Originally published in 2015, this is one of my most popular posts in terms of contacts from clients and friends of the firm. Plus, it makes me smile when I read it. You’ll smile, too, which makes the lessons even more valuable. – Mark
I still remember the smile on Steve Cunningham’s face.
High School summer vacation. Thoughts of sand, sun, and surf.
Yet back to reality. We were applying for jobs at Magic Mountain, an amusement park. Employees got free passes to the park.
Out from the interview he came. “Ride operator!”
Now it was my turn! What job would I get? Roller coaster? Spinning bucket?
Fifteen minutes later, due to my “valuable experience” at McDonald’s the previous summer, it was “cook.”
Apparently, anyone (or so I told myself) could put someone in a roller coaster car, but few could cook hamburgers and fries, and, thanks to my mom’s training, could also make tacos, burritos and pizza.
Yet that summer was a petri dish of customer service and other business education. Here are 4.5 of the lessons that I learned:
1. If you hire right, people don’t need to be “managed.” They are not horses. They need to understand what it is they are supposed to do. They need initial training. Then they need to know that their supervisor has their back, assuming they’re doing the job within acceptable parameters. If they stray, guide and repeat.
2. Customers can be rude and make messes (like stomping on ketchup packets). Yet without customers there is no business. So smile and be kind. But if they’re drunk and throwing things, call for security.
3. Employees will screw with one another. One guy had the habit of throwing ice cubes into the fryer. Get rid of the troublemakers before someone is burned by flying grease. You’ve failed at #1 above, but at least you can succeed at #3. It’s very easy.
4. Ice machines make cool water not ice cubes when the temperature inside a restaurant approaches that of the sun. Things break and go wrong. You need to learn to expect it and must have plans to deal with it.
Oh, and number 4.5: Free isn’t always free. A free pass to someplace that you spend 40 hours a week at isn’t free. It’s a reminder of broken ice machines, scorching heat and rubberized blobs of ketchup. Think how you’re motivating your employees.
After that summer, I went to Magic Mountain two or three times. It was’t too much fun.
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Mark F. Weiss