I received a fascinating phone call last week from a lady in California who called to tell me how the Habit of Kaizen had played a pivotal role in helping shape the destiny of her business.
Her story began in 2007 when, within three weeks of each other, she and her husband both lost their jobs. They spent most of the following six months seeking any and every available opportunity for employment but, to no avail.
One evening, to cheer themselves up, they decided to take their two kids out to a restaurant where they had previously enjoyed a meal as a family.
The restaurant was located about a 20 minute drive from home and the entire time was spent listening to their kids debate which dishes they most enjoyed the previous time and what they planned to order this time.
When they arrived, they were quite surprised to find the parking-lot empty and it wasn’t until they were approaching the door of the restaurant that they realized that something was amiss.
A sign on the door informed them that the restaurant was closed and would not be reopening.
They went off in search of a place to eat and the entire evening was spent speculating on why this restaurant had closed.
The next day their curiosity led them to make further inquiries and they discovered that the restaurant had filed for bankruptcy.
Upon learning this she and husband made a spontaneous decision. They decided to take what remained of their savings and buy the restaurant out of bankruptcy. They felt that this was perhaps their only chance to produce income for their family as they had lost all faith in finding new jobs for themselves.
Neither of them had any previous restaurant experience.
They were able to track down the head chef and he agreed to work for them and to forgo a salary for the first six months in exchange for a 10% ownership position in the restaurant.
Within three weeks of making the decision they were open for business and for the next three months they watched in despair as day after day and night after night they served barely enough meals to cover their food costs.
And then one day she had an idea.
As a group of her guests were paying their bill she went up to the table and asked if she could join them for a moment. She told them she and her husband were new to the restaurant business and were working as hard as they could to make the dining experience for their customers as fine as possible.
And she needed their help. Would they each suggest one thing – be it a change to the menu, food preparation methods, ambience, menu, anything – that in their opinion would improve the restaurant?
She quickly gathered their suggestions and before the guests left she obtained their contact information. Over the next few days they implemented each of the suggestions and she then contacted these folks and invited them back to the restaurant for a complimentary meal and to experience the changes they had suggested.
Naturally, as they had suggested they changes, they heartily endorsed them. She asked them to tell their friends how they had helped improve the restaurant and recommend they stop by for a meal.
The very next night three separate groups of four folks each showed up for dinner and mentioned that they were there on the recommendation of the previous evening’s guests.
And so a tradition was born.
Since then every single week, one particular customer or party has been selected and asked to express any recommendations they may have.
For the most part, those recommendations are implemented and those guests are invited back for complimentary meals to experience their recommendations at work.
And as these customers enjoy their complimentary meal a request is made for them to let their friends know how they helped improve the restaurant.
And new customers miraculously materialize.
They are now in their sixth year of business and for the past 18 months their dinners have been by reservation only. Every night is a sold-out event. Customers are making reservations three, four and even six months in advance to ensure that have a table for their special events.
She told me that their commitment to the Habit of Kaizen, the habit of making small and continuous changes and improvements has been the single biggest contributor to their success.
The restaurant has enabled the family to enjoy the lifestyle of their dreams and, in her words, the greatest benefit of their success is the knowledge that she and her husband can comfortably afford to send their children to any college they wish.
She told me there is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that, as a parent, she is able to do everything in her power to ensure herchildren have successful lives, and being able to provide them with superlative education is one of the keys to ensuring that success.
She ended the call by telling me that she and her husband have applied the Habit of Kaizen to their children and that each week the kids are challenged to find one thing – schoolwork, athletic activity, tasks around the house, anything – and spend the entire week becoming just a little bit better at doing it.
The Habit of Kaizen – tiny steps with BIG results.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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– I have recently completed a series of radio interviews. If you would like to listen to them, here is a link.
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– Robert French – an accomplished author – recently posted a flattering review of my book, Life Sinks or Soars, the Choice is Yours. Please click here and take a moment to read it.
– Here is another review of my book by Actionable Books.