I don’t know about you, but every time I set foot into Chick-Fil-A, I have a great expectation to be treated well, and cared for. I’m not sure why, it isn’t as though their motto is based on customer service, it is instead a cow telling everyone to eat more chickn – an image I am sure we have all seen. This got me to think. What are they doing right? What are they establishing at the ground level of their business model that every location, every store manage, every employee, even if only reluctantly, reflects the same model.
What occurred to me is that they built it into the operating model of the company. Chick-Fil-A takes what every restaurant owner in America would say to a new business owner is a HUGE risk as they close on Sundays each week. How is this a big risk you ask? Because, for those of you who may not know, Saturday and Sunday are the biggest restaurant days for most restaurants in American culture. For obvious reasons – every one is off of work! If on a national scale, Chik-Fil-A averages however much they average, we can assume that they would at LEAST double their weekend revenue if they opened just ONE more day a week. And since as we have already said, Saturday and Sunday, are the biggest revenue driving days for any restaurant concept, adding just one more day would make significant impact to the bottom line of their business in terms of MILLIONS of dollars EVERY week.
Think about it, how many times have you been sitting around on a Sunday thinking about Chick-Fil-A??? Right! We all have! There is not one person (including some vegetarians) who has not thought about the chicken, or the waffle fries. And if none of the food items tickle your fancy, what about those milkshakes?!?! So now that everyone has admitted to themselves that they have at some time or another wished Chick-Fil-A was open on a Sunday, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind – Now that we know their weekend revenue would at least double (maybe more than double in some areas) because there is a clear need in the market, why DOES Chick-Fil-A close on Sunday?
The answer - Discipline! At some point as the CEO was establishing the corporate identity, this became a non-negotiable operating principle. Why? Well, many of you know that Chick-Fil-A is an unapologetically Christian company that honors the celebration day of the Church by closing on Sundays. It also gives all of their employees at least one complete day of rest from labor.
What does this show us? Care for people is inherent to their business model. Discipline carries with it an intentional need to care for others. It is a discipline because sometimes you won’t feel like it. Sometimes as you run a business, you will want to make decisions that sacrifice the well being of an employee by giving them longer work hours, or calling everyone in on a holiday, or even excessive all night work sessions for yourself. While some of those things may be necessary from time to time for the growth of your new business, a culture where those things are the rule and not the exception is an indication of a lack of discipline because it evidences a lack of care for people – including yourself (yes, you are a person too).
The other thing, is that discipline requires you to remain true to your core values. The motivation for closing in honor of a Spiritual practice or belief evidences a value placed on honoring those core beliefs. What are they? God (obviously), Love, relationship, fellowship, prayer, giving just to name a few. Simply by closing every week on one day, every patron that asks the question about why THAT day (because inevitably people DO ask), is in some way informed about the core values of the brand.
Each company or organization has an identity of core beliefs the drives the engine. Core values are the things that are non-negotiable to your company. I am willing to bet that there is no amount of money that would get Chick-Fil-A owner to reconsider opening this massive chain of stores to become as most chains a seven day a week operation. Why? Because it would sacrifice one of the core values of the brand.
So how does the message of the core values transcend into the customer experience? The customers feel cared for because the employees feel cared for. When they signed up for employment at their local Chick-Fil-A, they knew that while they may work 6 days a week, on that 7th day, they are guaranteed a rest, recharge, and restart for the next week. No wonder, you feel so taken care of by Chick-Fil-A employees!
Which brings me to my last point about discipline. When you as the business owner are disciplined by sticking to your core values, and demonstrating care for others, the people who encounter your business are able to flourish. This is the sweet spot of business, the place where everyone is given the opportunity to operate in ways that highlight their best qualities. You as the business owner, elected to take on the brunt of the responsibility. That is what you signed up for! To care for people, to provide opportunity for people, and to evidence that care by being disciplined. You might not think that people who work with you will interpret your discipline as care, but you may be surprised. The more intentional you remain about your daily actions – which in essence defines discipline – the more easily people will find it to respond to your efforts.