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Opinion Editorials

Using Pal’s Sudden Service model can make you famous for service, staff retention

(EDITORIAL) Winner of the 2001 Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award — the first restaurant to do so — Pal’s is a fan favorite with a turnover rate a third lower than the industry average. Here’s how they do it.

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It’s no accident

Regardless of your business, its focus is on people: the people you engage as customers, served by the people that you hire. It’s not about what you make, but about who you make it for, and how well the people who represent you do that. Impassioned customer engagement and employee retention doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s earned, day after day, by a devotion to establishing and maintaining your culture with the people who are hired and trained to do so.

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We all should be looking for ways to create the best customer experience by investing our energy in those things which we can control, starting with our employees and their experiences.

As we look to companies that are renowned for their customer service, such as Walt Disney or Zappos, it’s easy to say to ourselves, “Well, if I had the money and resources that those companies do, it’d be easy for me to have a more attractive experience for my customer and employee.” But there are companies much smaller in scope who deliver an amazing customer and employee experience.

How Pal’s Sudden Service succeeds

Located on the Tennessee/Virginia border, Pal’s Sudden Service is a quick-stop restaurant (QSR) with 26 stores that’s physically similar to other such restaurants, excepting that it’s a drive-thru only. However, there are many differences. When cars approach the dual drive-thrus, customers provide their order to a Pal’s employee face-to-face, rather than through a speaker.

This is such a hallmark of Pal’s that their recent advertising campaign was titled “Face-to-Face”, highlighting the speed and accuracy that come from beginning the order process talking to a person rather than a screen, allowing customers to progress through the line faster and resume enjoying their day. Speaking of their speed and accuracy, it’s legendary.

From the time of first contact with a Pal’s employee, the customer orders and receives their order within 30 seconds. By way of comparison, the next closest competitor completes the process in two minutes, four times slower than Pal’s. Now, you might well be thinking, “Great. They’re fast, we can be fast at my business, but only being fast doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.” And you’d be right.

It’s about more than just speed

The story of Pal’s transcends speed. Winner of the 2001 Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award — the first restaurant to do so — Pal’s makes a mistake in a customer order only once in every 3,600 orders, reports Harvard Business Review.

In comparison, that’s ten times better than their closest competitor, and the combination of speed and accuracy has won them loyalty from their customer base, as well as being a company worthy of study by competitors and management experts alike.

How do they do it, and how can we apply their methodology to our companies? It all comes down to their approach to their employees.

Retention begins with selection

Pal’s 26 locations employ roughly 1,000 workers. 90 percent are part-time, and 40 percent are between 16 and 18 years old. Given the complexities in managing this segment of the demographic, the hiring process at Pal’s begins with an extensive psychometric screener, a 60-point check to see how well the candidate is aligned with the attitudinal characteristics of Pal’s most talented employees.

“We’re believers that birds of a feather flock together,” said CEO Thom Crosby, speaking to the Harvard Business Review. “If you start having an operation with weak crew training and not a lot of really good leadership by managers, the people who apply there are the same kinds of people. We go the opposite direction.”

Training never stops

The work’s just beginning when employees are hired. At Pal’s, training isn’t a one-time event, but an intense process designed to ensure that all employees can successfully do all of the tasks involved in operating the store, with frequent rechecks to test for proficiency.

Employees new to the company receive 120 hours of training before they are allowed to work independently.

Each of the tasks that they do is accompanied by a certification test, which must be passed as well before they can work on their own.

The training is continuous: daily, in each restaurant on each shift, the company’s training software generates the names of employees that must be recertified in one of their areas of responsibility. Think of these as a form of a surprise quiz for the employee; they complete the brief test, and if they aren’t successful, they must be retrained in that area before they can do it again independently. This occurs for every employee on average 2 to 3 times monthly.

“Human beings go out of calibration, just like equipment”, said Crosby.  “We see so many operations that have training and they’re so happy when a trainee can pass a test. Then they sign off on this person as “trained” and they usually don’t revisit that person unless there’s a really severe performance issue.”

By focusing time, energy, and money on ensuring that employees don’t have the opportunity to go out of calibration with the expected standard, or to develop bad habits, Pal’s focuses on not only quality, but also culture in the same stroke.

Staff development is not a one-off event, especially for the part-time or adult learner.

By focusing on your staff as assets to be developed, rather than employees with varying levels of performance based on infrequent or non-existent training, you meet the needs of your customer and demonstrate to your employee that they matter.

Leadership never rests

At Pal’s, leadership is a serious endeavor in coaching employees. All leaders, including the CEO, are expected to spend 10 percent of their time daily teaching a specific skill to a specific employee. “At Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day,” said Crosby to Burger Business. “As CEO, I’m not exempt: Anyone is welcome to ask me my coaching target on any day.” This hands-on approach is bolstered by their master reading list, a selection of 21 books spanning leadership classics, alongside modern tomes on quality. These books are discussed at a bi-monthly book study occurring with the CEO and selected management.

This approach is also seen in how they approach their role within the industry. After winning the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award, the company created its Business Excellence Institute (BEI) as a development arm to provide best practices to others. As a sign of their success, one of their clients, Austin’s K&N Management became the second restaurant winner of the Baldridge award in 2010.

The result of all this? The customers are unswervingly loyal, and the employees stay employed.

In an industry renowned for its turnover rates, employee turnover rate for hourly employees is one-third the industry average.

Among leaders, it’s lower still. Over more than three decades, only seven general managers have left the company voluntarily, and assistant managers have an annual turnover rate of 1.4 percent.

How do we apply this to our individual circumstances? By focusing on the customer through the lens of improving your employees, you receive dual benefit. Your employees satisfy your customer, and you’ve invested in the best walking advertisement for your company that you can: a carefully selected employee who’s been well-trained and coached to take care of your customer.

#WorkForYourWorkforce

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Opinion Editorials

There is honor in your job, be proud of that

(EDITORIAL) Regardless of what you are doing to make ends meet, whether you have a degree or not, the work you do matters, has honor, and you should be damn proud.

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honor at work

I was walking my dog the other day and as we were passing a construction site I saw a man in the process of cleaning a Port-A-Potty. My first thought was: “I could never do that.”

As quickly as my gag reflex kicked in, I replaced it with a feeling of respect for the man doing the work. I saw him doing his job and I gave him props because there is honor in work. And, just because I don’t think I could do his job doesn’t mean he shouldn’t feel good about his job.

Just like any employee, he was doing a job he may or may not like or enjoy. And, like any worker his job is providing him with funds to build a life. I don’t know his circumstances, but there is no reason to see him with anything but admiration – if only because so many people may think they are better than, smarter than and more deserving than someone taking on a “dirty job”.

When I was growing up in the Chicago area the steel mills were still open and employed thousands of people – mostly men. Then, the jobs moved overseas, the industry tanked and the mills were left vacant, like ghost towns.

So many workers were let go, including my uncle. He had to start over, but he didn’t let it get him down. He used his knowledge of management, recovered and found another position. Yet, many workers were destroyed when they lost their jobs because they felt unskilled And, at the time, the country was in crisis and there weren’t a lot of other jobs available.

Us kids, we saw the mills and thought, “Why would you want to do that?” It was hot, dirty and dangerous. But, for years those jobs provided steady income and benefits, allowing couples to have homes, build families and live decent lives. Those workers may have had many turn their noses up, but they were proud of what they did, because there was honor in it.

As time moved on, the next generation (X that would be) shied away from manufacturing and the trades. More of us bought into the idea of getting a college degree with the expectation we’d find security and high paying jobs.

ROFL!!!

I’d suggest our view of honor in work has been twisted over time. The idea that doing some types of work elevates a person and makes them superior. Or, as my mom would say, they think “their shit doesn’t stink” but it does.

As much as I believed everyone wanted to be rich and drive a Lambo, it wasn’t and isn’t true. Some folks are happy with the status quo. And, that is Okay. While it is quite a letdown to pursue a degree and then potentially end up in a market where your skills are undervalued, it doesn’t mean the work a person does is any less honorable. The experience of being between a rock and a hard place and surviving is much more honorable, in my mind. It requires a belief in oneself and tenacity. It also provides a great learning experience.

True, once upon a time you could get hired at a company, work there for 40 years and retire. But, no longer. Sometimes folks are required to work two part-time gigs and drive for Lyft or Uber, do Instacart to get by. Some folks love driving for ride services, others do it because there is no other option.

And, that is AOK.

Images perpetuated through movies, ads, social media, etc. have been pretty destructive because IMHO we as a society have this distorted view of what a good life is and what appears to be an honorable way to earn a living.

For young folks today, playing video games or starting a YouTube page with make-up tutorials seems like the way to fame and fortune. For others the stock market and clocking 80-hour weeks still seems rational. While others say, forget that, I’m starting my own business because there is no security.

Let me say: There never was security because things change. Appearances just made it appear as if security actually existed.

All of that aside, whatever you do to make ends meet, whatever work you are doing today and hope to do tomorrow, whether your future holds a Porsche or a Civic – or even a bicycle, whether you want to live in a penthouse or are just happy to have a roof over your head, whatever it is you are doing today to get you where you want to be, there is honor in it. Believe it. And, don’t let anyone else’s IG feed make you feel anything other than proud of who you are.

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Opinion Editorials

Could Facebook’s newest censorship tactic decimate an entire industry?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook’s last line of defense seems to be platform censoring and they’re using it to demolish businesses and advocacy groups.

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In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, proclaimed that Facebook was meant to be a platform for all ideas. This was in response to the public’s theory that Zuckerberg was censoring political posts on Facebook. Even then, it was pretty clear that Facebook was, in fact, censoring by removing pages, profiles, and content related to political posts they saw as misleading or inaccurate.

But recently, Facebook seems to be playing both sides of the fence when it comes to censoring, favoring policies supported by well-known organizations like PETA (People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals), self-proclaimed “animal activists” who claim to focus on 4 main areas related to animals and mistreatment in labs, the food industry, the clothing trade, and the entertainment industry.

Of course, it’s also pretty commonly known that they expand beyond their definition pretty often, frequently attacking the beliefs and practices of some of the best pet owners and wildlife activists out there, like Steve Irwin. In February of 2019, PETA even went so far as to tweet a post on Twitter about how much they think Irwin did both before and during his untimely death.

In more recent news, PETA actually purchased Facebook shares. They did this because they were showing videos on Facebook that were gory, disheartening, and downright sad, which Facebook also censored by requiring a warning before their videos played. PETA obviously didn’t like this, so in a strategic retaliation to end the censoring of them, they bought shares in Facebook. This allowed them to attend shareholder meetings and to ask questions of executives.

This was actually a very clever idea on their part, but it is in no way a new idea. Indeed, they’ve purchased shares from companies like Levi, BooHoo, and Louis Vuitton in the past for similar reasons.

But now, with PETA’s involvement with Facebook, policies that previously went un-policed are quickly becoming top-of-mind for the tech giant. Facebook’s official policies have been notoriously obscure and are only really explained in-depth to Facebook employees or legal entities.

Plus, Facebook doesn’t really have a dedicated customer service team, so even if you found and vaguely understood their policies (again, mostly written in a way only a legal team or Facebook employee would understand) there’s no real avenue to get clarification. More recently though, Facebook posted their policies for all of its users to review.

One big policy that PETA’s involvement looks to be affecting is in relation to animal sales and rehoming. Facebook has had a rule against animal sales and rehoming for many years, but until now, many of its users (breeders, rescuers, and animal advocates included) weren’t aware or fearful of it.

That’s quickly changed over the last few months as Facebook’s vendetta against anyone selling, rehoming, or even reposting content with certain key words that remotely resemble animal sales or rehoming, has continued. Not only is Facebook now taking down pages, groups, profiles, Marketplace listings, and even comments. They’re also rejecting fundraisers, which we’ll talk about more in a few minutes.

Another scary thing they’re doing is putting some power in the hands of the typical Facebook user, in the form of a new content-reporting button, like the one below.

facebok report button

With that, it’s no surprise that legitimate and well-known animal breeders, rescues, and even long-time pages/groups are being affected negatively.

Facebook has historically been an outlet for pet owners, breeders, and rescuers alike, and it makes sense why. Facebook is supposed to be a platform where your friends, peers, enemies, and even “frenemies” come together to create an online community. It’s meant to support both the social and business aspects of a user’s life, but in recent months, it’s certainly not living up those standards. The result: Facebook is quickly being abandoned by users – especially animal lovers and those within the pet space.

Let’s take breeders as an example. Breeders often post animals on Facebook. In the past, they’ve posted photos and pricing. This is something they can no longer do.

Legitimate breeders are usually not too pushy, nor do they typically spam. They don’t usually sell on Facebook directly ether, which is what Facebook strictly prohibits. Instead, they opt for a 3rd party service like Paypal or Square, but that makes no difference to Facebook. Although the animals aren’t being sold on the website, just including a picture and a price are enough for them to take content down. In truth, they’re taking pages down left and right as a direct result of the metaphorical pitchfork they’ve handed users (the “report” button).

Now, not all breeders are good, just like not all taco stands are good, but does that really give Facebook the right to censor you or ultimately close your Facebook account down? I don’t think so, and neither do breeders.

I spoke with Scott Poe of Poe’s Pogonas in Corona, California this week, too. He’s a reputable breeder of high-quality Bearded Dragons (a very popular pet). When asked how Facebook’s policies have affected him, he said “It certainly has made it a little challenging to list Dragons as available for sale…”. He goes on to offer Facebook advice, suggesting that they certify vendors on their site to proactively vet through quality breeders who are looking to improve their niche’s gene pool, and not those who are simply looking to make a quick buck.

We agree that, of course, there are bad breeders out there, but putting a blanket policy over an entire niche of business owners is like prohibiting alcohol – it doesn’t work!

If we were to go a little further into this topic, we’d see that Facebook’s stance on policies is actually likely to deter many other business types that don’t sell exactly what Facebook deems to be “appropriate”. Obviously, this type of practice can have a major impact on those types of businesses.

To drive this point home further, ask yourself this: what if Facebook disagreed with the produce or service you provided. Would you be okay with them taking your page down, one you’ve worked hard at and one with a lot of followers? How would you feel if 3rd party users, who are not even Facebook employees, started reporting you based on their own beliefs?

It’s important to note that Facebook does seem to allow you to post if you are a brick and mortar, so pet stores, you may be safe… for now.

The same logic applies to animal rescuers, except that rescues are most often not for profit. Facebook doesn’t discriminate though, so if you do rescue (even as a person and not a group), they’ll treat you exactly the same way as they do for animal sales-related posts. What we know is that this will absolutely crush any attempts to re-home or adopt out animals in need.

There are a growing number of animals in need of homes, many of which will actually be put down at kill shelters if not adopted within a 3-5 day period, and with Facebook’s policies in place, it has essentially banned helping animals and their advocates through their platform.

To understand more clearly, I reached out to Jeff Stewart, one of the founders of Sunshine’s Shoulders Rescue in Tenaha, Texas, about their experience. He and his wife run a rescue out of their home. Stewart, like most other rescues, rely on donations from a few people to help feed and give care to their rescues, and while they have a vet that works with them on their bills, sometimes it’s not enough.

Stewart goes on to say that he used to do Facebook fundraisers, but there were two issues that forced him to stop. First, Facebook takes a cut of any fundraiser on Facebook, so if you’re donating to a charity, just know that all of those funds are not going to the charity of your choice and are, in reality, lining Facebook’s pockets. The second reason they stopped was due to Facebook’s declining of their fundraisers. Stewart said, “The past 3 times we have tried to have a fundraiser I have gotten a message telling me that it goes against community standards.”

He goes on to say that “the new [Facebook] policy also prevents us from finding adoptive homes for any of our animals through the FB platform.”

Due to the issues they’ve encountered with the platform, Stewart can no longer take in rescues. They’re costs for dog food alone are upwards of $500/month and their vet bills can get pretty extreme, too, reaching more than $2000 a times (even with the negotiated pricing from the vet). And it’s no wonder why they have to stop. Without the support from Facebook patrons, they’re paying for all rescue products and services 100% out of their own pocket.

To clarify though, Facebook’s policies surrounding rehoming are pretty vague. They strictly say no to “live animals”, but they don’t draw any conclusive lines as to what that could mean for a legitimate rescue who has paid their dues (literally) to become an official nonprofit organization. However, because the power now lies in the hands of the Facebook user, discretion seems to be up to them as to what they deem inappropriate.

Playing devil’s advocate here, there are many animals in need of homes as a direct result of a lack of regulation when it comes to pet ownership and breeding. I definitely agree that these things need to be monitored and regulated, but by censoring content for both entities, Facebook appears to be taking a very strong stance that they don’t want to be involved at all with animal-related content unless it’s funny, cute, or meme-worthy.

Finally, it’s important to know that although Facebook seems to want you to learn what you’re doing wrong, they definitely don’t act like they do. When a user is reported, Facebook will let you know. If you disagree with their assessment, you can appeal it. However, again, there’s no way (no easy way, at least) to talk to a real person. Often times the reported post will come back to the poster with some kind of vague warning that doesn’t go into details on what they did wrong. That means that even when your posts are taken down, you may have no idea as to why.

At the end of the day, Facebook does have the right to choose which policies to include and which to enforce, but it’s pretty clear that they don’t really have an understanding of how any of this is impacting their users.

I have one tip for Facebook: I invite you to take another look at your policies (as well as who’s supporting them and what their agenda is), reporting capabilities, and education on restrictions when reported and to consider lifting some of the bans on animal-related posts, groups, pages, and ads. It’s affecting the livelihoods of thousands of breeders and rescuers worldwide, as well as in-need animals that desperately need a home.

Note: The author has years of experience with breeding bearded dragons as well as marketing, and has unique insight into the aforementioned online niche.

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Opinion Editorials

Relax and refresh with our office life movie list

(EDITORIAL) Whether you are considering a new career path or not we have a movie list to pique your interest, and just maybe motivate as much as they entertain.

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Movie projector

It’s a new year! Woot! Maybe you’re feeling in a work funk and are rethinking your goals and future trajectory. Whether you need something to push you in a new direction, motivate you, make you think about where your career is going, or just to entertain, here are 10 movies about work, work ethic and how we can change our career path by just changing our mind.

Top 10 Movies About Work

1. Glengarry Glen Ross: This take on David Mamet’s play is at the top of the list. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been? If you have, it’s a good one to revisit. This ones got it all raw reality, ego, desperation and some surprising plot twists all with an outstanding cast. If you are in sales, don’t miss this. And, Millennials, take note. You will one day be in the same place as those old fogies – aka Boomers. Oh, and, remember, “Coffee is for closers.”

2. His Gal Friday: An oldie and a goodie with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as an editor and reporter who worked together, married and then divorced. This slapstick movie is great for a peek inside media, especially journalism, because it shows the lengths that reporters and editors will go to in order to get the scoop. The movie has great dialog and is timeless. It also shows how fast things can move, which is still relevant today especially with social media and the life of a news story moves even faster.

3. Up In The Air: A hatchet man learns his job is being tweaked. He will no longer need to fly, and now the tables are turned and he is unhappy with his fate. This movie can be a challenge to watch if you recently lost a job. But, one lesson learned is that work isn’t everything, so live your life.

4. Office Space: A funny take on work and life and the balance between the two. Regardless of where you are employed, there are rules, regulations and office BS that can be on the one hand completely pathetic and on the other so laughable. It’s always better to laugh, rather than cry. Oh, and do not touch the red stapler.

5. Working Girl: Maybe you missed this one because it dates back to the days when shoulder pads ruled the workplace and women still wore nylons. Melanie Griffith portrays a secretary (remember this is before that changed to assistant) who is great at what she does. She’s got goals and dreams to take her career to the next level. But, she’s not taken seriously at the investment firm where she works. Sigourney Weaver is the boss and she will do whatever she needs to stay on top. Griffith has a twist-of-fate meeting with Harrison Ford, another executive and she takes a chance on herself and her future. This movie has big hair, humor and a love story to boot.

6. Good Will Hunting: Ok. This one isn’t necessarily about work. But, I picked it because it’s an example of what can happen when you let your past hold you back and you don’t pursue your dreams. We have Matt Damon (Will) a janitor at a prestigious university and his friend Ben Affleck, a brick layer. Damon portrays a guy with a rough past who is going through the motions until he has to work with a psychologist played by Robin Williams. He’s forced to consider his past and his future. He has a gift but what will he do? His friend, Affleck, wants him to pursue bigger things, but can Damon let go of his past and embrace his gift?

7. The Devil Wears Prada: Ah, the evil queen and the naïve princess. That may seem like a different story, but it is a similar plot line with a triumphant finish. Anne Hathaway portrays Andrea who is fresh out of school and lands a job at a prestigious fashion magazine. The fact that she had never read the magazine and got the job is beyond surprising, but regardless she lands the job and works for Miranda, played by Meryl Streep. Streep’s character is a Diva and a demanding and horrible boss. She challenges Andrea on multiple levels. Will Andrea become a workaholic like her boss? As they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

8. 9-to-5: Way before the Me Too movement there was Fonda, Parton and Tomlin as three office employees who are sick and tired of their chauvinistic boss, played by Dabney Coleman. The women begin to plot for revenge and take their boss hostage in his home. In the meantime, they begin making changes at the office.

9. The Pursuit of Happyness: If you think your life is rough, maybe reconsider for a moment. This is a story about a man who was determined. He was pushing forward and as much as he was pushing, it seemed that he couldn’t get ahead. But he was resolved in the belief that he could and would make his life better for himself and his son. There is a great quote that says: “The harder I work, the luckier I am.” This movie shows that out.

10. Rocky: This movie made Sylvester Stallone. He wrote it and that my friends is a great story of tenacity too, because before Rocky Stallone was basically a nobody. Rocky is a nobody boxer who gets the chance to take on the reigning champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). He busts his ass and does whatever it takes to get the job done. This is a story of endurance, dedication and taking a chance on yourself.

This list is not comprehensive, but we hope you find inspiration, motivation and some laughs too. And, remember, work is not who you are, it’s what you do. Now, go get some popcorn and candy and take a break.

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