Archive for March, 2013

Onboarding Managers – An Often Overlooked Best Practice

Monday, March 25th, 2013

A long-recognized best practice is to develop an onboarding plan for your operation’s new hires.  The purpose of such a plan is to ensure that new employees are welcomed to the enterprise, receive the appropriate orientation and introductions, and are indoctrinated into the organizational culture, as well as receiving a basic review of enterprise information, employee benefits, operating policies, and work rules.  When the onboarding process is formalized and consistent, all employees have an appreciation for the story of the organization, an awareness of their job requirements, and a common understanding of expectations for their conduct and performance.

While there is no denying the benefits of a thorough onboarding process for line employees, it is even more critical that the enterprise put a similar effort into onboarding newly-hired managers and supervisors.  Regardless of education, work history, and experience, these individuals act as agents of the enterprise and set the standard for everything their employees do.  With so much riding on their leadership and example, ensuring they convey consistent direction and standards to their employees cannot be left to chance.

My optimum onboarding process for managers and supervisors includes the following:

  • The same onboarding process as line employees receive so that they hear and understand what line employees are told.
  • A copy of the Employee Handbook provided for the same reason.
  • A thorough indoctrination in organizational values, presented by the General Manager for maximum impact and effect.
  • Leadership guidance from the General Manager to ensure that all managers have a common understanding of service-based leadership and their critical role in communicating with and motivating employees.
  • A copy of a Managers Handbook, written specifically to spell out expectations for those who direct the line employees with emphasis on employment law, legal and liability issues, work rules, fiscal responsibilities, safety and security, as well as an in-depth discussion of counseling, conduct, discipline, and performance requirements.
  • A detailed review of job description and performance expectations by immediate supervisor
  • A copy of the operation’s Strategic and Annual Plans so they understand its direction and trajectory.
  • In concert with immediate supervisor, the development of an individual work plan with first year reviews at 30, 90, and 180-days.  Early engagement, counseling, and intervention as necessary are critical to the long-term performance and success of any newly hired manager.
  • Introduction to and review of personnel and accounting standards, policies, and procedures by Human Resources Manager and Controller, respectively.
  • Introductions to key management staff.
  • For managers of private club, presentation to board and key committee members.
  • A first-year reading list of management and leadership books to include Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, John Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within You, and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  To be most effective, these books and other periodically assigned reading material should be discussed on an ongoing basis at weekly staff meetings.
  • Office or work space set up, fully prepared, and waiting for the new hire.  Minimum support requirements include a personal computer or laptop, cell phone or PDA, a list of key phone numbers, a listing of department heads and managers with land line and cell numbers, security codes for work areas, and a set of keys for all necessary spaces.
  • After several weeks the General Manager will set up a one-on-one meeting with the new hire to see how he or she is settling in, to answer any questions, and to once again reinforce basic leadership concerns, organizational values, and enterprise goals.

While this level of effort to onboard management staff seems like a lot of work for something that may only happen a couple of times a year with normal turnover, the potential repercussions of not providing consistent information and expectations to new managers and supervisors and continuing to reinforce it on a regular basis can have a significant and long-term impact on the quality of the operation.

While there are many important and valuable HR best practices, I don’t believe there is any as important as establishing the basis for how your organization runs with those who must lead employees.  The time and effort put into individually developing your management staff and forging them into a team with a common understanding of purpose and means is the single most critical driver of an enterprise’s success, yet how often is it overlooked in the ongoing press of daily operations?

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Benchmarking Your Way to Improved Performance

Monday, March 18th, 2013

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, one of the leading lights of 19th century science said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”  While he was speaking of scientific inquiry and measurement, the same statement could be made regarding any desire to improve your company’s operating efficiency.

If you cannot accurately measure your current operating performance, how would you know where to best apply your corrective efforts?  Or even if those efforts were working or not?  This, in a nutshell, expresses the necessity of detailed benchmarking of all aspects of hospitality operations.

Every business operation monitors its performance by accounting for its revenues and expenses, thereby determining its level of profitability.  In the broadest sense the monthly financial statements are the measure of how the business is doing, but you must understand that the financial statements are summary numbers derived from the interplay of a large number of operational variables.

So if you want to increase your profitability, the numbers from your financial statements only allow you to say, “We need to increase revenues” or “We need to reduce our expenses.”  Without further detail as to where the problems are, you’ll never know where best to apply your efforts to increase revenues or cut expenses.

The key underlying variable for revenues in any operation is the number of customers patronizing the establishment, or volume of business.  This measure will be different for different areas of the operation – diners for the food and beverage operations, rooms occupied for lodging establishments, golf rounds for golf operations, retail transactions for the pro shops or other retail outlets.  The second and no less important variable is how much each customer spends on average while utilizing these facilities – the average check per diner in the dining room, the average room rate in a hotel, the green or cart fees per round on the golf course, and the average sale in the retail outlets.

The basic benchmarks of volume and average spend are computed by every POS system, but the real benefit of monitoring these benchmarks is in tracking them by day of week, week to week, month to month, and year to year.  This tracking over time allows the operator to monitor daily, weekly, and seasonal trends which is important because every area of an operation has its own variations based on time of day, day of week, and season.

Here’s an example of how benchmarks can help:

When dining revenues are down it’s important to know what combination of volume and average spend is causing the shortfall because the solution to one or the other is very different.  If volume is down, you need to figure out a way to bring in more customers more often.  If average spend is down, you need to figure out why – are they spending less because of the general economy, is your menu pricing appropriate to their expectations, or do your employees need more training in suggesting and upselling?

Other benchmarks can shed more light on the problem.  Are lesser priced menu items selling better?  If so it might indicate price sensitivity.  Are the cover counts down on Wednesday night when you offer your seafood special?  If so, this might indicate that customers are growing tired of this longstanding menu, or maybe another restaurant is luring them away with their own special pricing and fare.

Another example:  What if revenues are steady, but net income is down?  By benchmarking what menu items are selling, you might notice that you are selling large quantities of a low margin item from your menu.  By carefully tracking your food costs, you might discover that a key ingredient in your best-selling menu item has risen dramatically in recent weeks.  By benchmarking your labor hours and comparing it to revenues or cover counts you might find that your net is shrinking due to low productivity or over-scheduling.

What these examples demonstrate is that the more information you have about the details of your operation, the better able you are to analyze operational weakness and implement corrective action.  This premise of benchmarking key operating statistics is basic to any business, but in order to be most effective benchmarking must be a routine process with data being compiled, monitored, formally reported, and acted upon.  Only then can you use this wealth of information to proactively address emerging issues.  Without a formal system of benchmarking you will forever be reacting to the bad news from last month.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Guest Blog: What Employees Appreciate More than a Paycheck

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, New York.  No, I wasn’t homeless. I just hated being in that tiny apartment with my folks fighting all the time.  It was a lot more fun and a lot less chaotic hanging out outside with my friends.

You see, my parents worked for beans and hated their jobs.  Sure, they took care of us – put a roof over our heads, food on the table and all that – but they were miserable and it showed, big-time.  To their credit, they truly wanted better for their kids.

So I grew up knowing I had to do three things.

  1. Make money.  We were the poorest of all my friends and relatives.  That’s why my folks fought so much.  It really sucked and it was humiliating.  I knew I had to change that.
  2. Work hard.  My dad drilled his work ethic into me and I’m eternally grateful for that. I just wish he didn’t throw a fit over having to miss a day of work when I broke my leg playing basketball.
  3. Find something to do with my life that didn’t make me wish I was dead and take it out on everyone I loved.  There was no way I was going to work at a job I hated.  Period!

Luckily, I found my way into the high-tech industry where opportunity abounds and you can pretty much achieve whatever it is you’re capable of achieving, as long as you’re willing to work hard and take risks.  No, it hasn’t all been fun and games, but it’s been a better ride than I had any right to expect and more fulfilling than I had ever dreamed.

Given my background, it should come as no surprise that I’ve long been an observer of what motivates people, empowers them, and makes them happy to come to work.  Besides the paycheck, here are nine things that I think good employees – the kind you want to keep around – live for.

A piece of the action.  I believe it was chip giant Intel’s founders – Andy Grove, Gordon Moore, et al – who pioneered the practice of issuing stock options to employees.  That said, profit sharing has been around for a long, long time.  People really love knowing they have skin in the game.  It’s motivating and empowering.

The chance to be a part of something great.  Ask anybody why they work at Apple and they’ll tell you:  It’s pretty cool to see somebody walking around using a product you had a hand in making.  When I was in the microprocessor industry, the engineers lived to build a chip that was better than Intel’s on a shoestring budget.  It really moved them.  No kidding!

Some honest guidance and feedback.  Maybe the secret to wealth and power is a bit over the top, but I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect some genuine guidance on what’s expected of them and a little honest feedback on how they’re doing.  Emphasis on the words “genuine” and “honest.”  I mean, we get enough BS from the politicians.

A little predictability (and a lot less abuse).  There’s nothing worse than a boss that reminds you of an alcoholic parent.  A manager whose emails, phone messages, and cubicle visits are more like drive-by shootings than management direction.  It’s chaotic enough just trying to get products out the door and beat the competition; folks don’t need that sort of chaos from their management, as well.

A sense of humor.  Over the years I’ve known a zillion successful executives, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.  One thing’s for sure.  The really good ones know how to goof around and take the edge off.  They don’t take themselves too seriously.  You need that sort of leadership in today’s hypercompetitive, super-fast-paced global markets where everyone’s stressed out to the max.

The opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merits.  A challenging work environment where they can push the envelope, take risks, and grow.  A place where management has faith in them, at least to the extent that it’s warranted by their capability and potential.

Free food.  Don’t ask me why, but when it comes to free food and drink, especially decent free food and drink, employees get downright giddy.  One company I worked for had fresh fruit in the morning, one of those automatic espresso machines, and beer and wine in the fridge to take the edge off those late night sessions.  Very cool.

Management that actually knows what it’s doing.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes to think they work for idiots.  When the Peter Principle is so evident that employees think they’re more competent than executive management – and they’re probably right – I guarantee that’s not a happy place to work.

A little appreciation.  Yes, being paid what you’re worth is huge, no doubt.  But when the job is done and it was a job well done, a little public acknowledgement goes a long way.  Look at it this way.  Employees want bosses to tell them what they did wrong in private and what they did right in public.

Feel free to send this list (anonymously) to your bosses.  You never know, right?

Steve Tobak, This article first appeared on Fox Business here.  Reprinted with permission of the author.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Implementing New Initiatives with Incremental Progress

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Hospitality managers involved in turnaround or renewal situations will have a lot on their plates.  Whether they are intent on the implementation of the full infrastructure laid out in The Quest for Remarkable Service or want to begin enterprise-wide benchmarking, institute Tools to Beat Budget in all departments, or develop a more formal training program, there is much to be done.  Factor in the efforts involved in any new initiative with the already busy pace of ongoing operations, and they certainly face a major challenge – but also one that is too often used as an excuse not to press forward.

So what strategy can be adopted that will allow progress toward ultimate goals without degrading operations, customer/guest/member engagement, and service delivery?  A proven strategy that has worked for me as a general manager in two club openings and two hotel turnarounds has been that of incremental progress.

Incremental progress allows forward movement on any significant plan by means of small steps taken daily or weekly that in total will bring you and your team to the desired goal.  But to be successful there are some specific steps that you must take:

  • Call a meeting of all affected department heads to lay out your agenda.  Explain fully the benefits of the initiative and your desired implementation date.  Allow department heads to express concerns or objections.  Engage them in discussion to fully explore any opposition and the exact reason for the opposition.  Take bonafide concerns into account and adjust your plan or desired completion date accordingly.
  • Explain the necessary steps to implementation and require department heads to provide you with a detailed implementation plan and schedule of milestones for their tasks to be completed.
  • Appoint a project manager to the overall implementation or reserve this task for yourself (the larger the project the more compelling the reason for the GM to lead the effort).  Using the Critical Path Method to plot all tasks that have required antecedents (such as the controller preparing the Tools to Beat Budget binders for all departments), develop a master timeline with actions steps and milestones for each affected department head.
  • Schedule a series of meetings to monitor progress toward completion of individual tasks.  Depending upon the implementation timetable, you may use the Monthly Review of Financial Statement meetings to review individual progress toward implementation.
  • Encourage your subordinates to accomplish their action requirements in small steps – that is accomplishing something every day.  If you sense any department head is waiting until the last minute to complete any action item, counsel them that this approach often leads to sloppy, poorly executed implementation and, in fact, may jeopardize the timetables of other department heads or the project as a whole.
  • Use weekly staff meetings for quick updates on project progress, thereby continuing to monitor the project momentum.  Work with or counsel lagging subordinates as necessary.
  • The bottom line for using incremental progress to move a organization toward the implementation of any significant initiative is the persistent involvement of the general manager to ensure that all subordinates stay focused on the larger task while continuing to run their operations.  This focus requires ongoing (read daily or weekly) steps to move the project forward.

Once your management team has completed a significant project using the concept of incremental progress, they will find it much easier to tackle other large projects.  Remember that Jim Collins in Good to Great spoke of the need to push persistently in “a consistent direction over a long period of time” to build momentum and achieve breakthrough.

With everything else your management team must focus on, addressing your large initiatives in small, consistent steps is the only logical way to move your operation forward.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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