A few years ago as I was working on strategic planning with my leadership team and we were outlining the key performance initiatives and what we were going to do the following year to continue driving results, I said the phrase “we need to protect our investment”.
At this point in the brand’s life cycle we had spent 18 months defining who we wanted to be, creating a brand narrative, and pouring into the culture we wanted to build. We rebuilt the executive team, implemented a career path, revamped all of our training materials, reengineered the menu, designed a new restaurant prototype with an open kitchen, and had begun to develop a 5-year strategic plan for growth.
We had accomplished a great deal in a very short time and a lot of plates were spinning. As the leader of the organization it was my responsibility to make sure we did not get too far ahead ourselves and that we were grounded in the goodness of what we had begun to build. That required us to look at the work we had done and ensure that the foundation we had built could support the future initiatives, and it was important that we protected the investment of all we had done to reenergize the brand up to that point, especially the investment in the people culture of the organization.
When you invest in your organization in the key business drivers of people, innovation, technology, supply chain, training, culture, etc. you have to ensure that the results you are getting are actually the results you want to get, and you have to measure the return on that investment. For us, we had to make sure that the level of operational execution we achieved supported the commitment we were making to our employees and our guests, and that we could exceed their expectations, while at the same time delivering the business results we needed to see.
Protecting the investment you’ve made in your company culture is what allows you to reinvest in the organization with exciting new initiatives that build on the momentum you have already achieved. When you’ve constantly nurtured the investment you’ve made, you can work the fringes, take some calculated risks, and look at new opportunities to expand the influence of your organization, all while still protecting your investment.
The most important investment you have to protect is in your people and the culture that you’re building. Every decision you make for your organization should be looked at through that lens. It will require fierce intentionality to filter every decision through the lens of the impact on your culture, but doing so will ensure that you have the right foundation to create a culture of excellence that will sustain your organization for generations to come.