My bakery cafe has been open a little over three years, and from the start, I've been in the kitchen doing a lot of the baking with the help of a full time pastry chef and the occasional intern. We have a shop with espresso and do lunches. I like doing the work, I am pretty sure that's why I opened a bakery, but in order to grow the bakery, I know I need to shift my focus from "being in the trenches" to becoming a great leader and manager for my team. I'm finding this transition a very big challenge. 

I would love to hear about similar challenges with any of you as your cafes have grown. 

Do you feel like you finally figured out how to be a great leader? How did you balance this with a desire to be part of the daily grind as well?

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I have a cafe where I do a little bit of everything and a lot of cooking. Because the seasons are extremely seasonal, I find that part of the year I am working in the trenches and the other part I am managing staff and directing the movements of the business. I cannot say that anything has gotten any easier over the past two years. However, I have become much more self reliant and organized. I think that being self reliant, being able to do anything that I would expect someone else to do, and organized, knowing where the business is and what needs to be done at any given day, are the most important aspects of owning/operating a small business in this industry.

From what I have experienced so far, this is my opinion. You cannot manage what you cannot measure.

I hire people to do the job that I would be doing if they were not there. Lets use making cookies from a standardized recipe for an example. First training. I make a batch of cookies following the recipe explaining how to find the ingredients, how to measure ingredients by weight, etc. while they are following along with the recipe. I also time myself while I make these cookies so they see how long it takes for their boss to make these cookies (setting a goal). The cookies come out and they taste a couple to see what to expect from my direction. Then I get them to make a batch from start to finish following the recipe. If they have a problem or something goes wrong we troubleshoot until the batch is finished. Then they make another batch without my assistance, being timed. We compare the three finished products and discuss the differences as well as ways to improve and how to measure improvement (better times, better quality, etc.) From then on, when I am scheduling out the day and dividing up tasks for people to do. If John (the trainee) has to make cookies at 9:30am and it takes me 15min to make a batch and him 30min to make a batch, I don't schedule him for anything else until 10:00am. If he finishes sooner with a properly baked batch of cookies, he has a milk and cookie break. If it takes him longer than that, I find out why and go from there.

In my opinion, every task that YOU would do at your bakery has to be standardized so that an employee knows how to do it just as you would do it, and how to know it was done to your expectations. Everything from baking a wedding cake to changing the toilet paper must be understood, both by you and your employees. If you can do that (the hard part) then managing employees without doing their work becomes easier because there are no unclear expectations (either from you or them). If you give people a way to measure their own productivity/good work, you are actually giving them the chance to manage themselves. And that rocks.

This is excellent advice.

 

I found the most challenging thing in our shop was creating unified standards amongst a staff that didn't have much in the way of owner/operators (owners actually in the shop) or strong management.  We ended up working together to create a system that worked best for the shop, and then I consistently improved upon them.

 

Clear, concise standards/recipes/pars/etc... gives firm ground to start on and makes everyone's work more enjoyable.

Troy L Mallett said:

I have a cafe where I do a little bit of everything and a lot of cooking. Because the seasons are extremely seasonal, I find that part of the year I am working in the trenches and the other part I am managing staff and directing the movements of the business. I cannot say that anything has gotten any easier over the past two years. However, I have become much more self reliant and organized. I think that being self reliant, being able to do anything that I would expect someone else to do, and organized, knowing where the business is and what needs to be done at any given day, are the most important aspects of owning/operating a small business in this industry.

From what I have experienced so far, this is my opinion. You cannot manage what you cannot measure.

I hire people to do the job that I would be doing if they were not there. Lets use making cookies from a standardized recipe for an example. First training. I make a batch of cookies following the recipe explaining how to find the ingredients, how to measure ingredients by weight, etc. while they are following along with the recipe. I also time myself while I make these cookies so they see how long it takes for their boss to make these cookies (setting a goal). The cookies come out and they taste a couple to see what to expect from my direction. Then I get them to make a batch from start to finish following the recipe. If they have a problem or something goes wrong we troubleshoot until the batch is finished. Then they make another batch without my assistance, being timed. We compare the three finished products and discuss the differences as well as ways to improve and how to measure improvement (better times, better quality, etc.) From then on, when I am scheduling out the day and dividing up tasks for people to do. If John (the trainee) has to make cookies at 9:30am and it takes me 15min to make a batch and him 30min to make a batch, I don't schedule him for anything else until 10:00am. If he finishes sooner with a properly baked batch of cookies, he has a milk and cookie break. If it takes him longer than that, I find out why and go from there.

In my opinion, every task that YOU would do at your bakery has to be standardized so that an employee knows how to do it just as you would do it, and how to know it was done to your expectations. Everything from baking a wedding cake to changing the toilet paper must be understood, both by you and your employees. If you can do that (the hard part) then managing employees without doing their work becomes easier because there are no unclear expectations (either from you or them). If you give people a way to measure their own productivity/good work, you are actually giving them the chance to manage themselves. And that rocks.

This thread has made my day. I work in a corporate coffee store where the staff isn't "together" or very much like a team, and I always think about whether or not it's achievable. I'm just a barista, but I know the store is capable of a solid team.

 

Thanks for this, especially your input Troy!

Motivating staff is an incredible challenge if there is not a clear direction and compensation. I guess there are two general motivations for a staff/team member; either personal gain (promotions, job satisfaction, increased hireability, WBC training) or group gain (best cafe in the city, elite barista team, etc.) Ultimately, people need to feel needed and accepted by their peers.

I cannot imagine what incentive there would be to become a superstar barista (or anything) at a McDonalds or Starbucks, except for using the space as a professional playground for individual development. Alexander, you have a tough field to plow. But if there is a way to get everyone on your team (because it CAN be YOUR team) to find ways to take pride in their performance, there is the possibility for greatness. But then again, think about who you are working with and if they are just looking forward to payday. You can only motivate those who want to be motivated. Stick or Carrot!

 

Keep up the great work Lisa. Never forget your efforts, they will pay back in the strangest of circumstances.

 

T

This is such a great topic. One of the greatest hurdles for entrepreneurs is shifting their mindset from startup to growth. When I was in that phase, I couldn't just take myself immediately out of the trenches. I had to ease into that next phase by slowly reducing my shifts over the course of several years. From 5 shifts every week, to 3 shifts and eventually just 1 shift a week until I removed myself completely. But it was rough in the beginning. I felt as if I was abandoning my employees and positioning myself higher than them even though we worked side by side. I realized though that it was fine. They wanted me to lead and take the company somewhere.

 

My brother and I grew from a single cart to four coffee shops. These are some of our operational practices that may give you some ideas:

 

- Have operating procedures for everything. When I first pulled myself away from behind the bar everything was fine. The immediate employees had all worked with me so they knew my standards. Eventually, new employees that had never worked with me needed better guidance, so we wrote a comprehensive but easy to read Employee Manual. We went over everything in the manual with each new employee.

 

- We came to the point where we needed to communicate the same thing to each employee at each of our coffee shops. In order to do this we created an interactive online employee forum where each employee must register upon hire. On our employee forum we post weekly schedules, policies, employee shift changes, announcements, a discussion board, and the employee manual. Employees can even send messages through website. This helped out so much!

 

- In order to motivate our employees, we do the same thing we did when we worked behind the bar. We just try to get to know each of them. By taking a genuine interest in their lives and what they're doing outside of work, we feel that they work harder and have more fun while behind the bar.

 

- Upgrading from cash registers to linked POS systems gave me a better understanding of what each location was doing throughout the day. Our Selbysoft systems send us an e-mail every hour that indicates the total sales and percentages at each store. This ended the guessing and gave me immediate feedback.

 

 

Brilliant, Tim. Brilliant.

 

Thank you for your contribution.

Tim. Have you found difficulties around escaping the absentee owner stigma with four locations?

 

Stephanie. From where you are today, what do you think your first move will be toward your goals?

I agree with everything Troy said.

Sooner or later if you want to grow, or even step back and start to enjoy some of the fruits, you need to change what you used to do.

With me it was a heart attack and triple bypass surgery that forced the change. It would have been better to follow that different path earlier.

That path was the one Troy has explained.

Some great stuff so far, from owners that have been there. Thanks for sharing your experiences, guys.

 

A book that has a great approach for this challenge is "The E-Myth Revisited". The process of defining the roles that will need to be filled and setting up systems to help your team complete tasks sounds much like what's been suggested already. He also discusses the roles that we play within out organization, and how to handle some of the challenges. Its been really helpful for me. A good read.

I think when we opened, I had to have my hands in everything because it was so difficult to communicate all the ever changing policies, procedures and what not. Our menu was all over the place, our recipes were constantly changing, etc. The bakery side has always been more stable as it's the side I"m on. The barista side has suffered a bit because I'm not on that side as much, but I see everything. In the past, I've been really frustrated with trying to disseminate information. We have a notebook, we talk about it, but really, I've still got one leg on the bakery side so I'm not seen (at least I don't think) as a leader.It's still difficult for me to expect the barista side to be self-managing, and frustrating for them I am sure. I think I have now a good balance of stick and carrot people, so I have a good opportunity to figure out how to motivate them. If I can avoid the frustration and blurting out how every one of their f***ups has such a large impact on the business.

 

So now, I'm past the frustration and on to acceptance. I have lowered my expectations which originally seemed like a bad thing; but it's very peaceful to have an attainable goal. Not everybody can be just like me, and by realizing what they are capable of and focusing on success in what they can do, I can move towards setting new goals for the staff.

 

So I guess I'm in the middle of a paradigm shift. We've recently remodeled the space and seen a nice uptick in business so it's important we capture that moment and build new relationships with new customers. Hopefully, this will put us in the position to hire a middle manager to enforce the new procedures that are starting to be put in place. We've got checklists (that are often not followed). I think the idea of an employee manual makes a lot of sense. I think I need to revisit the e-myth revisited.

 

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