NAVIGATING THE STORM
I recently went one on one with Geo Concepcion, President and CEO of The Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille, When COVID-19 hit, Greene Turtle went from nearly 700 employees down to 30 and from more than a dozen locations to just only four units, all operating off-premises. Geo was previously the COO of Famous Dave’s BBQ, a 125+ unit BBQ chain.
Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. In your experience, what are the key steps to growing and scaling your business?
Geo: It starts with a clear vision for what success looks, feels and tastes like.
Vision must be supported by the right talent to execute, systems and processes to scale, and capital partners to support the growth plan.
Adam: What are your best tips on how bars and restaurants can navigate the current environment?
Geo: It’s important not to lose sight of finding ways to maintain the connection with guests while adjusting to the new restrictions. This can take the form of handwritten notes in to-go orders or regular updates to your loyalty members on your continued efforts to create more convenience and improve offerings.
The fast response capabilities that have been developed in response to the pandemic need to be housed and formalized into a toolkit so that your teams can continue to adjust.
Remember this is temporary and you’re doing people a great service by offering them a sense of normalcy during the pandemic, have fun and focus on the future.
Adam: More broadly, what are your best tips on how business owners and business leaders can navigate the current environment?
Geo: There isn’t a playbook for what we’re experiencing. This means you need to rely on first principles thinking and focus on flexibility and adaptability.
I’ve found relying on a peer group and virtual networking has helped tremendously.
Adam: What do you believe are the defining qualities of an effective leader?
Geo: 1) Setting the right direction and objectives and pursuing them relentlessly.
2) Self-awareness and an open mind in working with their team and understanding when direction and objectives may need to shift.
3) Commitment to continuous learning. Leaders face an increasingly complex environment that requires robust toolsets to address.
Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Geo: Look for opportunities to get real world reps. I’ve found leadership is a live action sport that requires time in action to develop.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Geo: 1) Commit to enriching the lens you use to observe and react to the world.
2) Develop your brain trust and use it regularly to sort through key decisions and stress test your frameworks for decision making.
3) Embrace an innovative culture in your organization, give people room to grow and remember mistakes can be great learning tools.
Adam: What is your best advice on building, leading and managing teams?
Geo: There is no formula; leading is context-specific and one of the most important things is to understand the interplay between the challenges you face and the specific needs and capabilities of your team.
When your team knows you’re committed they will help define how you can be most effective as a leader.
Adam: What are your best tips on the topics of sales, marketing and branding?
Geo: It’s a noisy place out there and as mediums and channels become more democratic, organizations need to be cognizant that the foundations of sales and marketing are changing.
In the restaurant industry I’m always surprised when people think that a great marketing program will be a major catalyst for success.
There’s no substitute for a great experience, product or service and once this is in place the sales and marketing approaches will have momentum to build from.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
You can’t listen while you’re talking.