I was recently asked to be the key note speaker at a conference for caterers and event planners. After entertaining the audience with humorous and self deprecating stories about my own history as a caterer, I began to address real issues. My speech was about the “Big Picture” issues key to navigating through business terrain: best practices, sales systems, cash flow management, etc .
During the Q&A session, however, I was thrown by the types of questions these event professionals asked. They included:
- “How do I handle my sales person who randomly promises discounts to win parties?”
- “What should I do about the constant fighting between my Chef and the front of the house staff?”
- A woman in the front row timidly raised her hand to ask how she and her husband, co-owners of their company, “could find time for one another outside of work.”
So much for the profundities of running a business!
I stepped back for a moment to realize that I, too, have spent the better part of my working life wrapped up in the moment-to-moment frustrations surrounding people, personalities, office politics, and real and imagined contentions. And that doesn’t even include the time spent on the difficulties of balancing work with family. I acknowledged that the universal question is: “How do you keep your eye on the big prize when the stresses of the moment are trying to distract you?”
I’m not Dr. Phil so, instead of offering unqualified personal advice during the Q&A, I opened the conversation to the group at large. What followed was a wonderful and energetic exchange that was supportive and informative. The group and I came away with the idea that these interpersonal issues stem from legitimate style or tactical differences by people who genuinely want to pursue the company’s agenda. That salesperson wants to make as many sales as possible but feels shackled by the pricing structure. Reviewing her margins will give her the freedom to secure the best pieces of business. The Chef and FOH staff have different levels of experience. Clarifying company expectations will put everyone on the same page when it comes to satisfying clients and guests. Addressing these interpersonal problems as business challenges reinforces your company mission and helps shift focus to your professional objectives.
As for the couple who simply wants to be together outside of work? I believe that in five years, you’re unlikely to remember which van was late for a delivery or who packed two salmon fillets for 40 guests rather than the two sides of salmon. But in five years, you will remember the times you and your spouse see a movie, have a nice dinner, or play a little tennis. I also believe that with discipline and prioritization, busy hospitality professionals can learn to handle the day-to-day trials and use them as a springboard for handling and framing the “Big Picture.”