Q: I often feel as though I’m the only person in my business who understands it. Where can I turn for advice and help?

It’s lonely at the top. Often the owner or CEO of a business has few people, if anyone, to speak with about his/her business. Family is wonderful but dragging your business into your family is a guaranteed way to invite unsolicited, often frustrating advice. Your family cares about you and unless they’re working in the same business, they’ll have a difficult time avoiding the anxiety and perplexity you’re experiencing when you simply wanted to vent or get some ideas.

So, where should you turn? There are three underutilized resources at your disposal:

Your vendors are ready to help. Understanding their businesses will yield unexpected benefits. They have a vested interest in your success and want you to succeed more than you expect; the more you succeed, the more they sell. Work closely with your vendors in the following ways:

  1. Ask how your vendor how they can be successful with your account. For foodservice vendors the best clients are those that have complete and accurate ordering, large drop sizes, convenient delivery options and trained staff to receive product. This leads to more participation from the vendor, recommendations to others in the community and most of all better pricing.
  2. Be clear on the pricing on all your different products. Sit down quarterly to review pricing and discuss what they see upcoming in the market and how you can be proactive around your core products to limit your expenses and maximize your profitability.
  3. Plan six months out. Your vendors know what products will be abundant or limited well in advance. The information available from your broad-line food purveyor is well beyond your imagination. Only the best companies take advantage of this type of planning and, as a result, when others are struggling, they’re thriving.
  4. Review vendor purchases and product usage annually. Meet and review pricing and product volume purchases. Business owners are usually shocked to know how much of each product they use and price variances during the year. Working with your annual volume will allow you to work with your vendor for better sourcing and in some cases, direct purchasing from the manufacturer. And don’t forget to gather insight from your vendors about how other restaurants are enjoying success.

Your customers are ready to provide insight. Customers pay the bills. They have ideas as to what they want to see on the menu (food and beverage), the service package and the atmosphere. Pull together a focus group annually and get their input on the quality of your business. Make sure you provide a guide to be completed prior to the meeting and keep the meeting to two hours or less. Ask the following at a minimum:

1. How likely they are to refer your business to a friend or colleague and why

2. The value your restaurant provides for:

a.      Product quality

b.      Service quality

3. Quality of atmosphere including facility cleanliness and design

4. New ideas that excite them to come back more often and invite their friends

5. Where they dine when not at your restaurant and why

6. What makes your restaurant and other restaurants special

Your customers can provide keen insights and are more than willing to participate. Reward them with a gift card substantial enough to bring their friends and/or family in for a special meal

Your WRA Consulting Network is ready to provide advice. The Consulting Network is a free-to-members service offered by successful consultants through the WRA, and it serves nearly every area of your business. Consultants are ready to provide 30 minutes of free advice without a secondary agenda. There is always the option of purchasing more services but the vast majority of network users simply want some questions answered by people with an amazing amount of experience. The value of this service is in excess of $1,200 annually and the advice offered can save you thousands of dollars in some cases. If you’re a WRA member, simply call 800.225.7166 and you’ll be connected to a first-rate consultant trained to guide you through your problem or concern.

Leveraging your vendors, customers and the WRA Consulting Network will alleviate the anxiety and loneliness associated with running your business. Involve these willing parties to take your business to the next level and make it more profitable.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at rickbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in helping companies grow profitability.