People Insights Podcast

Welcome to our series of “People Insights” podcasts. In this series we explore a wide range of people focused issues and areas, and invite contributors from a cross section of industry, academia, technology, psychology and consulting.

People Insights, Episode 5

Welcome to Episode 5 of our People Insights series: Michael Tingsager

About our guest

Michael Tingsager is a heart-centred operations pro, who believes and lives by building hospitality and restaurants businesses from the inside out. When your employees love your company, your customers will love you — brand nirvana. He helps leaders and operators to build unique blueprints and business systems that create strong employee and customer experience, which translate into improved sales, profits and positive impact.

 

What’s in it for you?

 

We’ve been talking a lot about how AI will impact the workplace.  In this podcast, Owen and Michael discuss how (though it seems AI is inevitable and may become invaluable) businesses must essentially remain human at heart.

Humans have to be put in the middle of everything we do to create employees: customer experience is essential for any business to survive. Organisations need to show consistency over time to get the best results.

The hospitality industry is in a perfect storm. There are a lot of things happening. A lot of the big restaurants are struggling, and so people are facing redundancies.  But this is an opportunity to really look at how these businesses are managed, and how their processes could be updated to tie in with the idea of consistency in service over time.

We should look closely at how processes touch people, and how people touch processes. If you only examine one without considering the other, you would be missing the point. You would not get the best fit, or you could make incorrect assumptions, and potentially miss why these processes may not be working.

 

Five Top Quotes from Michael

 

“It’s not about just trying to design a Powerpoint here. It’s actually going into these businesses and trying to help them find the magic and the glue to make this work, because it’s not one, quick fix. It’s a lot around culture, and it’s a lot about how you design your business from the outset.”

“If we get these things right, you will, over time, improve your sales, loyalties from customers, profits and trust, whatever you’re working towards, and we all know there needs to be profit, or else there’s no business.”

“First of all, ensure that you have a business model that works, because you can’t take care of your leading customers if your basic business model doesn’t work. So, that’s the outset, understanding the business model and making sure that that works.”

“A very good example of how leadership behaviour or values have been implemented in the business, can be found when you look into the recruitment processes. These often don’t reflect the business values, or they haven’t been taken into account, so you’re hiring people, not according to the values you set, but you’re hiring them out from maybe a template that hasn’t actually been systemised around the way you do things in general.”

“Growth is good. We all live for growth, but you can see the consequences now when growth becomes the primary driver, and not organisational consistency. I think there’s a reason why not everybody can be McDonald’s. You have to scale every operation.”

 

Transcription

Owen Ashby:

In this episode, I’m speaking Michael Tingsager of Hospitality Mavericks. Michael is a heart-centred operations professional, who believes and lives by building hospitality and restaurant businesses from the inside out. When your employees love your company, your customers will love you. It helps leaders and operators to build unique blueprints and business systems, that create strong employee and customer experience, which translate into improved sales, profits, and positive impact. Michael is the founder of Hospitality Mavericks, as well as the co-founder of The Bear Kitchen. I guess that’s eating your own dog food. Welcome, Michael.

Michael Tingsager:

Thank you very much, Owen, pleasure to be here.

Owen Ashby:

I love the opening, sort of, premise of your bio, Michael. What on earth is a ‘heart-centred operations professional’?

Michael Tingsager:

So, it’s probably something that-, it’s actually not me that came up with that. It’s one of my colleagues, Nicole, and she’s what I would call the creative HR person. She works with creative HR, and she’s an amazing soul and energy, and she said that, ‘You are not a boring operation person. You are a heart-centred operation person.’ What I mean with that is that she said, ‘You’re very based on the facts. It’s quite black and white, but always with a human approach to things, because you believe the human is the key to everything we do in business,’ and I’m a big believer in that. So, I think it’s quite spot on, so I will not take the honour for creating that title myself. I’m probably more operation than creative, but I think it sounds quite good when you said, ‘I haven’t heard anybody read it up before,’ but it sounds quite good, yes.

Owen Ashby:

It sounded good to me, you know, and I am all one, as you well know, for creative and somewhat outrageous titles, or jobs. I think it’s important to set a standard for us all to aspire to one way or another, so that’s cool. Equally, the humanity thing, I think is really important. We’ve been talking a lot on these podcasts about how AI will impact the workplace, how the robots are taking over one way or another. I think there’s a really interesting idea that potentially, what will be left at that point will be humanity, so unless we know what humanity is and we know how to, sort of, celebrate it, and capitalise on it, we’re going to be somewhat bereft, I think. That’s great, so tell me about Hospitality Mavericks. What is it you do there, Michael?

 

Michael Tingsager:

Well, it goes back to where my life started. My mum and dad run hospitality businesses, so I was born into hospitality, and then my mum and dad didn’t run a chain, as we know them today, high-street chain today. They ran a little restaurant group. We had a pub, we had the fast food places. We have different things, and they grew that business organically through my childhood, so a big part of that, and also, I worked with them from being the KP doing the dishes in the evening, and different things over the summer. I was involved in their business, and then when I was fifteen, by mum said, ‘It’s time to leave the family business, because I can’t teach you anything, and I think you have a bit-,’ my mum said, ‘Maybe we have a bit of an infight sometimes, because it’s a family business,’ and you know, a teenager and their mum and dad, maybe, is not always the right ingredient. So, she sent me to McDonald’s. I think, looking back, and I talked with her afterwards, she thought that I needed a bit of discipline, so she thought McDonald’s would be a good place for that. So, I ended up at the local McDonald’s, started cleaning the loos and opening the restaurants on Saturdays and Sundays, stayed with McDonald’s through my career for plus eleven years, both in Denmark and the UK. I did everything from running restaurants to being in the head office, being part of the award-winning HR team, one great place to work for the first time ever, McDonald’s in Denmark. After that, it was actually a position we kept for three years in a row, and then worked in a Danish coffee chain scaling that with the founders from 4 to 27 units, and then centre of 2011, I worked as an interim consultant for different brands, as operations director, or involving people in our operations projects. That journey from 2011 led me into, you know, I said I liked the thing, or believe in humanity, or humans have to be put in the middle of everything we do to create employees and customer experience is essential for any business to survive, no matter what you do. I was very curious and I’ve always been on that journey of understanding, what do the best of the best do? Why are they surviving no matter the conditions, say, even if it’s winter or summer, they will survive, or there’s a recession. They will survive, and they don’t have these extremist situations happening in the media. Well, they’re never exposed to the media. They just live a very consistent life, because one of the most things for an organisation to be successful, this is not something I found myself, it’s from a book called ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins, a book I recommend everyone to read. Whoever is running businesses, because there are some very helpful concepts in doing that, is that they do something with their organisation that starts to show consistency through time. I got very curious about that, especially in hospitality, and finding out what these are doing and how did they create these blueprints. That journey led me to meeting a couple of people while I was doing projects, and we had the same kind of mindset. I mentioned Nicole before, there’s a guy called Ado, and we found out we have the same belief and values about things, and that’s where Hospitality Mavericks started. Our job is to, you know, go out and help inspire leaders and entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry to actually build heart-centred and profitable businesses. Thereby, what we mean by that, is helping them to create the right blueprint, and we do that through different numbers of things. We do, you know, consultancy on organisation development and strategy. We do operation design, and that’s from all the fundamental things, like health and safety to scheduling, and we’re advising as well on tech. You mentioned AI and stuff like that. Tech, having a big move into restaurants. We help them stack, what tech is the right tech for you, for your business because it’s a black box? There’s a lot of tech out there, what are you going to choose? Then, we also do some leadership development and training as well, and then different kinds of interim projects, but we all came together believing that the industry needed a community where you could talk about, you know, heart-centred leadership and consistent leadership as well. How you create these kinds of organisation just year in and year out, and there has never been a better time to talk about this because as you, Owen, have probably seen in the news, the industry is in, what you call, a perfect storm. There are a lot of things happening. A lot of the big ones are struggling, but also a lot of the small ones that don’t go into the media, so there’s, like, a tipping point right now in industry, as I see it. It’s like one of these landmarks where you’re going to look back in five years, that’s going to be happening, some very, you know, terrible stuff to people, and last week it was  people losing their jobs. Not good, but also, I think it’s an opportunity to rethink the way we are actually running these businesses from the past. So, that’s what Hospitality Mavericks is all about. Now, trying to, you know, create more consistent hospitality businesses to operation advice, and it’s not about just trying to design a Powerpoint here. It’s actually going into these businesses and trying to help them find the magic and the glue to make this work, because it’s not one, quick fix. It’s a lot around culture, and it’s a lot about how you design your business from the outset.

 

Owen Ashby:

Okay. No, that’s really great, and obviously, McDonald’s was one of the very first organisations that looked at how to design a blueprint for scaling and operationalisation, and success, etc. So, it makes sense, and I think you were just about to then bring it down to, you know, some examples, because it’s interesting for me. We look a lot at how processes touch people, and how people touch processes, and if you just examine one without the other, you’re, kind of, missing the point. You’re certainly not getting the best fit, or you’re making some assumptions, and potentially we miss why it doesn’t work, so can you give us, perhaps, some examples about how the blueprints and business systems you design, relate to the employee experience?

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, so everything we do, we work with the employee experience and the customer experience. That’s what we are trying to impact, because if we get these things right, you will, over time, improve your sales, loyalties from customers, profits and trust, whatever you’re working towards, and we all know there needs to be profit, or else there’s no business. In place as well, ensuring, first of all, that you have a business model that works, because you can’t take care of your leading customers if your basic business model doesn’t work. So, that’s the outset, understanding the business model and making sure that that works. What we have seen to create this consistency, we have actually seen there are three areas where businesses or leaders really have to excel in hospitality, and I think, actually, we had to work with a couple of tech companies, funny enough, which is not our areas, directly helps them as well. There are three areas. There’s the standard of leadership. There’s the standard of your systems or operation systems. There’s standards of your commercial skills. These three things combined, when they come together very well, with very high standards within them consistently delivered throughout your organisation, you will create what I call a heart-centred business that creates profit no matter what weather you sail in. You would create the consistency you need to navigate through any kind of storm.

Owen Ashby:

Great.

 

Michael Tingsager:

I’m not saying-, that sounds very floppy. Yes, I will break that down in a second, what I mean by that as well, and then there’s hard work to get there, but that’s where it starts. It starts with just standards, you said, as a leader. It comes back to you everyday, start with your leadership standards. What do I mean by that? It’s your ability as well to, you know, everybody talks about communicating the vision, the purpose, and things like that, but how have you actually implemented that into your day-to-day life in your organisations? How are your values implemented into the way you’re doing things? So, a very good example of how leadership behaviour or values, or values of the business have been implemented in the business, often when you’re going to look at recruitment processes in businesses. They often don’t reflect the business values, or they haven’t been taken into account, so you’re hiring people, not according to the values you set, but you’re hiring them out from maybe a template. Maybe also, that recruitment hasn’t actually been systemised around the way you were doing things in general. So, what kind of culture are you and how do you actually do these things? I think Google is probably a very good example if you take somebody out of the hospitality industry. Southwest Airlines, another that has really rigid recruitment processes, where they are looking for this perfect fit, because they are very clear about how their values are actually, like, implemented throughout every system and tools they have. Recruitment is where it becomes very deep, because that’s where you have to create the touchpoint with the people. You talked about touchpoint and processes. That’s where you have your first touchpoint, when you actually get people into your organisation. Then, it’s your ability of leadership, it’s also the way you, like, the ability to recruit the right people. Your ability to manage a lead, and then it comes down to, you know, ability to create an engaging workforce. Many people, when they talk about engagement, they talk about perks, and table tennis, and you know, free pizza and beers. Yes, that’s probably a part of it, but I really think that two things are more important, the way they feel and perceive the management acting, so coming back to the standards of leadership, and going over to operations system. I’ve give you a couple of examples of that. If things do not work when you come to work, if your laptop is not working, if you are serving in a restaurant that the POS system you’re putting things in is not working. To help you to get your job done well and deliver good customer experience, you’re actually starting to tack away at that engagement, and I know this is someone learning the truth for McDonald’s, when we became the best workplace, we didn’t go out and of a lot of happy-flappy stuff. We actually went out and fixed operation. We fixed the fundamentals within people and operations, and that was actually the main driver of, you know, the engagement scores, from staff and why they just liked to do it, because there was actually time to talk, so you didn’t actually spend all your time on fire-fighting. Hospitality is renowned for firefighting and being behind. That’s because you have merely invested your time in making your system work.

Owen Ashby:

Okay, I think that’s really critical. I mean, it’s just underlying that a bit, so when you made McDonald’s into the best place to work, it wasn’t about going in, doing some of the fluffy things that we might thing about consultants doing, and potentially HR and L&D folks even more so, being accused of doing. Actually, you looked up fixing the systems, fixing the processes to make it easier for people to do their job consistently, and free up time then, for people to talk about the other things that were really important. Maybe to create new ways of doing things, new innovation, get people more engaged. Is that, kind of, what you’re saying?

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, Owen, you’re absolutely spot on, and the reason why we did that, just to give a bit of a context how we actually came to that was that, it was not about becoming the best place to work from the outset, that actually came as a side thing. It was about how to re-improve our business, and how could they-, at that point, I was in the HR team, and I had a HR director, Lucy Lott, who was very focussed on being commercial, coming back to what we’re going to talk about, commercial skills, in a second, and the commercialisation. How do HR actually contribute to McDonald’s becoming a very strong, profitable business? We took all the data we could from an operational point of view, and we took all the data we had in HR, and we worked very closely with it, at an English university, Lancaster University, to analyse these things and see the correlation. We found some very interesting things. The things that, actually, people mentioned on top of the surface in the employee survey, not that important in how they link in with the operation. We found out there were things, like, from the delivery platform, when you talk about how customers are served and things like that anywhere, we actually found out what was really-, well, there were three things that we needed to be focussing on in HR to really get a bit of difference in performance. It was the way we were recruiting. It was the way we delivered training within the restaurants. It was the way we did performance management of both managers and employees, but more important, managers, because if you have a strong performance management process, I know performance managing is going out of the window a bit, but it’s still important to give people feedback. So, let’s just call it feedback instead. How do we actually give people a platform to be sure that, you know, senior people gave restaurant managers and the managers below them, this feedback? So, we found out how critical they were for the business. When we started working inceptively of doing different initiatives for these things, especially around recruitment, we saw a massive improvement in things. Over a three-period, the restaurant really excelled in delivering on, you know, a strong recruitment process, strong training processes, and a strong performance management process, they performed significantly better than the rest. It was not just about location, you know, being lucky having the right people. It was actually because they consistently used the system, and we saw at least some of them taking all marketing campaigns and stuff like that. The sales figures we worked with marketing on this, there was, like, a 2% uplift. They couldn’t be explained any more else, then it must be because of the way they run their business. So, it comes back to, how can actually HR-, how can you build a people’s system and operations system that works together in a way instead of working in silos. I think that’s the key here when you talk about operations systems. That is often people and, you know, the operation delivery systems to deliver the product to the customer, and that’s what we got right here, but it started out when we faced the facts anyway, and tried, really, to understand what the problem was before we started putting a strategic initiative out. I think usually in that, Owen, as well, like, people think they know what the problem is, and they start throwing all these initiatives to it, and a lot of money, and engagement programmes, and so on. Over the year, nothing has happened. They haven’t really understood what makes it tick, so it doesn’t become a habit or sticky in the organisation.

Owen Ashby:

Yes, I think that’s right. I think people default to what they think that the answer might be, or default to the off-the-shelf kind of solutions, typically within their own locus of control, their purview, if you like, certainly in L&D and HR, and those kinds of things. There’s this massive disconnect, continuous disconnect almost, between the operations side of the business, the system side of the business, the processes, and the HR, L&D people side. It’s almost like the two don’t talk. Yet, when we put an analytic that looks across both of those parties and says, ‘Actually, how are people engaging with the processes? Do the processes really support the employee in delivering and working in the way we want them to?’ Nine times out of ten, we find that they’re completely misaligned, so it’s not always that the employees don’t know what they’re doing. It’s that potentially, the processes you’re asking them to follow are inefficient, ineffective, whatever, and as a result, we often find that people find operational workarounds to that process, which creates risk in the process one way or the other. So, it’s really interesting for you to be able to put some meat on the bones for that for us, and to be able to evidence it. That by looking at some of the core fundamentals of the business, and where the businesses operate, the organisation starts to see a better return from the way it engages with its employees. The employees have a better experience as a result, so yes, that’s really interesting. It was really great just to see that come to life in a fast-moving, fast-paced, you know, really fast-changing world that is hospitality, I guess.

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, and you know, you never have enough time. I don’t know. Many people who have worked in hospitality at some time in their lives, I hear stories about when people have  spent their career there, or just a short part of it. They always remember it was something that was very fast and busy. Again, that’s a challenge for the industry, because we need to have a bit of-, I think, coming back to the standards of leadership, we need to be better to slow down and make the right decisions. Be patient, as well. There’s been a lot of upscale. Growth is good. We all live for growth, but you can see the consequences now when growth becomes the primary driver, and not organisational consistency. I think there’s a reason why not everybody can get to come to McDonald’s and everybody shouldn’t be a McDonald’s, but you’d have to scale every operation. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main reasons is it’s very hard to scale culture in my world. You can’t scale your culture before you have a very consistent operation, and when do we have that? When you have practice on the operation for many, many, many years, and as many people, they think, ‘Oh, yes. Well, we’ll just make some operation system and then we’ll scale our business,’ but you only have been in operation for three years. You have to even understand and learn your business yet. So, I think it’s about again, coming back to it, you can’t become a-, there have been examples of people that have been very successful, but this is unicorn. It’s like in tech. There are more tech companies that fail than there are unicorns, you know? So, again, it’s about you having a realistic approach to this, and I think that has been, maybe, a bit of an unrealistic approach to it, and that’s just driven to this situation. Some of it is outside, common things that you just have to deal with as a business, but other things are very self-inflicted things, forgotten the bit about the standards. We said to get the standards to follow your growth. So, I don’t think it’s a lack of commercial skills for many times. I just think it becomes a bit like, we go on the hamster wheel. It’s a bit like, anything else, you know, hyper-growth as we call it. Now, we need to go back to again, how do we actually create a more consistent business, and make sure we make money on every location as well, not just getting open for the sake of getting open. So, I think that’s the key thing. I just wanted to talk to you about commercial skills, what we mean by that at Hospitality Mavericks. So, what we often go in and see is that these are the three areas we work with, and when we come to commercial skills, there is always a gap within the team, a skill gap. It can be marketing. It can be accounting. Actually, funnily enough, financial skills, often, we’ll see when we come in. Some are really lacking those. The skill of planning, really plan your business out, and sometimes, not only saying, ‘Oh, well, we did a plan last year. We didn’t follow it,’ but then, yes, do it again this year, because it’s not about maybe, you following your plan 100%. It’s naturally having a bit of a stay on things, and checking and things, because many people make the plan but they don’t check in on it. So, again, planning is one of the things we should check from a commercial point of view, and then marketing as well, and social media. Actually, try to learn those skills yourself, so you don’t misunderstand how to do this. I see a lot of-, especially when you come down in the small operators, is that they try to do their social media without really understanding their training, and thinking about how they want to use this first. Therefore, they would come out, like, either a bit clumsy, or they don’t get any attraction at all. So, that’s what we mean with commercial skills as well. That’s where you need to sharpen the saw as well. It’s not an easy thing, you know, it’s a journey, and then when you start working on that journey, you will see progress and you will start building what we call a great employee and guest community, that will overtime enforce growth. But, it starts with you as the company that you set the standards, we normally say.

Owen Ashby:

Great, excellent. We’ve got two references in there, so we’ve got Good to Great, and we’ve got Sharpen the Saw from Stephen Covey, of course.

Michael Tingsager:

Exactly, exactly.

Owen Ashby:

This stuff is still, sort of, underpinned to everything we do one way or the other, isn’t it?

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, it is.

Owen Ashby:

So, you talked before about how we’re seeing, you know, restaurant closures and downsizing in the market place a lot in the media at the moment. You also talked about the fact that there are some operators that operate under the wire, under the wire of the media, and perhaps we don’t see so much of them. So, of those organisations that we’ve seen reducing their footprint, who you might argue have a brand like Jamie’s, for example, that they have expanded across the UK. When they’re shutting own or closing down restaurants, what do you think is the underlying reason for that? Is it that they’ve just not extended the model well enough, or they’ve overstretched themselves? How would you explain that?

Michael Tingsager:

I don’t know enough about that to say, but I can say I don’t think there’s one reason why. It’s probably a mixture of things, but there could be something about that they reach the critical point, at some point, where they have to stop, but they didn’t know. It was difficult to sign that, so it’s about, how do you actually check in with your organisation if you’re ready to move on? That’s very difficult when a lot of money is flowing towards you, I think. I don’t think, if you take Jamie Oliver, I think he’s an amazing guy, and he wanted to do all the right things, his heart is in the right place, but that’s probably been a learning curve for him as well. I have seen him being out now again, talking about what really hospitality is about. I think that’s where we, as an industry, need to go back to and remember that at the end of the day, we can talk about all these business things and strategy, but what hospitality really is about is, you know, great food. It’s about the customers and it’s about the people employed. These are the three areas we really should care about. We need to come back to care a bit more about those, I think, and then build the potential organisation around it. Also, I think, if you look across operators, they get different things wrong, but I think one of the things that’s been a challenge, probably is that what works really well maybe in London, you try to throw out, maybe to outside London. You just try to scale a business so fast that you couldn’t, in a way, get quality of people with you, you know, the leaders, the managers, you need to do that scale, but also maybe just go in to look from a profitability point of view, because you can overpay for the sake of just opening.

Owen Ashby:

Yes, the landlord.

Michael Tingsager:

So, it’s about getting that, every location as an individual location. I have a podcast myself I run, and I interviewed, it’s going to go live in August, a guy called Andreas Karlsson, and he’s a brilliant operator that runs Sticks’n’Sushi. He’s the CEO of Sticks’n’Sushi, a Danish sushi chain that’s scaled, that’s opened in London. I actually said to him, ‘So, what is your approach to scaling,’ and he said, ‘No, no. I have to correct you there, Michael. We are not scaling. We are building one restaurant at a time, from the bottom up. Understanding how we make one restaurant work really well, and then we spread it out and make it work from that point of view. If it doesn’t work, we step up and find out how we’re going to make that work before we move on.’ That’s probably very, very healthy. They haven’t opened like crazy this year. They’ve opened a couple. I think there are around 20 units now, but I guess the speed they’ve done it in has actually ensured they also can actually take their staff and their managers on that journey. I’m not saying that’s the only right way to scale, but that’s been the right way for them, and it’s just very interesting that his approach has been that, and he comes with a background from Wagamama. So, he’s tried both, you know, hyper-growth and slow-growth. For Wagamama, that worked really well, I must say. I respect that as a business, to look at, when you want to talk about scaling casual dining and getting it right, but it also comes down a lot to the product. I think that’s very consistent, and that probably means that the operations system is of a very high standard, and leadership before that. So, I don’t think there’s one reason why people are in trouble, but it’s definitely something that’s probably been treated a bit by, you know, a lot of money coming towards the industry from VCs and things like that. I think the same thing is happening in tech, you know. You’re seeing companies come and go. A lot of money comes in and then you speed up the organisation, but you forget that nobody talks about that growth about, how do we get the human factor? We talk about it, but we really don’t take it serious sometimes. I’ve done it myself. I scaled, you know, I talked about the coffee chain, and that was definitely something I got wrong there. I lost some people, some of my best people, on that journey, because suddenly I wasn’t giving them the attention I should as a leader, and that’s probably a very low standard. We all probably have to sometimes, you know, have a bit of pain before we learn.

Owen Ashby:

Yes, absolutely. That’s great. Thank you, Michael. The whole heart-centred piece is about people. It’s about putting people at the heart of what you do, and you talked about, you know, the three, kind of, cornerstones of what you need to get right consistently. Leadership, commercial skills, and systems, and how those things interplay with people. I think we all know when we’re in a restaurant chain that are following those processes, following those recommendations, because every part of the experience as a customer is consistent, and there’s something that works about it. It feels right, doesn’t it? I guess, we instinctively know when something is working, both as an employee and as a customer in that environment.

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, and I think you’re spot-on there with the feel. I think everybody that’s listening to this podcast has gone into a restaurant and you can feel it when you come in. When you can feel that, you know, the staff that are really engaged, they really want to do a good job, it’s probably because these three circles are really working in symbiosis. Also, be very aware that within chains, it’s not a process, it’s actually ‘mavericks’ as well call them. Mavericks, the leaders within chains, that do these things in their own location, again, work really well, because they use the systems in the right way. So, either they’ve been given really good training, or they actually got the training from somewhere else to utilise the systems. You can definitely feel, when you come in that place, that that’s a very special place, and that probably comes down to the first circle I talked about, you know, the standard of leadership first of all, but also it comes down to when they fix the operation system. They’re actually making money, because when you don’t make money, it often becomes a dead spiral and you can feel that within the organisation. So, you know that when you come in that these employees are connected, not because they’re just happy in themselves, but just because it works and they have good managers, and so on. That makes them deliver great value to you, and also, you can see they care. You can see how they plate the food when it comes out, if the kitchen is engaged with what they’re doing. Do they really care? We all try to order a dish and then it comes out differently from what we expected, or with missing ingredients and stuff like that. When this gets right, you know, that feel, when you get that feel, you don’t think much about what you pay first of all, and your loyalty becomes quite great because you want to come again. We are creatures of habit, so we have a nice experience, we want to do it again. That again, you know, builds the trust, and that makes you increase yourself and then your profit in the end. Therefore, that’s why it’s so important in the world to, you know, create this customer experience and employee experience, and be very aware that the customer experience can be-, you can’t get that right before you get your employee experience right.

Owen Ashby:

Bang on the money. Bang on.

Michael Tingsager:

The customers will not love you before your employees love you, and I think that’s very important to know, because these feelings, restaurants with energy and feelings, we’re selling energy and time in the restaurants, I often say. We don’t sell food, in a way. Food is just the way we deliver the experience, in a way.

Owen Ashby:

Excellent. I think that’s lovely. It’s a great way I’d want to end this on, is that your customers can’t love you until your employees do. I think that’s great. You mentioned also that we’re a creature of habit. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to these and I’m trying to create a level of consistency across all of the interviews and discussions that we have. I’m asking a single question at the end, which might be a bit incongruence, but let’s just see. You know, you’re a man of many talents, Michael, so I’m sure you can pull it into line. The question is, based on your experience and expertise, what one piece of advice or recommendation would you give an organisation about to embark on any kind of people change or learning programme?

Michael Tingsager:

That is a big question, but I will try to-, I actually think it comes down to one thing, stop up, and reflect, and understand your organisation where you are now, and where you want to go in three to five years. What is it that you need to put in place to get people with you on that journey? That’s going through, you know, the classic change models and all that. That’s where the theory comes in, but how do you actually implement these things into your business to become a habit? Often, we do these change strategies, definitely from a corporate point of view. I’ve done it myself as well, where we design the perfect strategy, but we really don’t think out in practical terms, how is this going to hit the frontline employees? What I see that often goes wrong, and I don’t think that’s just in hospitality, I think for this especially, something that I’ve seen, this is my figure – this is not something I have facts on, but that’s my own experience type of thing. 75% to 80% of all initiatives in an average hospitality organisation fail because they never arrived in the right way at the frontline employees, or you didn’t give it the time it needed to really get in and become a habit. There’s a great book that’s called, I think, Habit Forming, Creating Habits.

Owen Ashby:

Is that Charles Duhigg?

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, exactly, Charles Duhigg. Maybe I can’t remember the title right now, but we can probably make a link in the comments.

Owen Ashby:

Something about habits, yes. We’ll find it. We’ll find it.

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, and he talks about, you know, you really have to take time for this, and I think patience, stop up and patience is connected in a way, but try to really understand what it is that you try to do before you start to run with it. Also, think about how will that be perceived, involve the frontline employees in how you’re going to make this work. Your frontline employees could also be your office staff. It could be, you know, your retail staff. It could be anyone, everybody that’s in connection with the customer. How do you make this work for them and not for, you know, checking it off in the boardroom? Really get it out there and try to feel it and get that blueprint designed in the right way, and do less, then more. Have less initiative that really works, is a strategy that is executed where 80% works really well. It’s better than a perfectly designed strategy with all the element of 100%, so get the 80% right, the widely important things. I think that’s the-, if I could combine that into one piece of advice, stop up, reflect, make sure you’re implemented, so it actually gets out there. That’s the advice.

Owen Ashby:

Brilliant. Thank you, Michael, and for those people that were interested to know, it’s The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Michael Tingsager:

Yes, exactly.

Owen Ashby:

You also mentioned Good to Great, which is an all time classic, I think, by Jim Collins, and of course, you mentioned Sharpen the Saw, which is one of the 7 Habits of the ever-awesome Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, of which you are evidently one, Michael.

Michael Tingsager:

Oh, thank you. Thank you. I think there’s another book I wanted to talk about to people, anyway, because one of the books we’re very inspired by is the book called ‘The Service Profit Chain’ by James L. Heskett. Primarily, they went in and looked at service businesses across the world and tried to understand why some of them are time on time again, like I talked about before, just sailing through no matter what, what weather conditions they’re in. They’re just performing better and better, year on year. That’s where we have been inspired by many of our models we worked with clients with, is that we actually go back and look at those models, and there’s a lot of statistics and data material on why it’s important to put people before profit, in a way.

Owen Ashby:

That’s a good way to end. So, it’s The Service Profit Chain.

Michael Tingsager:

Yes.

Owen Ashby:

By whom, did you say?

Michael Tingsager:

James L. Heskett.

Owen Ashby:

James L. Heskett, thank you. There are a whole list of books for those of us who haven’t read those two to get on top of. Thanks, Michael. Great as ever to catch up with you. I know you’re a really busy man and in demand, so it’s been a great delight to have you on our podcast. You know, all of your details, your bio and links to your website, and your awesome podcast, the exemplar in the hospitality world, are available via our podcast page too. Just before you go, what’s the best way to get hold of you, Michael, for anyone who wants to get in touch?

Michael Tingsager:

Oh, go to the website, the contact details there, or we can also probably throw my phone number in, whatever you do, so people can get hold of me. Yes, always willing to be open and talking about people, change, and just connecting with like-minded people, so yes, feel free to reach out. The sum of all of us together is better than one of us, I often say.

Owen Ashby:

Amen to that. Excellent. Thanks, Michael. Have a great day.

Michael Tingsager:

You too, and remember, be maverick.

Owen Ashby:

Oh, yes, definitely.

 

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