Tag Archives: Business and Economy

Trimmings

Let’s think about the stuff we trim off and often toss this Foodie Friday. You know what I mean – the ends of carrots and celery and other veggies you cut away. Often I’ll trim off some excess fat from a roast or a chicken before I cook it. If you’ve ever watched your local butcher in action, he or she trims off quite a bit from the primal cuts as they’re prepping them for sale as smaller packages.

One thing you’ll learn if you speak with older cooks, especially those who lived through hard times, is that you throw nothing away. Trimmings can be used for stock. What do you think goes into commercial sausages or hot dogs? Trimmings! Heck, even the availability of the much-in-demand McRib sandwich is partially based on the availability of pork trimmings which are used to make the pork patties (you didn’t honestly think those were deboned ribs, did you?).

One product I eat from time to time is marinated chicken thighs. Well, at least they look like boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I think they’re really chicken trimmings held together by meat glue of some sort. They’re tasty and inexpensive and a good use by a food processor of trimmings. You can call it frankenmeat; I call it delicious.

You eat more trimmings than you probably have thought about. The surimi in your California Roll is fish trimmings. Ever had a chicken nugget? The point isn’t to gross you out. I want you to remember that trimmings have a valuable role to play in the food world. It turns out they do in the business world as well.

You might have been in a business situation where someone decides to “trim the fat.” I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve worked in organizations where, over time, there was bloat. Situations and markets change but organizations often lag behind, especially when trimming is going to involve cutting people or budgets or both. We’re also in a time where automation and virtualization have dramatically changed things. This issue isn’t whether to trim. The question is what to do with the trimmings?

I’m a fan of making stock out of them. No, I don’t mean to boil the people. Instead, set them up as outside consultants. Free them to get other work while allowing them to support you with the knowledge they’ve accumulated while working for you. If a stock is the essence of something, using former employees is too, especially when they’re improved by working for others and bringing that knowledge to bear for you.

Maybe trim back offices. Not people, just the people you house every day. As we’ve all found out over the last six months, working remotely can be every bit as productive as working in an office and the organization’s expenses are reduced when it gives up the office space.

Trim technology. Does anyone have their own servers anymore? I used to be a tech executive and the pace that tech moves these days makes it impossible for any fairly large organization to keep up. I’m a fan of working with outsourced organizations that can focus on doing on tech and keeping the mothership – their clients – current and on track.

Trimming is a necessary part of food preparation. It is in business too. In either case, the trimming can and should be put to good use.

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, food

Lessons From Mom And Dad

Among the myriad reasons 2020 has been an absolute horrorshow is the passing of both my mother and father. Dad left us back in July and, as my sister and I have been saying would happen for years, Mom was right behind him 90 days later.

As I’m sitting here unpacking the boxes of stuff from their apartment, a lot of thoughts are crossing my mind. I don’t know if it’s a form of therapy or just a desire to share some lessons they taught me that I know are useful to any of us in business but today is about them.

I wrote some words for each funeral. I wasn’t able to attend in person because of the pandemic. In Dad’s eulogy, I wrote that

Those three senses – the importance of family, of taking responsibility, and of being humble – were things I know he tried to convey to the three of us.

In business, I would mean a family in the broadest sense. Your business family – your coworkers, your partners, your suppliers and most of all your customers are what’s important. I did expand on the responsibility part later on:

Any time I went to Dad with a question, the answer was inevitably the same: do what you think is right. It was never “do what’s expedient” nor what’s easy. Do what you think is right based on all the information you have…When we were wrong, Dad never asked why we made a bad decision but reminded us that we’d tried our best and we’d do better next time.

I’ve been in toxic work situations where bad decisions were followed by long periods of blame-placing and recriminations. The lessons learned usually led to paralysis. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make any bad ones. People were more focused on finding another job than on advancing the organizational goals.

In Mom’s eulogy, I expanded a bit on that lesson:

So much of what was true about Mom was true about Dad. Certainly the importance of family and of taking responsibility. “Actions have consequences,” she would remind us, both good and bad. Consequences could be pleasurable or, as I found out often enough, not so much…At the height of the Vietnam War protests, like many my age I informed Mom I was going to skip school for Moratorium Day and go march. Skipping school pretty much for any reason was not ok and doing so to participate in a march as a newly-minted high school freshman when I should be learning where the heck my locker was was even worse. Mom’s response was pretty much “do what you think is right.” Maybe she was looking ahead a few short years when her son would be draft-eligible but I prefer to think she was telling me to use my brain, make good choices, and be prepared to live with the consequences. If I recall I was informed those consequences would not involve her posting my bail had I been arrested.

This is perhaps my pet peeve, both in and out of business. Some folks just won’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault or bad luck or the weather or ANYTHING but their own doing. The pandemic, for example, wasn’t any of our doing. How we’re managing our businesses and our own health is completely our own doing.

Here’s the last lesson and it’s one my folks probably didn’t know they were conveying. My parents worked very hard their entire lives. Like many of us, they accumulated a lot of stuff. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer things as homes were sold and downsizing occurred. When they couldn’t live on their own anymore, more things were given away or sold. Finally, here at the end, my sister and I and their grandchildren received some boxes with pictures and mementos. Not much “stuff.”

I guess I’m trying to remind us that “stuff” doesn’t last. What matters are the memories in those pictures and the people who keep you and your memory alive. Try to remember that when you’re pushing yourself to make more money to buy more stuff. If there is a silver lining to the horror of this year, it just might be that we all got a little time at home to reflect on what’s important.

I’m thankful for the lessons my Mom and Dad taught me. I hope you find these few of them useful.

4 Comments

Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Don’t Go It Alone

Another Foodie Friday in the midst of the pandemic. For me, it’s impossible to think about food on Friday without thinking of some of my friends in the food business who have been adversely impacted over the last six months. Heck, for my friend Craig who runs our favorite watering hole, the loss of our weekly bar bill alone is significant!

Here in North Carolina, restaurants, foodservice, and lodging is a $23.5 billion industry. More than 482,300 people are employed in the foodservice industry in the state – about 11 percent of the state’s workforce. When the governor shut bars and restaurants down, the impact was felt by those of us who couldn’t drink or dine out but that was nothing like how it hit those who provided that food and drink. I’m sure the situation is comparable to where you live.

Restaurants are back open here, albeit with reduced capacity. Bars are too although many of them are only serving outside. It’s better for the proprietors and staff but some of the jobs haven’t come back and many restaurants have closed up for good.

You wouldn’t think this would be a great time to look at opening a food business, would you? Well, you’d be wrong. As reported by QSR:

Quick-service chains had recovered to just a 13 percent decline year-over-year. Certain counter-service franchises have recently even reported positive year-over-year sales during the pandemic. After experiencing an initial hit on sales, A&W Restaurants announced sales were up by double digits, Papa Johns has noted a 24 percent increase in North American sales and Popeyes has boasted that sales are up by the “very high 20s” percent.

In other words, even in one of the worst-hit industries in the midst of a horrible economic time, there are opportunities. Would I invest in a full-service sit-down restaurant? Of course not. But if the business was predicated on carryout and was part of a franchise system, I very much might. I say that because franchise organizations have the infrastructure in place to help the system survive. A good franchisor can develop and implement systems – online ordering, contactless delivery, etc. – that give franchisees the ability to cope with the challenges. As an individual restaurant or any business, that’s more difficult and often requires capital that the individual unit might not have.

It’s something to think about even if you have no interest in owning a food business. Many other business sectors such as hair and nail salons, gyms, travel businesses, after-school programs have been hit hard over the last six months and yet I’m aware of dozens of franchise brands in these sectors that have modified how they do business. Their franchisees are doing well despite the pandemic. Going it alone is hard even in good times. Working as part of a proven system is especially valuable in bad times.

The ability to adapt is key for any business and never more so than now, don’t you think? Even in a crisis, there is an opportunity! And if you’re interested in learning more about franchise opportunities, you can reach me here.

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Franchises