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The Value of Being an Early Adopter

Published May 5, 2019

Things change fast in the restaurant industry. Over the last 35 years that change has happened at a rapid-fire pace. From changes in technology to menu innovation to how restaurants are built, change has been like a speeding bullet. I feel fortunate to have been in this space at this time in the history of the industry and getting to experience the evolution of how business gets done.

I have learned so much from the different exploration of ideas on how to make restaurant operations more efficient, guest focused, and profitable. Not every idea has been a great one but so many of them have made the industry better, for employees and the guests. Even the ideas that have failed, changed and evolved over the years have helped the industry get to where it is today.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of being an early adopter. While every aspect of a new idea is important to account for when making a major investment in any business, every leader has to be able to stomach some risk or surround themselves with people who can.

  • Sometimes gut and intuition tell a different story than the data. They tell you something may be possible when no one else can see it.
  • Sometimes being an early adopter allows you to play the game before the other team gets on the field. By the time they show up, you’ve already won the game.
  • You learn what works and what doesn’t before anyone cares who you are or what you’re doing. The mistakes are an opportunity to learn and get better in a safe, controlled environment. That’s called practice.
  • Saying yes to an idea in its early stages gives you the ability to create a future that may not otherwise be possible. You will also inspire the people around you to greatness. You inspire them to think bigger and differently in order to tackle a business issue that they might be facing. That’s called leadership.

When I look at my number one talent from the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, it is Achiever. For me, the Achiever shows up in my being an early adopter and that has served me very well over the years. I’m usually up for trying anything. Early in my career, my hand went up early and often. It still does. I was interested in trying anything new to help my restaurant or restaurants get better. I still am. I wanted to see if I could break something and then put it back together and make it better. I still do. I wanted to take a great idea that had been launched and build on it to make it even greater. I’m still that way.

I am also a believer in the glass half full perspective. I believe that thinking positively will give you options that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. You have that advantage of being an early adopter. Sitting back and playing it safe will rarely lead to inspiring those around you to greatness. Even in failure having a positive perspective will allow you to move on to the next approach to solve the issue you’re facing. That is almost impossible to do if you’re convinced that there is no way out or no solution that will help you solve the problem.

And remember, you were one of the first ones to the party as an early adopter so is it even really a failure?

I find that when I believe that success is coming, it almost always happens! I try and model this for all leaders I work with. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking. This is looking honestly at the situation, assessing the facts, talking it over with the team, game planning the response to the issue, and then telling that story to ourselves! If we don’t believe we can win, then we’ve already lost.

Be the leader that figures out why something will work, rather than the leader who says it won’t work. This will go a very long way in building a brand of personal leadership that people will rally around and then use that inspiration to do the same thing for others.

Take a deep breath, hold your head high, look that challenge directly in the eye, and never look back.