. Our foundation has given each Dickey’s Barbecue Pit a way to add even more worth to their communities by giving back to their first responders.

Family

A tremendous value throughout my life has been how family and business overlap for me. I know it’s a rare gift to be able to say that my most revered business mentors are my own father and grandfather. Working with them – and being trained and trusted to lead the family business – has meant a great deal to me. And if I thought I appreciated them before, the time when I didn’t work with them really made me see how fortunate I had been when we were side by side. Family can be blood relatives or your closest confidants; whatever you consider family, cherish them. Otherwise, your accomplishments mean little.

 

As important as these topics are, they are only a handful of what I believe totals to genuine net worth. And I know that formula is going to be different for each person. I encourage you to take a little time to reflect on what adds up to your own net worth. I offer my list to give you a start.

 

Don’t Drop It!

Lean manufacturing experts have long been using an upside-down pyramid to draw their org charts. I have always liked this view as it symbolizes how the most important people in the organization – those at the top – are the line workers, carried by the leader at the bottom. 

Sometimes it can feel as if – as leaders – we are holding that inverted pyramid with just a thin stick, like a juggler would hold a spinning plate. Not an easy thing to do! The slightest mistake, and the plate comes crashing down in front of us.  

The difference to a plate juggler, though, is that the pyramid is not just made of plastic. In organizations, this pyramid is really made of its people, culture, mission, values, strategy, policies, processes and so much more. Like it or not: All of the good and the not-so-good things are in there. Feeling the pressure, yet? 

Once I picture myself balancing this "pyramid", a few things become clear:  

1. You need something that keeps it all together

No matter how you structure your pyramid (which processes, systems, priorities, culture etc), trust is the glue that keeps it all together. Trust is the most fundamental part of your organization’s health. You need your pyramid to be as compact as possible, and the more glue (trust) you have to keep the components from shifting against each other, the better. 

Lesson: Always seek the truth and build trust in your organization. There are many ways to build trust. One great way is to give people a voice when making decisions that impact them!

2. Alignment about Direction 

As any decent juggler will tell you, if you want to move that spinning plate above your head in a new direction, you need to adjust your own movements to those of the plate, first. So, if the plate is moving to the right, and you want to move it to the left, you first need to bring yourself to the right of the plate in order to slow it down and to eventually move it left. If you don't, you will lose balance and the plate will fall. 

Similarly, if you try to move your organization in a new direction without alignment, the pyramid will tip and fall. Alignment doesn’t mean everyone does what the leader says. It means everyone is on the same page.  

Lesson: On strategic changes, build broad support in your organization. Address those who are impatient, those who worry, and those who resist. No, its not a vote, but by getting greater acceptance in your team, your decisions will ultimately be more effective. Communicate, communicate, and communicate.   

3. Getting Whacked

Sometimes when you juggle plates, someone comes along and whacks your stick from the side. It may just be some good-natured fun, but you end up having to recover. 

In business, not every directional change can be well-thought out, strategized and debated. Sometimes in business, too, you get “whacked” - as Jack and Suzy Welch put it in “The Real-Life MBA.” Getting whacked can come in different forms: a new competitor, and vendor who goes out of business, a recession, a natural disaster.  

To recover, you may need to change direction quickly, and your ability to recover may not hinge on alignment in your organization: It may be all about capabilities. Is your organization capable of moving quickly, and of adapting to the new demands? Are your processes and systems flexible enough? Is the culture in your company allowing mutual support of teammates, or do people stay in silos, protecting their own turf?  

If the people in your organization are willing but not able to move quickly enough, your pyramid will undoubtedly fall after being whacked. 

Lesson: Use any opportunity to build and grow your organization’s capabilities. Employees will thank you for it, and you will thank them for being able to take on new challenges when you need them too. Quickly. 

Lastly, what I like most about the "upside down pyramid" is that it shows so well the weight of responsibility that lies on the shoulder of the leader. The people "above" you rely on you to do a good job. They rely on you with their dreams and with their livelihoods. You owe it to them to keep the pyramid in balance: relentlessly build trust, ensure alignment, and build your team's capabilities. 

 

Lombardi Time

Vince Lombardi - loved by some, feared by others, but respected by all was arguably the greatest football coach of all time and is on the short list of history’s greatest coaches, regardless of the sport.  His ability to teach, motivate and inspire players helped turn the Green Bay Packers in to a dominating NFL team in the 1960s. Lombardi was also a thoughtful man with uncommon passion, a motivator with uncompromising values, and a leader with unprecedented wisdom and authority. He loved to win and taught others the discipline to achieve victory.

The phrase Lombardi time is coined from Vince Lombardi. He required his team to be early.  It meant that processes would run smoothly and no time would be lost waiting. It also showed respect and was a required discipline to be on his winning team.   Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought, and Disciplined Action.  It’s the formula Jim Collins provides in Good to Great, “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.”

Having a great idea, and assembling a team to bring that concept to life is the first step in creating a successful business. While finding a new and unique idea is rare enough; the ability to successfully execute this idea is what separates the dreamers from the entrepreneurs.  “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will,” said Lombardi. And the discipline or will to manage your time is part of the package.

Why subscribe to Lombardi time?

1. Time is an irreplaceable resource

Each second that becomes part of your past will never be part of your present or future ever again. Using each second, minute and hour of the day efficiently is the difference between winning and losing.

2. Move your flywheel

By taking control of your time, you're able to stay focused on the task at hand. This leads to higher efficiency since you never lose momentum (i.e. moving the Flywheel). Lombardi states, “The only place 'success' comes before 'work' is in the dictionary.”  This is true but working smarter is the key.

3. See the big picture

When you practice good time management, you are able to see big picture decisions better.  It starts with arriving at meetings early to gauge the landscape and plan strategy for a more effective discussion.  In addition, when you feel pressed for time, you're more likely to jump in to decisions and not fully consider alternate options.

4. Be more successful

Time management is the key to success; it allows you to take control of your business rather than follow the flow of others. You accomplish more, you make better decisions, and you work more

Lombardi said, “I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."  Mr. Lombardi was a smart man.  Leaders have a host of responsibilities that keep their schedules packed. From managing teams, to securing new vendors, leaders are tasked with juggling multiple projects at once. Effective leaders ensure that they maximize their time and accomplish their goals. They win, at all costs.

Battle to be the Best

RolandDickeyJr.

“Every battle is won before it is fought."

-Sun Tzu

These lines come from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a guide to military strategy written more than two thousand years ago. Why is this still relevant to the barbecue business and part of my leadership strategy today? The Art of War lays out a brilliant philosophy that has proven itself in all types of competitive endeavors. It’s remarkable how the same lessons are discovered again and again.  We apply these techniques to our service model in order to stay fresh and relevant in the industry.

Not a great deal is known about Sun Tzu the man, but his instructions for victory have taken on new meaning for business leaders such as myself. As Rick Wartzman, executive director of The Drucker Institute, wrote last year in Forbes, “Ask businesspeople to peg the writer whose thinking is most clearly reflected in both military and corporate circles, and odds are that you’ll hear the name.” 

"Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril" - Sun Tzu

Business has always been challenging, but as competition becomes more global and moves at a faster-pace, it has increased its edge. Business intelligence is crucial to learning competitor's strengths and weaknesses and understanding the capabilities of our own company. At Dickey’s we work at understanding the nuances that make us a growing brand.  Understanding that big picture is how we stay relevant. 

Sun Tzu gives us strategy from a warrior’s perspective.  Although we’re not at war, we are committed to actions that march our brand forward and bring our guests value. Strategy does not eliminate risk but it does help us approach the right risks. Innovation is at its core, an act of discovery, in which we must embrace the uncertainty of the environment, exploring it for opportunities and ways to serve better.

In other words, it’s the science of making good decisions about the future. It starts with the mission of the company and knowing what we stand for. After that, strategy must consider how the climate is changing in order to remain innovative and fresh. Not war but a great strategy for the art of great barbecue.

From The Pit

Dickies Barbeque Pit

When Zac Brown sings “I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right and the radio up,” he’s just nailed the heart of the guest experience.  Creating a successful brand is about knowing what makes your customers tick and being able to create that experience every time – sometimes before they even know they want it.

Guests crave more than delicious food from their favorite brand – they want a complete experience. One that includes all senses and gets it right every time.  From the rustic design of our restaurants, the wood fire smell from the smoker to the tunes playing in the background – it all sets the vibe for our guest’s experience. We know it’s the details that make guests feel good about dining with us and it’s also what will keep them coming back. 

Our guests relate to our hometown roots. After all, our humble beginnings in 1941 were as a beer joint with a little pit-smoked barbecue in the back.  What we do right hasn’t changed and never will.  Dickey’s Barbecue is recognized around the country, but you walk into our stores it feels like a local barbecue joint. We still pride ourselves on authentic, down-home food, served with genuine southern pride.  We give guests that local joint vibe with all the modern capabilities of a national restaurant chain.

We also make sure we serve our guests consistently.  We have almost 500 locations across the country, but the experience you have in Minot, North Dakota is the same you have in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  At Dickey’s, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But, we do take pride in the art of great barbecue. Although we’re a 74-year old chain, we definitely don’t want to look like it.  Kicking the tires on our brand is essential to staying relevant. Maintaining a streamlined image, whether it’s on Dickey’s craft paper packaging or our web presence or even a logo update; lets our guests know we pay attention to the details. 

In today’s fast paced, quick serve environment, creating a relevant brand takes strategy, innovation and a vibe. Guests are the bread and butter of any business, but especially in the fast casual industry.  Dickey’s has become so much more than just a recognizable national brand.  We hold memories for many people and their families.  They spend their birthdays and graduations with us and let us into their homes for parties and important family events.  We take their loyalty seriously.  Our Big Yellow Cup Club is an opportunity to thank our loyal customers and give them a sneak peek at new menu items and special offers. 

 Some people consider Dickey’s Barbecue an industry anomaly, expanding nationwide on a playing field normally reserved for mom and pop restaurants or regional players. Our growth shows we’re a recognized brand with a national reach –international reach eventually.  Dickey’s brand evolution is the product of a deliberate strategy to take the regional vibe of Texas barbecue to a national audience.  We’re making ourselves known one Big Yellow Cup at a time and our success shows in the many satisfied guests we’ve fed along the way.  

Keep Them Coming Back

Roland Dickey Jr.

Guests. They’re the reason we do what we do.  It was true back in 1941 when we opened our first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and it is just as true today as we open our 500th location.  They are the reason why our franchise owners arrive at their stores early to unload our fresh out the pit smoked meats and the reason we have a team focused on guest satisfaction. We read every email, Yelp review and social post with one singular focus. Guests.

My grandfather, Travis Dickey, wouldn’t believe our operation today. Back when he opened the first location in Dallas on Central Expressway he was happy to serve his counter guests.  Blessed with the gift of gab, he won over new guests one at a time.  This was our early guest response program. He had no idea he was creating the foundation for a national brand that would expand across the country.  He was just using his quick wit and southern charm to make folks feel welcome and keep them coming back.

We’ve been in the barbecue business for 74 years now and we’re still looking for new ways to keep guests coming back.  It starts with listening. Great guest service is a broad term encompassing everything from friendly greetings to being available at any moment to assist a guest. It starts the moment a guest calls or comes in to our restaurant and it means exceeding their expectations every time. Guests expect it and we deliver in all areas.

We aim for a warm, family-friendly environment for our guests. It starts with the smell of hickory that hits your nose as you walk in our doors and continues with our “Welcome to Dickey’s” greeting. We also make sure the music is the right blend of country classics and modern southern favorites. Guests see our restaurants are clean, well-lit and comfortable. We want to make our guests feel right at home.

When are guests take their first bite, we want them to be blown away by the slow smoked flavors in our brisket, pork, turkey, chicken and hams. Our meats smoke overnight for 13 hours to make sure they are infused with our signature wood and smoked perfection.  All meats are tender, juicy and packed with flavor. At the end of their meals, we offer a free trip to the ice cream machine as a thank you for their business.  And, as they walk out the door and we thank them for their business, we know we will see them again soon.

Our goal is to achieve 100% guest satisfaction and we won’t settle for less. It’s the way my grandfather did it in 1941 and a Dickey family tradition. 

 

Bullseye

CNBC just published an article naming us the 4th fastest growing restaurant chain in the country. The story featured restaurant chains bucking sales trends and delivering explosive growth across the country.  Technomic crunched the numbers and served up the fastest-growing chains in national sales--we’re proud to be part of such a remarkable group.

The timing of the accolades from CNBC couldn’t be better.  We just opened our 500th restaurant.  This is a milestone in our company history that has long been planned and talked about.  Many critics thought we had our sights set too high but we always knew we would reach this goal.  I think it was Walt Disney who said, “It’s kind of fun doing the impossible.”  We agree with Walt.

Taking Texas barbecue across the country seemed impossible when we first began franchising in 1994.  The story of our first franchised location is interesting in that it’s not something we planned.  Back in those days, we were happy being the best barbecue in the Dallas area.  My dad still worked the block every day and enjoyed playing to the crowd with the lunch regulars. My dad had a regular customer named Frank Smith who loved our concept.  He wanted a franchise but my dad kept saying no.  Frank Smith was very persuasive and eventually we sold him a store. 

Our first location outside of Texas was in Colorado.  Again naysayers said Texas barbecue wouldn’t find an audience outside of the Lone Star state.  I guess they were wrong again because growth just took off.  It seems people around the country liked the authentic slow smoked barbecue we had to offer.  Taking Texas barbecue across the country is no easy feat.  For many people, they are used to a regional style of barbecue like Kansas City or the Carolinas.  But, there was room in their hearts and stomachs for Dickey’s Barbecue.  By 2010 we were officially the nation’s largest barbecue joint –something our pundits said could never be done.

When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine.  The design was placed on paper, but the engineers all agreed it was simply impossible to cast an eight cylinder engine block in one piece. Ford replied “Produce it anyway.”  That’s what we have done.

It wasn’t always an easy path.  We hit many roadblocks along the journey but never gave up.  My family and our team had a vision for expansion that included aggressive growth along with continual innovation and improvement. With focus and grit, we pushed through it all to achieve “The impossible.”

I’ve never bought into the fact that any goal is unachievable. General George S. Patton once said “By perseverance, study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.” At Dickey’s we don’t set goals, we make commitments and we persevere. We celebrated hitting this commitment in the office by telling stories of people who said it couldn’t be done.  We laughed, we toasted our champagne and then we got back to work.  Why?  Because, we’re not stopping -- we’re not even slowing down.

Nailed It

RolandDIckeyJr.

 

 

Years of research has shown that most new businesses fail.  Business owners could be doing many of the right things but they may be in the wrong order. Yet in contrast, many entrepreneurs have a track record of success – they win every time no matter the industry or circumstances.  What’s the secret?

Everyone has their theories. I’m constantly looking for new insights that will boost our business and help us serve our guests better. I believe complacency and autopilot thinking are enemies of innovation.  I keep learning and growing as a leader by keeping my ear to the ground. I’m an avid reader and business historian.  When I am fortunate enough to speak to entrepreneurs, MBA students or college students looking for an edge, I always recommend three books that really speak to the business basics of success.  I read all of the books years ago –they were game changers that helped shape my business philosophy.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins is my favorite business book.  Collins delves in to the questions “Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?”

Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his team identified companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies.

Collins debunks myths about success drivers and pinpoints a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process and framework that keeps great companies on track for the long haul. It is the triumph of the Flywheel Effect over the Doom Loop and the victory of steadfast discipline over the quick fix. There is no miracle moment.  The good-to-great findings apply broadly—not just to CEOs and large companies but also to individuals.  As long as we can choose the people we want to put on our own “Bus” each of us can create a pocket of greatness. We can take our own area of effort and concentrate on moving it from good to great.

Double Your Profits: In Six Months or Less by Bob Fifer. This book offers 78 very specific tips that will make just about any company profitable within months.  So many business books are filled with fluff and urge readers to draw their own conclusions and action plans.  This book is different.  So different that even without much hype he was able to impress a few of the nation’s most respected CEOs. General Electric Chairman Jack Welch ordered copies for his top managers as a reminder that many of the cost-cutting, bureaucracy-busting, revenue-raising steps Fifer was proposing fit right in with the GE business model.

The book, which he calls “an exposé on how poorly run companies are in America,” preaches an ethic of profits first, nothing second. He suggests starting each day with three lists. The first is ways to cut costs or increase revenue. The second is what’s needed to maintain revenue. The third is things others want you to do but have no value to your company. “Never start on the second list until you have finished everything on the first list,” he says. “Throw away the third list.”

Nail It, Then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom provides insight in to the key practices that enable business owners to pivot with agility as they fine tune their businesses.  I think the title pretty well sums up the premise of the book.  Get it right and then expand seems like it would be a no-brainer.  But, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.

 “Pursuing a rapid experiment and finding out you were wrong and changing directions isn’t failure. That is the road to success,” says Furr.  If you are starting a new business, even a franchised business, using resources wisely is key.  Heading down a proven path allows entrepreneurs to adapt quickly and create a business or product customers actually want. Furr outlines the framework for actually testing ideas before wasting time and money. We use this model daily in deciding on adding new products to our menus or redesigning our dining rooms – it’s about starting with the end in mind.

 

Pulling Our Chain

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There has been much speculation on the fast casual market, especially in states like Washington where eating local has become a fascination.  The headline in a recent Forbes article reads “Behind Seattle's Franchise Battle: Why Patrons Don't Care If Chains Die.”   Well, shucks Forbes, I believe there are many people that would strongly disagree with that point.

I wouldn't call Washington the center of the universe when it comes to national tastes but I am willing to take the bait and entertain the thought that as the shop/eat local movement spreads chains need to evolve.

“When is a franchise not a small business? When it’s in Seattle.”

When a local owner opens a franchised location (even in Seattle) they consider it an entrepreneurial endeavor.  Many invest savings they have accumulated over a lifetime.  They don’t take it lightly and neither do we.  When my grandfather opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in 1941 it was a business risk and as we open our 500th location, in Yakima, Washington, there is the same risk/reward proposition.

Our owners buy a system that has been perfected over time.  We provide training, marketing and operations support but it’s still a small business. These local owners invest time, money and resources in the same entrepreneurial spirit as my grandfather did.  A franchise is a small business just ask your local Dickeys Barbecue Pit owner who goes to bed late after loading the smoke pit and gets up early to make sure they serve fresh products to the guests they have come to know so well.

Seattle took it a step further with the the $15-an-hour minimum wage the city passed last summer. They are counting franchises as bigger businesses that have to pay the higher rate sooner, because of their connection to a national franchisor. It's not fair and it's not evenly applied.  I believe it should be struck down by the courts.

“ franchises face a growing crisis. Consumers increasingly tolerate them, but don’t feel deeply attached to them”

We are fortunate to celebrate birthdays, holidays and graduations with guests.  They send us notes, emails, tweets and hand drawn pictures telling us about their experiences.  We once catered a wedding for a couple who met at a local Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and wanted Dickey’s to cater their wedding as a tribute.  I would say we are more than being tolerated.

Guests feel passionate about the foods they eat – I’ll agree with that point.  Barbecue is a food that brings out an even greater sense of passion and connection with guests.  Sometimes just the smell can send you back to the time your grandmother took you to lunch 10 years ago.  Does it have to be local to be special?

We still take great pains to source the freshest meats and track them from the field to the block insuring the highest quality.  We’re dedicated to the craftsmanship of authentic slow smoked barbecue served by local owners in 43 states across the country.  Many guests find this comforting knowing that they can grab a great meal in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and the same great quality food in Clovis, California.  We’re consistently good and there is merit in that accomplishment.

Seattle is a town suspicious of foreign imports (foreign being beyond Washington State borders)

Well that’s too bad Seattle.  You’re missing out on some great meals from really excellent brands.  While your friends in other cities are raving about an innovative new burger or ethnic creation, I hope you’ll be satisfied sticking to your guns.  Since when is different a bad thing?  

We’ve been thrilled with the reception we’ve gotten in markets new to the Texas barbecue experience.  And, here in Texas, I’ve been wow’ed by brands not native to my town.  I’m a foodie like many people, which means I’m opened minded and willing to try new things.  I’m relieved to see many Americans feel the same way which is how we continue to grow and offer opportunities to new business owners. 

I think Forbes would be surprised to know that Washington is one of our fastest growing markets. I’m not sure all hipsters from Seattle would agree with Forbes.  I do know we’re dedicated to serving consistently great food and have been happy to meet the locals.  

What do you think?

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I follow many business leaders in the retail and hospitality industry but it’s hard to find a better success story than Bill Marriot.  As the former CEO and executive chairman of Marriot International, his management style is legend.  It could be said that he learned about success from his father J.W. Marriott who turned his local root beer shop into a hotel chain in the 1950’s. Bill was charged with taking this American success story to the next level which is no easy task.  Today Marriot International manages more than 3,900 properties in 72 countries and employs around 325,000 people around the globe.

In his management blog, Marriot tells the story of meeting former President Dwight Eisenhower and learning the power of the question “What do you think?” Those words “What do you think?” are really a key to good leadership. They give valued team members, guests and vendors an opportunity to express their opinion.  They tell people that you really care about their insights and are willing to hear their perspectives.  In my industry this is key. I encourage our leadership team to share their opinions because great leaders listen first and evaluate before making decisions. 

I’m also passionate about listening to our guests. While we can’t be all things to all people, we can ask that very important question and consider all feedback. We have a very effective guest response program called “Talk to Dickeys” that we look at closely on a daily basis.  We use this as a scorecard on how well we are serving our guests. We also monitor review sites and actively engage with guests on all social channels.  Listening to what our guests think is imperative to staying relevant and we take it very seriously.

Bill Marriott joined the Marriott Corporation in 1956, became president in November 1964, and CEO in 1972. In his many years at the helm of his family’s company he came up with 12 rules for success. They still apply today and may be even more important than ever.

12 Rules for Success from Bill Marriot

1.      Challenge your team to do better and do it often.

2.      Take good care of your associates, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and they’ll come back.

3.      Celebrate your peoples’ success, not your own.

4.      Know what you’re good at and keep improving.

5.      Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.

6.      Communicate by listening to your customers, associates and competitors.

7.      See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible and accessible.

8.      Success is always in the details.

9.      It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.

10.  Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.

11.  Always hire people who are smarter than you are.

12.  View every problem as an opportunity to grow.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit started as a small barbecue joint with a limited menu but lots of personality behind the block.  My grandfather was skilled at engaging guests and never shy about asking for feedback on his food.  We take the same approach with all parts of our business.  If you’re not asking questions then you’re not learning anything. Bill Marriott’s 12 rules are definitely a playbook for success and his favorite question has become my favorite as well.  That’s just my opinion…but “what do you think?