Part 1: Your Operation
By Miles Hall
1. Try and define what the problem is, as best you see it, in just a few sentences. You need to strike a balance between “we’re awful at (whatever)” and “a long, long, time ago in a business far, far away.” Start with areas that aren’t overly specific, but you recognize are in need of improvement. Examples include: We can’t get a handle on why sales are down; product flow is poor as we seem to have not enough or way too much; the guest (customer) count has been decreasing and they constantly complain about X, etc.
2. Is it something new, or has it been a problem for a while? Think this question out, and answer it honestly. Sometimes there has been a clearly identified moment when things started in the “dark zone.” It could have been a new hire, or departure of a trusted team member. The timeline here is important, not only for you but for the consultants as well.
3. Has this affected revenue and/or loss of guest base, and if so can you project the loss? Now that you have a rough timeline of the problem, let’s look at both sales and guest count. Depending on the problem, you may want to go to the specific department or area as well. It’s important to understand the short- and long-term ramifications of the issue under scrutiny.
4. What is the goal you want to accomplish? The obvious answer could be just to say “fix it.” A better approach is to set realistic and measured goals. One example might be to monitor and improve the sales in department X to stop its downward turn, and set guidelines for accountability to allow for steady growth over a set number of months or years. Another could be to establish a training program for staff to cover sales procedures/techniques, guest relationships, etc.
5. Be willing and able to invest the time, effort and funds recommended to ensure this situation does not recur. This final point is just as important as the other four. The desire to fully support a realistic plan put forth by your consultant (and not to allow your company to go back into the “dark zone”) is absolutely necessary. This means investment in funds, yes, but it also means investment of your time. As the leader of your company it will be your job to see it all goes along well, and staying abreast of the important lessons learned. Also, remember there are no textbook or cookie-cutter answers that work for everybody — any solution is custom-made to the situation.
Miles Hall is a senior consultant at Hall-N-Hall Consulting. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.