Monthly Archives: November 2012

The 4 Golden Rules of a restaurant owner

This week’s guest post is by Mike Noel Smith.

I was recently flying to Hawaii but had a stopover in Chicago O’Hare International airport. With a few hours to kill before my connection, I wandered around before finally settling on a restaurant nestling in amongst many other food outlets.

The waiters all seemed under pressure to serve their respective tables, rushing around looking flustered, but mine seemed happy to stay a while with me at the table and talk. I found out he was actually the owner of the restaurant, so in some ways, he was leading the way as well as finding out at the ‘coal face’ what his customers were saying and thinking about his business.

I asked him how he felt he was doing and he replied by saying that in his competitive market he needed to make the effort – constantly. He had 4 Golden Rules that he sought to apply every day in order to stay in front of his rivals, and they were:

Improve – always aim to get better (excellence is good enough)

Observe – talk and watch the people you work with and your customers (and most important listen to them)

Connect – treat everyone with respect (make them feel ‘special’)

Adapt – uncertainty is the new ‘norm’ today so be prepared to be nimble and flexible at all times

I thought about what he said and started to apply that to my interactions with customers and clients. It made an immediate impact as I started to win more business but more importantly, it helped me to retain the clients that I already had.

Although they are simple ‘rules’ to follow, they have to be diligently applied and constantly reviewed with self-feedback as well as customer review to see if you are hitting the nail on the head each time. One client, for example, a high street bank even asked me to run a workshop as part of their graduate employee induction programme, to stress the importance of the application of the 4 Golden Rules.

As such, that interaction with a waiter in an airport restaurant has led to new business!

Mike Noel-Smith is Director of Special Projects with Fresh Air Learning. He is a writer, motivational speaker, rugby coach and former military leader. His qualifications include Level A and B Psychometrics and Mental Toughness (MTQ48) administrator. He is also a Master NLP Practitioner.

This week’s guest post is by Mike Noel Smith. I was recently flying to Hawaii but had …

These boots were made for talking

This week’s guest blog is by Helena Clayton.

This week a client, Tom, and I had a meeting. Given where we were working (a place with lovely grounds, close to the gorgeous St Leonard’s Forest in East Sussex), the mild weather and the fact that Tom had some walking boots in his car, I suggested we do something different and have our meeting while strolling in the forest.

We set off, my client somewhat nervous as he knew there were some tricky things we needed to chat through. How would that work without a table, paper and pen to jot down our pearls of wisdom? It was disconcerting for him to leave behind the comforting constraints of indoor work, but without them our meeting was transformed for the better.

I have come to trust in walking to help with having some great and sometimes difficult conversations. Walking alongside someone, rather than being eyeball-to-eyeball, I find I have courage to ask questions that I might otherwise bottle, maybe because I’m nervous about being too direct.

I’ve found the natural pace of walking – striding ahead one minute, the next pausing to navigate a muddy puddle or chat for a few minutes with a dog walker – supports a more natural conversational flow and reminds us that we are two human beings rather than two ‘Heads of Procurement’ (or whatever). Our conversation and walk progressed together, each improving and shaping the other.

At one point, Tom suggested we get off the path and bust through some scrub to go back a different way. Not only did we laugh about the fact that he seemed less worried about the environment now, we also had an interesting (and productive) conversation about how our joint project might benefit from going ‘off piste’.

A mountain, local park or even a seemingly ordinary town centre can be much more than a setting, it can be a defining force in your conversation: for us, the last of the autumn colours provided a glorious backdrop and we turned to each other again and again to say “wow.” We created shared memories that I know will stand our relationship in good stead for the future.

Neither of us knew whether we’d lost any pearls of wisdom without our pens and paper. What we did know was that we had a great meeting, and would be doing it again soon. Take a conversation for a walk, and who knows where you might find yourself?

Helena Clayton is Director of Executive & Leadership Development Programmes with Fresh Air Learning. A former director of an international management development consultancy, she is now a coach, facilitator and consultant to leaders and top teams across the public and private sectors. Her qualifications include an MA in Leadership and Learning and a Post Graduate Diploma in Consulting.

This week’s guest blog is by Helena Clayton. This week a client, Tom, and I had a …

Idleness is a Virtue

This week’s guest post is by John Peter Wilson.

Did you ever find yourself daydreaming at school only to be brought harshly back to reality by the sharp tones of the teacher? It probably followed that you then felt guilty for not paying attention to what was happening in the classroom. It seems that we live in a culture where letting our minds wander is considered a bad thing and we are encouraged to keep our minds always focused.

Yet, daydreaming doesn’t just happen when we are young. Have you ever found yourself staring into the distance and realised that for the past five minutes or so you have been lost in a dream world thinking about something which is really close to your heart? What took you there? Why did you fall into this reverie when you should have been thinking about something else or doing something more urgent? The short answer is that your deep inner feelings surfaced and drew your attention to things which were important to you. Brain imaging technologies show that our brains become highly active when we relax and daydream.

Too often, when we catch our mind wandering we hurriedly close the door on those positive thoughts and return to the immediate needs of everyday existence. But are we allowing ordinary mundane concerns distract us from a deeper and more meaningful life in which we can achieve so much more than we are presently doing? If the answer is, ‘Yes’, then we should listen more carefully to the dreams and then figure out a way of actually achieving them.

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) author

Dreams can be achieved and there is much evidence that some of the most influential discoveries and achievements known to humankind began with a dream. Perhaps the achievement originally began as the faintest notion of an idea which slowly grew and was eventually brought to fruition.

But there is a difference between those people who dream and are successful, and those who merely fantasise. Those who remain within a fantasy and never practically try to reach their ambitions are mostly deluding themselves and living in a never-never-land. But, and it is a big BUT, dreaming is a very important part of the process for reaching our desires and objectives. So we should not feel guilty about letting our minds wander to the things which are important to us. Sit back and enjoy the virtual journey around your dream world and then make it come true.

John Peter Wilson, is an academic and author. His most recent book is the inspirational ‘Dream: Your Life, Your Future’.

This week’s guest post is by John Peter Wilson. Did you ever find yourself daydreaming at school …