Insights on greater productivity, leadership & collaboration from the Edoc team

Lessons Learned From Our Friends at Small Giants Chicago (Part 2)

In part one, I highlighted some of the messages that resonated most during our trip to Chicago to meet up with other Small Giant community members.

There were many more lessons learned, and too many to include in just two posts, but I’ll do my best.

After we left Tasty Catering, we headed to Nick’s Pizza & Pub. There, founder and CEO (and of course fellow Small Giant) Nick Sarillo gave us the tour. He shared quite a few stories with us along the way.

Here were some of the highlights I came away with:

  1. Think of the entire customer experience you’re offering. When you head into Nick’s, it’s one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have inside a restaurant. And that’s by design, not by chance.

Just as Nick confirmed, you can tell how much intention and thought went into the layout and the atmosphere of the restaurant. Wherever you go within the restaurant, you’re greeted (or at least eye contact is made!) with a Nick employee.

The feeling is high-energy throughout the restaurant, and that environment directly aligns with their purpose:Our dedicated family provides this community an unforgettable place; to connect with your family and friends, to have fun and feel at home!”

A question worth considering: what are all the touch points your customers have with your company? How can you “wow” them every step of the way (like at Nick’s), and at all those touch points?

2. Make sure you carry out your purpose in every aspect—including operations. In addition the first lesson, it’s not just enough to talk about purpose or to talk about the experience you want customers to have with your company. Nick’s consciously builds in the “Nick’s experience” into their operations—which serves as “discipline” (or structure) that helps guide the company towards the experience they know they want to deliver to customers.For example, when you walk around the restaurant you will see operations cards. These cards break down tasks and act as a simplified checklist so that anyone can see the status of jobs to be done in that section of the restaurant.At the same time, it’s a effective tool to make sure little things don’t fall through the cracks.When it comes to operational excellence, that’s a big deal! Second, their feedback process is built so that leaders can coach in the moment. If a mistake is made, it’s seen as a genuine opportunity. Team members can see, immediately, if a behavior was not aligned with the purpose of Nick’s—and that’s a powerful thing. Another example is the tool they have—something that is visually shown to the team. It’s the approach of:

“Issue—Purpose & Values—Solution”

The idea is that when an issue inevitably occurs, there is lens it can be examined through. That “lens” is the purpose and values of the company. From there, a solution can be devised. This approach helps people to see issues through the prism of the company values.

3. You can’t spend too much time on growth and development of employees. Nick’s hiring process looks to seek out a certain kind of person—someone who takes initiative for improvement, sacrifices for the betterment of the team, and someone who can hit the ground running as part of a fast-paced team. Once that person is on board, Nick’s is intentional about how to grow and develop that person with retention in mind.

They also think in terms of leadership development for each and every person. Nick says he thinks of this as enrichment of his employees. They require no formal review; instead, they are able to select when they enroll in training programs.

nick's pizza
Inside Nick’s where we got the tour.

Employees can see how training translates to growth and to promotional opportunities—and that path to promotion/advancement is actually shown on their wall for them to see. Employees’ success is a result of their performance during their training. No matter how fast they go through that training, they can see the clear map that they need to follow to acquire more skills and to contribute at the company.

4. People crave self-expression…and that doesn’t stop at work. There were a multitude of lessons at Nick’s; seeing how he handles open book financials with a very young group of employees alone (they have “fiscal huddles”) was inspiring and educational. But one of the lessons that was also important was one you don’t hear too often in business.

Nick made it a point to tell us just how much he recognizes and appreciates how people crave self-expression…and said another way, how much people just want to be…well, themselves at work! I’ve never heard it put this way before, but I had to agree once I thought about it. It makes complete sense to me that if you want to see people authentically care about their work, and you want to see them bring their best versions of themselves to work, how can you expect them to not be who they are at work?

This is one of the great things about small business; we should support people and allow them to be who they are (assuming they aren’t harming anyone else). At Nick’s they encourage this sort of self-expression. They also support and celebrate spontaneous self-expression. As long as this behavior is in alignment with the company values, it adds to the fun and the synergy you feel inside Nick’s.

Seeing the Flava at Red Caffeine

After we left Nick’s (of course we also ate lunch there!), we headed to Red Caffeine, a marketing and technology company. If one thing was clear from our quick trip to Red Caffeine, it was that these are happy, engaged employees who are having a lot of fun doing work they take pride in! It just so happened they were having a celebration after we stopped by, but we were still able to sneak in some time to talk about their culture.

Highlights included:

  1. red caffeine inc
    Inside Red Caffeine you can tell they take time to intentionally celebrate their successes.

    You can improve engagement of employees by looking at how you can enhance their entire well-being. Red Caffeine is an example of a quickly-growing company, so they’ve been able to really re-examine their values during this growth! Red Caffeine has so much to offer current (and prospective) team members, and that really shined through during our visit with them. One of their values is to uphold a culture of learning, and we talked a great deal about what that looks like for them, and how that’s evolved for them in recent months.

They focus on employee growth, development (career-wise), training (think: more educational in nature), but they also don’t forget about community involvement and other, more socially-driven opportunities for employees. All of those things, combined, help someone grow as a person and—perhaps just as important—as a leader.

It became clear that Red Caffeine is a company that really wants to develop the whole individual. It reminded me so much of what was talked about with Tom and Nick earlier in the day; we really came full circle!

  1. Find small ways to celebrate successes. There were so many small “norms” that are special and make up Red Caffeine’s unique and high-energy culture. One thing that was a highlight of the visit was how much they celebrate each others’ successes. You can tell they are a positive, healthy team that genuinely enjoys coming up with solutions for clients together!

Even if they are small wins, they’ve just built a culture where people are inclined to give each other routine “congrats!” One way they do this is with “snaps,” where they actually—right in the moment—snap in order to give someone a quick kudos.

If someone does an exceptional job on a pitch or maybe they come up with a stellar idea in an ideation session, colleagues will give them “snaps,” as they say. It’s a lighthearted, quick way they are communicating “good job,” and it’s one more way they win together (which, not surprisingly, is one of their values.)

Want to Become Involved with Small Giants? 

The Small Giants Summit is a unique platform for elevated conversation on realities, promises, and practices of companies aspiring to grow with purpose and intention.

This year’s Small Giants Summit is set to be held at Detroit at the Garden Theatre.

What can you expect at the Summit? It will be two full days of challenges, celebration, learning and relationship building, with an optional third day experience called the Day of Mojo.

This year’s focus: the idea of “Reinvention.” Just as the theme resonates for the city of Detroit, together we will share and discuss how we have reinvented our businesses and continue to evolve to adapt to ever-changing landscapes and new challenges. Learn more about the speakers and workshop sessions here.

In the meantime, be sure to also RSVP for our next Small Giants Cincinnati meetup, a tour of Intrust IT that will also include lunch. Find out more details here.

Learn more about small giants

Kim Sykes
Kim Sykes

READ MORE: “Why Join the Small Giants Community?”

Kim Sykes is a marketer at Edoc Service, Inc.


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