The same problems a restaurant runs into can knock your product or startup down. In Gordon Ramsay's original British Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (I'm dusting off the old version, not the U.S. version), he walked into business disasters with a customer's eyes open and an entrepreneur's passion to rehabilitate them from the inside out.
Most of what he found were people problems--lost motivation, soured relationships, process breakdowns--which needed redesign and cultivation to change. He was relentless in doing this for business after business, episode after episode. A method to his fiery madness emerged that offers valuable approaches for any business in need of serious help or even good businesses in need of more awesomeness to stay relevant and ahead of competition.
Things Gordon Ramsay would investigate in your business are:
1. Experience being a customer & connect it to operations
Ramsay would start by experiencing life as their customer. He'd walk in, take a table, order off the menu, and experience the food and service. Afterward he'd step into the kitchen to see operations and meet the people behind his often atrocious meal. This forced direct customer feedback on people unaccustomed to hearing it and allowed Ramsay to connect the dots quickly in a rapid soup to nuts audit. Who was failing the team and what processes were falling down? The evidence was usually stark.
2. Put the fish on the table with a side of cold hard numbers
Next was a heart to heart talk with the owner where they'd go over the books. "So you're in the shit,"' described the pain he'd dredge up here. This was critical and cathartic. It forced them to face to reality of their debt, meager weekly intake, and bad reputation with customers. It would get their worst fears and thorny personal issues out on the table to keep from paralyzing them. This opened the door.
3. Rekindle the passion & renew the product
Not feeling it anymore? No business will succeed without passion from the top. Whether the passion is there or not, it gets shared with everyone else on the team. Ramsay knew this and would work tirelessly to rehab the owners, or chefs, original flame. These people typically had a dream that'd been snuffed out or they clung to a model that fell out of step with a changed market. Change was painful, but often started by going back to their roots to remember why they cared. Interestingly, he'd get their hands dirty again right at the source--the quality of the food and their craft preparing it.
Quality ingredients were tastier and just more fun to work with. They inspired the vision for a new and much simpler menu and often a new name for the business. This hands on, ground up re-brand made the change tangible. It turned listless employees into caretakers of all the little details of service and prep. Care for detail is the glue that holds great customer experiences together, but you can't have it without the collective heart of a team.
This only work in small kitchens?
Not at all. Businesses everywhere have figured these insights out. Our friend Peter Skillman shared stories of Palm's people- and product-centered turnaround that mirrored a kitchen nightmare. Domino's Pizza is trying this approach right now, renewing their product with an apparent newfound passion from the bottom up. And Apple was an infamous disaster in the '90s before Steve Jobs famously rejuvenated it from within in a carbon copy of Ramsay here.
Don't confuse this for the fiery rockstar leader, for design thinking, or for customer experience. This is just good business designed with care for the people on both sides of it. Gordon Ramsay gets it.
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