At one point I was just a guy, sitting in his living room trying to formulate what I believed into a clear purpose and culture that would be the framework for the company that I wanted to build.
My approach took the form of a dialogue, and in this way, I wrote down five simple questions and answers on that yellow pad. Even though I was just a guy sitting in his living room, I wrote with “we” in my mind rather than “I.”
These five questions and their answers became the pillars of our company. I believed that any company or organization needed to be able to answer the five questions with authority and conviction.
1. Who are we? Great people delivering genuine hospitality.
How do we define this? Simply put, everybody has great people in their lives. We all have a sense of what means and can relate to the idea of great people. Delivery means someone has received. Genuine means from the heart. Hospitality means treating guests as we would treat people in our own home.
2. What do we want to be? An extraordinary restaurant company.
By simple definition, extraordinary is the opposite of ordinary. There are hundreds of things we do every day that are the opposite of ordinary. We will do anything not to be an ordinary restaurant company. We are always aspiring to be an extraordinary restaurant company.
3. Why are we in business? To continue to thrive, driven by our cultural and fiscal responsibilities.
Our number one job is to maintain our cultural foundation. We want to operate a restaurant company with the kind of values that mean it will be around for fifty, seventy-five years—long after I am in the big restaurant in the sky. To do that, we are guided by the knowledge that the mission of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is fifty-one percent culture and forty-nine percent profit. We want to make a profit and a damn good profit. But we will never put profit on higher ground than our values. If that means we leave a dollar on the table not to sacrifice our culture, that’s what we’ll do.
4. What is your role?To make raving fans of the five groups of people we do business with: our fellow associates, our guests, our purveyors, our partners, and our communities in which we do business.
We have almost five thousand associates with different job descriptions. But we all have the same role. We will make raving fans of these five groups of people with whom we do business. I agree wholeheartedly with Ken Blanchard’s view of raving fans and the definition of that phrase is common sense. It requires of us that whatever we can do to make raving fans of these five groups of people we will do. If it means our community needs more job training and higher education, we will invest in the Columbus State Community College. If it means making a hot cup of hot chocolate for the FedEx driver on a cold winter’s day, that’s what we’ll do.
5. What’s our goal?To be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.
We can’t take this goal to heart without working at getting better every day, pushing to raise our game, and refusing to accept the status quo as good enough. Anyone we encounter could debate us for hours about how successful we are. But we can all likely agree that we are at least a somewhat successful restaurant company. That said, here is our insurance policy: By being better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today—by virtue of this alone, we will create a culture of growth, and we will be increasingly successful.
We know these five pillars, we teach them, and they become the screen by which we measure everything. If we encounter an issue in our business that doesn’t have anything to do with the five questions, we disregard it and move on.
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