One of my favorite things about our company is our culture. The restaurant industry is notoriously stressful and can often be a negative work environment. It's not surgery or rocket science, but people are very serious about their food, and we take that very seriously. It's a high pressure environment and we work long hours in extremely close quarters with each other. Most of us spend more time with our co-workers than our own families. Adding to that is the fact that restaurants attract a hodgepodge of employees with different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and education levels. Without a strong sense of identity and parameters, a restaurant's culture can easily derail. As we have grown, this has definitely been one of the hardest things to maintain and cultivate. We are in 4 different counties in Tennessee now, and each one is very different from the other. They attract different types of guests and different types of staff. As a result, they each have their own unique sub-culture, which we love. However, there is definitely still a strong current running through each team that I believe immediately identifies with the overarching A. Marshall culture. There are a lot of little things that we do to ensure that culture stays in tact, but today I want to touch on two bigger ones.
Annual Meeting Day
Every year since 2010, we have had an all-day management team meeting that we have dubbed the "Puckett's Summit." I wrote about it last year here. We gather all of our managers, key employees, events teams, and administrative/executive team for a day of training and goal-setting for the upcoming year. The first year we did this, there were I think 5 of us and we met in my dad's living room in Leiper's Fork, TN. This year we had 55, and met not too far away from Leiper's at Deer Run Retreat (which I highly recommend if you are local and looking for a unique meeting/retreat space).
Since I detailed what our typical Summit Day looks like in the previous post I mentioned (here), I won't get into the details. What I want to emphasize here is how important this team meeting has been to maintaining our culture. It is one of the very few times out of the year that we all get together under one roof, and for many of our managers it is the first time that they get to meet each other. In the morning, we typically do some training and have guest speakers. This year I really wanted to focus on communication, so we brought in Jennifer Way of Way Solutions. She did a session on communications across age and personality divides. Everyone loves to self-analyze, and more importantly analyze their co-workers so that was definitely a hit. I learned that I am a Square (processes and systems) and a Triangle (to-do lists), and my dad is a Squiggle all the way (big vision/creative), with a dose of Circle (relationships). In the afternoon, we review our year-to-date progress on the goals we set last year, and most importantly look ahead to set goals for next year. We always end our day with the Dream Board, where we let our team members throw out ideas for where and how they want to see the company grow.
Family Fun Day
This year we held our inaugural Family Fun Day at Homestead Manor. With around 400 employees now, the jobs our companies provide support and employee a lot of families. We wanted to do something super casual where our team members could bring their kids, spouses, significant others and just have a good time. And of course, eat. We kept it fairly simple with outdoor games, face painting, a jump house/slide for the kids, and a team relay race. Which they got really into (see video below). We really just wanted to provide a space and time for the families to gather and get to know each other. It was awesome, and I can't wait to do it again next year. Special kudos to my sister Emily who planned the whole thing.
Hitting the pause button and spending time with your team is so important. I know it can be difficult to wrap your head around closing for an afternoon and carving out that time, but I want to really encourage you to do so. I should note for the Summit, we don't close for the whole day. We do it on a Monday, which is typically the slowest day for our industry, and we train team members to run the business for a day. It's a great way to test drive someone that is interested in growing into a leadership role. The more you pour into and give back to your team, the more you will get out of them... and the easier it will be to maintain your culture.
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