Ownership Culture

Ownership Culture

The best way to create a dependable team is to foster ownership among your store-level team members.  

By Doug Zirbel

As a franchise owner, leading a great team is both your biggest challenge and your biggest opportunity, especially in the fast-casual restaurant industry. Your team members are responsible for carrying out the vision of your original intention and delivering the customer experience you worked so hard to create. 

As your business grows and perhaps expands to multiple locations, it will become increasingly difficult to oversee all aspects of the business around the clock. Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to give some of that responsibility away? To do so, however, requires an immense amount of trust in your people. 

From my experience, the best way to create a dependable team is to foster ownership among your store-level team members. Align with individuals who fit your culture and set them up for success by sharing valuable skills and casting a clear vision. Then, trust them to lead themselves to take necessary action. 

When team members feel true responsibility for big-picture elements of an organization, they are empowered to make better decisions on behalf of the business. Here are my five tips for creating a culture of ownership:

1. Eliminate Organizational Hierarchy – To foster a culture of excellence, try eliminating organizational hierarchy as much as possible. While titles can provide valuable growth milestones and something for which to strive, they can also hinder full team engagement that ultimately holds many back from contributing to their full potential.  

A “high performance” infrastructure encourages employee self-management and increases accountability as motivation comes from learning and the successful completion of goals, rather than from scaling the organizational hierarchy. As a franchise owner, I like to think of leadership as coaching versus managing. Instead of telling team members what needs to be done, try asking what needs to be done. This allows any team member – regardless of role – to practice thinking like a leader. You’ll also find they are more invested in their day-to-day tasks when they feel a sense of responsibility for the overall success of the business.

2. Hire for the Culture You Want – To develop the culture you want, look to see those attributes reflected in the people you hire. When interviewing candidates, I look for someone who not only understands the brand, but shares its mission and values. Job skills can be taught, whereas core values are inherent. By hiring like-minded people, you’ll find that the foundation of trust forms much more easily, and ownership follows organically.

3. Lead with Transparency – I’m a firm believer that most people would make the same decision as me if they had all of the same information. That being said, I am a huge proponent of transparency when it comes to leading teams. 

If you expect your team to not only take responsibility, but to make the right decisions, it is important to share all of the necessary information up front. By sharing appropriate business details and sales numbers with your team, you are allowing them to see the bigger picture. They will start to understand how day-to-day tasks and actions affect the overall success of the business, and their performance will undoubtedly improve as a result of that connection. The more team members know, the more empowered they are to make the best decisions for the overall health of the business. 

4. Prioritize Professional Development – If your franchise employs teens or young adults, it is important to create opportunities for professional development. Ideally, they will grow with the business and stay with you for several years. But if not, they will at least carry their work experience with them to their next job and beyond. 

Contrary to popular belief, many young people are looking to be developed. They truly want to learn and grow. At Your Pie Clemson, our culture is based on experiences that help our team members develop leadership skills – but in a  way that they value and enjoy. Our team members have the opportunity to share in many of the “behind-the-scenes” responsibilities of operating a business. From hiring and training, to measuring and controlling variable cost components, team members  are engaged in every aspect of the operation.

We want them to view their time with us as a business internship, not just as a part-time job. That way, when they leave to pursue their desired career path, they have a resume that includes running a successful business in a highly competitive industry.   

5. Make it Right, No Matter What – We tell our team members from day one that they have the opportunity to make things right for a customer no matter what. Sometimes – hopefully not too often – we make a mistake and deliver a pizza that doesn’t meet our guests’ expectations. We task our team members with the responsibility of making things right, and when mistakes occur, we view them as an opportunity to impress a guest with how we handled it. 

Our team members are empowered to transform an unhappy customer into a raving fan. We have a few store reviews about situations that started with an issue, but were handled by our team members in such a way that inspired our guests to share about how impressed they were. Mistakes will happen – but not at the expense of your customer experience. 

If we could only instill one thing during the tenure of our team members, it would be the real life fact that if you are not doing something to make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today, you will ultimately fade away. Continual learning and improvement is vital to finding success at both the individual level, and at team levels. A team that is empowered is one that is constantly striving towards this goal of a better tomorrow. 

Doug Zirbel owns Your Pie in downtown Clemson, S.C., which opened in summer 2016. Zirbel had a 25-year background in manufacturing and operations before joining the Your Pie Family in the fall of 2015. 



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