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One Trick Pony

Published September 11, 2018

Hi my name is Bobby Shaw, and I’m a One Trick Pony. At least that is how some people see me in this industry. A One Trick Pony is defined as ‘a person or thing with only one special feature, talent, or area of expertise’. And that’s not really true of course, but I do have an intense focus on culture and people development in the restaurant business and I won’t apologize for that. That intense focus has also produced some kick ass results over the years and while I’m certainly proud of that, I am even more proud of the teams of people I have led through the years that have delivered those results.

There is no substitute for having the right people in the right places doing the right things. Creating a culture that recognizes and rewards top performers for delivering results the right way will pay dividends far beyond anything that shows up on a PNL. In addition to great financial results what shows up is a group of people who want more for each other than they want for themselves and that reproduces itself across generations of leadership in your organization.

When I talk about culture I am always sure to talk about how building a culture that fosters an environment of excellence will impact the business model in so many different ways that once you get it going you couldn’t stop it if you wanted to, and of course why would you want to?

I’m still surprised when I meet restaurant owners, senior executives and leaders who have one foot in and one foot out of building a culture that will give them the foundation to build a successful restaurant company. I’m amazed when in those conversations there is excuse after excuse given as to why they can’t do it. It’s too expensive and takes too much time they tell me. I tell them they can’t afford NOT to build that culture and that the time it takes to build that culture gives them a lot of time back to focus on building the business with culture as the foundation. I also remind them that building a strong people culture isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.

On the other side of the conversation, I am elated when I meet restaurant owners, senior executives and leaders who have come to the realization that none of the other initiatives in their organizations will ever be maximized to their full potential without having a strong people culture as the foundation. When leaders get to the point where they realize that everything they want for their business is rooted in culture and leadership development good things start to happen.

Without the laser focus on building culture and people development there was zero chance that Chipotle would have ever achieved the success it did, and I can say that because I was a part of that success for a decade. It’s also the reason that Chipotle will never have that kind of success (the kind that matters, not the stock price) again unless they return to their roots and reinstall that people culture that made them such a force to be reckoned with.

Without a commitment to investing in the people culture no organization will be able to fully achieve what they want to achieve. There may be some short term wins and some level of success achieved but it will be bittersweet.

The building culture conversation applies to your organization whether you are one-unit in Austin (I’m consulting with a one-store franchisee right now and we just promoted two people from within and are building a culture), a four-store franchisee (I have one in Kansas City and they are making the commitment to building a strong people culture to help them scale) or 10, or 100 restaurants. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you making the decision to move forward and plant a flag. Make a decision to invest in your culture. Make a decision to realize that tenure doesn’t equal excellence and what got you here won’t get you there.

Make a decision to invest in excellence. You’ll never regret it.

My name is Bobby Shaw, and I’m proud to be viewed as a One Trick Pony.