What I learned in the summer holidays!

This summer, my wife and I helped my son and his girlfriend provide the artist/staff catering at a three day music festival.

800 meals across 5 days.

Right outside my comfort zone. On reflection, I realised how relatable some of the experiences were to running our own business, or any business.

Here are my top 5 takeaways.


1. Praise Is the Fuel of Human Achievement

Me - “Son - just remember I’ve got no catering experience”.
Him. “Dad, not true, you have 35 years of cooking experience”.

Asking your team (or parents) to move outside their comfort zone will mean you need to support them. As team members go beyond their imagined skills/limits they must be simultaneously encouraged, coached & praised as the discover their new comfort zone.


2. Brutal Realities

“F$^% - the brownie mixture has split”.

Hospitality professionals know stuff regularly goes wrong in kitchens. It’s the perfect place to observe the Stockdale Paradox in practice. While it’s important to keep hope and optimism alive (that the service will turn out well) you must also deal with the brutal realities of your minute to minute to existence. Commitment to high standards means “hope” will need to be set aside from time to time... and another brownie mixture made - fast!


3. Experience & Shortcuts

“I’ll show you how to slice 20 at once”

Professional chefs have lots of shortcuts. Eg. How to slice 20 cherry tomatoes in one knife move is just one. They also understand the Theory of Constraints better than many most. Prep/Mise en Place is simply stacking resources ahead of bottlenecks/constraints. I also learned that only the professionals should use a mandolin without a guard.


4. Ages, Roles, Titles & Competence

“Mum, I’ve told you twice now - please use the other sink!

My son (the Chef) was barking instructions and his mum, me & his girlfriend learned to do as we were told. An odd change, but it works well in a busy kitchen. Why? Because it was competency based. Surprisingly, I enjoyed not being “in charge” as I couldn’t be in charge. Quietly, I resolved to delegate leadership in my own business more regularly based on competency rather than age, length of service or title.


5. Keep the end in mind.

“Do the “mahi” - get the treats”

This expression is often used within the All Black team - “mahi” means work. At the music festival “treats” meant a few things to me, including:

A) Being part of a festival family of staff & artists: all focused on delivering a sensational product - 22,000 (our clients) having a memorable New Year’s Eve.

B) Artists (also our clients) saying - “best lamb ever” (see praise above). BTW - if any R & V 2018 artists ever read this, rest assured it was our absolute pleasure (and I’m certainly not paid to say that!).

Treats also meant having the best seat in the house.

Welcome 2019 - it’s going to be great.

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