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Episode 4 : Thinking Outside the Box

Posted by Kevin Walter on Apr 13, 2020 11:24:00 AM

Kevin Walter, Owner Tasty Catering and Great Game of Business Coach talks about how the crisis has affected the hospitality industry. He dives deep into how his team has been empowered to think and act like owners and how that ownership mindset helped them stay creative and develop ideas to keep going in the wake of the pandemic.

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Episode with guest: Kevin Walter

Owner Tasty Catering and Great Game of Business Coach 

(This episode was recorded in April of 2020.)

 

Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Share the numbers during good times AND bad times. (click to jump to this topic below)  We tell people the truth in good times. We've got to tell people the truth in the not so good times. It's imperative now more than ever, it's critical you do your Huddles. Use that weekly communication rhythm to keep people up to date. Throw out the fear from their hearts, let them know what's going on. The more knowledge the better because then they don't make it up in their head and have that fear. 

2. Give them a chance to get creative and they will solve problems. (click to jump to this topic below)  There's a saying I heard in the last year that never rang more true than nowadays, is that culture doesn't mean anything until it costs you something. And I'd be willing to bet on our people that that extra quarter million we lose by being ready for when the business comes back, by being ready to snap up other caterers’ clients, by being ready to immediately execute once we're allowed a new normal.

4. Don't stop huddling! (click to jump to this topic below)  Jack talked about keeping discipline to the huddles. There was a question asked about what do I do? Do I cancel my huddles? This is the most important time to stay disciplined to those practices. Especially in communications of your huddles. To keep people informed on the state of the business. Those types of things keep people focused on the critical number.

4. At the end of the day, everyone has a profit & loss & an income statement. (click to jump to this topic below)  I've seen a lot of different industries. I've seen a lot of different size companies, all sorts of different twists and turns in the business world. But it all comes down to one thing: everyone's got a profit loss statement or an income statement. And how do you Game around that?

5. When people understand what they’re fighting for - they won’t stop. (click to jump to this topic below) That's intrinsic with The Great Game™. Our people don't want to lose. They don't want to lose. They just want to win. That long term play is in the hearts and minds of the people that play The Great Game. It's not all about today's paycheck. It's about the long term effect.

6. Ultimately a business is nothing without its people. (click to jump to this topic below) For us, Tasty Catering, is nothing without our people. They always come first. Because they don't really need us. They run the company. So for us, we do anything to keep our people employed. That's our number one. Number one goal. It's our number one responsibility. It's our moral ethical thing to do. So for us, PPP or no PPP, they're going to be employed.

 

Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.


Steve Baker (00:09): Hi, everybody, and welcome to our Friday live stream with The Great Game of Business®. I'm Steve Baker, the Vice President of Great Game, and I'm here with Rich Armstrong, the president of the Great Game from his music studio, if I'm not mistaken. Is that right, Rich?

Rich Armstrong (00:24): Not quite the music studio, but there's certainly a lot of stuff on the walls.

Steve Baker (00:29): I love it. We're really excited to have you all today. We're keeping our promise of coming to you once a week to try to keep bringing you more and more information and useful tools and stories from the field. And I'm very excited about our guest, Kevin Walter, who's the owner, one of the owners, of Tasty Catering and a certified Great Game of Business® Coach. But before we get to Kevin's story, I thought it would be a good idea to address some of the responses that we got from last week's question. Rich, would you like to cover that?

Rich Armstrong (01:00): Yeah, absolutely. Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you. Thank you for joining us. Each week, just as a reminder, we're trying to provide this webinar each week to be able to, , get you in front of some experts and people that have been through a lot of this and can provide some answers to the community. But we also realize that the community is full of wisdom themselves. 

So, we want to make sure every week that we're asking a question to the community, maybe they could feed back some of the advice to each other. So, we do that with a question of the week. And last week's question was: Who are some of the trusted advisors you've been using during this crisis? Who have you reached out to and, and we got a lot of responses. We've kind of put this into some categories, but definitely by the one that really came to the top right now, which makes a lot of sense, is their banker.

They really use the banker as a way to really navigate some of the options that they have. We have a long term, longtime practitioner as well, a very close friend Jeff Stevenson and he was one of the people that had responded he talked about his banker and, and being that, his banker was basically his most trusted advisor over this past decade for him. 

He was already reaching out to them weeks ago to discuss the levers that were available to him and to understand what he could do to stretch out his cash cycle. So, there were a lot of things that were mentioned in terms of just what you can do to really reinstate that relationship with your banker and keep that relationship with your banker. The next one was, again, by far were peer groups and your coaches. Peer group chairs. That was really common and I really feel like there's a lot of value there. There's a couple of reasons for that. 

One is that you get a trusted advisor in terms of a coach and somebody that you've always trusted for feedback, but also you get a whole group of peers that are dealing with the same issues and they can help each other. And that was another thing that Jeff pointed out, that he's been involved with a longtime peer group, and his colleagues were doing a lot of unique things to kind of pivot through this crisis. And he was learning a lot of options for himself. And as well as a Chair really supporting his colleagues and being bold leaders during this crisis and really kind of helping them not just sit back but to lean into this and really deal with the environment and with all the overwhelming business issues that are out there right now. Jeff also mentioned Jack Stack and other business minds out there and leaders out there that have been through.

Jack Stack and other business leaders that have been through this a lot is extremely helpful. Especially people like Jack who tends to shoot it straight and can tap into some years of wisdom that has helped a lot of people kind of see around the corners. So that was that was the question. So, hopefully that was helpful and continue to provide your feedback, because this is very helpful to the community.

Steve Baker (04:40): Yeah, so I like that. It's people were thinking like, Jack was thinking, go talk to the banks. Talk to the people that you really trust: your coaches, consultants, your CPA, even people popped in with insurance and financial planners, their own CEOs. Obviously, their Great Game teams. Somebody mentioned the media. Yeah, which I thought was really interesting. It's another input, I'd be really careful what media you're listening to and go for credible sources. 

But one thing that I thought was really interesting that I wanted to mention, Rich, is that I didn't get the impression a whole lot of people were connecting with their Great Game of Business community friends like they might at the Gathering or something like that. And I thought it was a good time to mention that the team, our Great Game team, has been working for over a year on creating this web kind of membership/society. Do you want to talk about that for a second?

Rich Armstrong (05:37): Yes, it's something that we're very excited about, just around the corner in terms of a launch, but it does give you an opportunity to—if anybody has been to the Gathering of the Games, there is a certain environment there of support and peer to peer support, networking and that sort of thing. But then tons of resources, tons of opportunities to learn more on how to best utilize and practice The Great Game of Business. 

What we're trying to do that is provide that as an online membership site that really allows the community to meet 24/7 365 days a year in terms of this kind of support, which we think is a tremendous value, especially considering what we have ahead of us in the next three to six months.

Steve Baker (06:26): It'll sure make it easier for people to connect not only to folks that they might have met at an event or through some sort of Industry Association or something like that, but also the people that are like minded and like spirited, like hearted that it's gonna be a great place to go, a community place to just, I think will be really great for the whole bunch of us that are trying to navigate this stuff. So thanks for that, and thanks to everybody out there for sending your thoughts on this. 

We'll have another question at the end. In fact, we kind of have—we’re learning to point this a little bit more than a finite direction. We want more of your input. So be sure to not just let other people answer for you. Get in here and give some of your ideas so that we can again capture the wisdom of the crowd. So one thing that I thought might also be interesting is we had Mike from Florida come through with a comment, and a question. Would it be appropriate to go ahead and talk about that, Rich? Mike from Florida? 

So he says, “After going through the 2008 recession, where we went from fifty employees to eight, this time having cash on hand, and luckily being an essential business, we still have all of our employees on staff.”

I think that's awesome, Mike.

“We did go to them and had an average 8% pay cut. So I went to them and got that concession, but not one employee objected since they have access to our scoreboards and huddles each week. OBM is the only way to run a business.” His question is, “What would Jack Stack say about retro-pay when this is all over?” What do you think?

Rich Armstrong (08:11): Well, it's interesting. Last week we had a guest, Liz Wilder, which, if you guys remember her story is that they went through some very tough times in 2008-2009. And then they were able to after the recession to eventually be able to provide their employees the back-pay as well as a bonus going in. The thing , I actually had a chance to talk with Jack about this. And one of the things that his advice is really, try to not make any big promises right now. 

We really don't know what is ahead of us. We don't know what that new normal is going to be. We don't know how this will change your business model. And what the new organization will look like. So to get ahead of ourselves and making any kind of promises is probably not something that we would do right now. 

Now, once you get through this and you understand where the new normal is, and you understand where the company is headed, and you've got your business back in a good financial position. I think it's up to you. And what I would see from just from experience of 2009, from many of our practitioners, there were several companies that did similar things to Liz, and were able to do that for their people and to recognize the sacrifice they made. But that was all made after they got the financial stability back into the business. And they could really make those kinds of commitments and follow through those with those commitments.

Steve Baker (09:52): That's awesome. And that's another great story that people can go back and watch videos on, on our website, or in our YouTube channel as well. Read the case study that's on the site about Anthony Wilder Design Build. And it's not the only story out there. Again, we want to hear those stories so please share. 

We can only do better when we learn from one another. So speaking in terms of these really crazy times, before we bring Kevin out, I would like to share the photo of Alicia at CNH. Can I do that, Rich? Do you mind? Is that okay? So this is a photo that we got from Case New Holland Reman is our 50/50 joint venture with Case New Holland, and SRC, and this is the picture of is a whole new way of social distancing while still celebrating the holiday. Can everybody see that?

It looks like a pretty awesome way to make things work, some sort of custom conduit to carry Easter eggs from one person to the next. Do you have any other insights about that, Rich?

Rich Armstrong (11:01): No, she was just telling me about that this morning. I thought it was just awesome. It's nothing's going to stop anybody in that facility of continuing on, right? And this is the way they were delivering their Easter eggs. I also learned this morning, by the way, in our nine o'clock SRC meeting that the government did deem the Easter Bunny an essential employee so everybody's okay with that.

Steve Baker (11:24): Oh, that's great. Well, the coolest part about that is there's a dynamic going on that we hear about, I don't know if everybody listening has been dealing with it but the companies that are not essential are freaking out because of cash flow. Companies that are essential are freaking out because morale can get all upside down because, “Am I scared? Am I safe here? Is my health good? And CNH is one example of many where they're really working on morale, teamwork, camaraderie, safety first, people first, make sure those jobs are intact, and then get the stuff out so the supply chain doesn't come to a grinding halt. Man. If you think toilet paper is a problem, wait till the supply chain dies. Then we’re really in a creek. 

By the way, I don't know if you noticed, but the Easter Bunny was actually Rich's wife, Alicia Armstrong, who's over at CNH. So thanks for sharing that. And what an uplifting story. So next, I'd like to bring out Kevin. Again, I mentioned that he's one of the three owners. He and his two brothers, Larry and Tom, own Tasty Catering in Chicago land. And here's Kevin now. Welcome, Kevin.

Kevin Walter (12:35): Good afternoon, all.

Steve Baker (12:37): Kevin, you're signing in from sunny Phoenix, Arizona. Is that correct?

Kevin Walter (12:43): Yes, I wish I was still back at the business. But we sold our house and had to find a place to live for a month and a half. So why not Phoenix?

Steve Baker (12:50) Your timing is awesome. So I think it'd be really easy for me to go on and on about how much we love Kevin. And how much everybody, all the clients love Kevin. Can you tell us, for those who don't know you, tell us a little bit about Tasty Catering, about you, and about being a coach?

Kevin Walter (13:12): Yeah. I'm the youngest of three brothers. Been involved in the foodservice industry in the Chicago area since the 70s. 1989, we started Tasty Catering as kind of an offshoot. By 2005, we were doing catering exclusively, no more restaurants. 2006-7, we underwent a culture change led by the employees. It's an employee built and an employee base culture. That led us to winning a multitude of local state and national awards for best places to work, psychologically helped us in the workplace, that kind of thing. 

It wasn't the three brothers. We were just smart enough to get the heck out of the way and let our people lead the charge. Nowadays, we’re the three probably least essential people in the business because between the culture and The Great Game of Business, the business runs itself. Employees make their decisions based on fact based knowledge and their assumptions and it works out well.

Steve Baker (14:07): That's great. That is great. And you're the youngest of the three, as you said.

Kevin Walter (14:12): I always point that out.

Steve Baker (14:15): What's your role at Tasty Catering?

Kevin Walter (14:18): Not much. When they ask me for advice or ask me for help, I'm there. Fridays in the summertime, sometimes on Friday mornings I’m the parking lot attendant, making sure that everybody gets a spot, because we can't park in a street.

Steve Baker (14:31): Yeah. Well, when I first met you, it was really neat to see what you had been able to do without The Game and The Game just kind of turbocharged everything. That operating system. So what was your role before, I guess? I was wondering, really wanting to ask.

Kevin Walter (14:46): I'm sorry, purchasing and human resources.

Steve Baker (14:49): Okay, gotcha. So that's always a tough one, because people are your biggest asset and usually one of the biggest problems. So that's really coming into focus now, right?

Kevin Walter (15:00): Well, yeah, and it's people. It's numbers. It's both, .

Steve Baker (15:03): I've heard that. That's really good. So let's talk about this. I hate to say I'm all filled with happiness right now, but there's something real happening out there. I mean, COVID-19 is affecting everybody on the planet now. What impact has this pandemic had on your business, and I'm talking about Tasty Catering?

Kevin Walter (15:25): Short form, we've gotten clobbered. Long form, towards the end of February we started picking up cancellations the first week. Which was okay. On plan right about. And then, it just was an onslaught of cancellations one after another: weddings, events, regular places we do training for every day, breakfast, lunch, just closed up shop. 

And our business dropped about to 95% by week 3. 95% drop what we should have been week three as compared to our plan for week three. So, because we had a decent start, we ended up in March down about 45%. And then headed into April, we left our original plan number on the wall just so everybody would know, “Hey, this is where we were supposed to be.” And we're forecasting here and it's about 35%. , if we get there, that'd be a miracle. And we'll celebrate the heck out of it.

Steve Baker (16:20): Yeah. So that's, I mean, everybody listening, it probably is on a scale of: we're still essential, we're still working at X amount of pace, and there's people who were just shut down. Your governor shut down the state. You didn't have any input on what was going to happen in the marketplace. It was just shut down by force, right?

Kevin Walter (16:41): Yeah, it was the weekend. Saturday, March 14, there were people out celebrating in Chicago for St. Patrick's Day, which is big around here. And the governor saw those videos posted and said, “All right, that's it.” Sunday night, he declared all bars and restaurants closed as of midnight on Monday. So when we came in to work on Monday morning, the fear in our people's eyes and hearts was palpable. You could just feel the fear. Because all the restaurant workers were losing their jobs and they wondered, “Well, are we essential? Are we not essential? Are we continuing? Is this my last day at work?”

Steve Baker (17:14): Yep. Yeah, that word “terrified” really resonates with me and anyone else who had gone through it themselves or has been wondering, “Will I have a job? Will I get a check?” That sort of thing. Because, a lot of folks are just not in a place where they have that, , that war chest built up. That's just the reality of it. Now, you guys are men of action, people of action. When did you create your action plan? Tell us a little bit about when and what it is.

Kevin Walter (17:41): On that Monday, I think it was the 16th, the leadership team at Tasty Catering, which doesn't include owners we’re by invite only, they actually invited us that day to get together and figure out what we're going to do. Back in the 2008-2009 recession, our team had developed the DEFCON plan one, two and three. 

If we get down 10% in business, 20%, 30%, what steps would be taken at each point to sustain the business? We went straight to DEFCON three, or even five, because we didn't have a five. And after we met with the leadership team, they came out of that with action steps. First and foremost, was that the two owners that are over 60, my brothers, were not allowed in the business. Anybody over 60 was at home just because of the higher risk categories.

They decided to cut pay for everybody 10%. Hourly folks went down to 30 hours a week instead of 40. They cut the owner salaries by 30%, which is what we did back in 2008-2009. All non-essential spending, of course, was wiped off the board. Any service that we could perform ourselves, landscaping, we canceled the landscaping contractors. We want to find hours for our people. 

We were lucky enough that we had diversified. We've got a processing company that manufactures baked goods. And they actually picked up a little bit because they serve schools. So, we were able to get our people hours there. We guaranteed our people 30 hours a week, in some form or another doing something. What it was we weren't sure. We've cleaned picnic grills, we've gotten ready for picnics, we've fixed equipment. we've painted, we've done anything we can do to get ready for when we come out of this, so we don't have to spend a nickel of maintenance time, more prep time, which will limit overtime later.

Steve Baker (19:32): Yeah. And I know Rich has got some questions for you, too. I just wanted to ask one more. When you talk about how you kept hours in the shop, basically. You use people in different ways, and obviously they were very tuned in to that. They understood what was at stake. Could you just mention, you told me when we did the pre-interview about some of the fear that you took out of the organization, some of the illogical fear, the irrational stuff like toilet paper. Would you talk about that a little bit?

Kevin Walter (20:01): Oh yeah, we've always had a general store, what we call a general store, where people can buy restaurant-grade merchandise at price plus sales tax. So as the supermarket shelves run out of things, food service places had a plethora of foodservice packaging. Anybody out there wants a case of 96 rolls of toilet paper, I can get it for you because there's 12 different kinds available at our distributor. So we made that, and eggs had a run, and butter, and anything else that's made a run we've sold it to our employees at cost plus the two and a quarter percent sales tax.

Steve Baker (20:37): That really helps clear the headspace doesn't it? Not worried about the home front. I can now focus on the work at hand.

Kevin Walter (20:45): Yeah. We also, that Monday, implored everybody outside of the box thinking. The next day was St. Patrick's Day, which is big up here. And before even being prompted by one of our sales reps, people were canceling their St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes. And she started saying, “We can do it individually. Let people have a taste of corned beef and cabbage even while this was going on.” Before she even had checked voluntarily she transformed 300 people's worth of cancellations into individually packaged St. Patrick's Day meals. Figure we'll just take the sale and we'll figure it out later. And they figured it out later.

So innovation has never been higher. Immediately, the leadership team discounted our box lunches, which are individually packaged, free delivery during March. Anything we could get, any kind of revenue dollar possible. It's been incredible with the turnaround.

Rich Armstrong (21:44): That's awesome. Kevin. Speaking of that, one of the things we're trying to do is of course capture all these strategies, all these different ideas, all the different things practitioners are doing and share that forward. We reorganized our crisis site with the four P’s that Jack talked about years ago during the 2008 2009, around, people focus, positive cash flow, the repositioning for the upturn, and then just the everyday principles and practices of The Great Game of Business. And I was curious that when you were going into this crisis, what were some of the everyday principles and practices of The Great Game of Business that you used to address the crisis?

Kevin Walter (22:33): Well, let me get to that in just a second because that reminded me, the fear I never followed up on. By six o'clock that first Monday night, March, whatever it was, 16, we had the action steps distributed to everybody throughout the company, so everybody knew what kind of runway we had. Peter spoke about the runway a few weeks back, our CFO told us in a meeting we've got till 6/1, keeping everybody employed at 30 hours and the pay cuts and our expense cuts. We've got until at least 6/1 of cash. 

So we felt we were going to be out of this thing back then by June one. So, by Tuesday morning, there were smiles again, the fear was gone. Okay, I've got a job, albeit it's reduced hours, I've got a place to go to work, we're going to be safe, we're going to be alright. And that's when the innovation really started flowing.

So that was the people. Positive cash flow giving them that runway of 6/1. Since then it's been extended a little bit. So it's getting further out each week we’d be updated. Principles and practices of The Game. That Wednesday, the first Wednesday I sent out an email to all of the clients I've worked with current and past. Anybody we associated with in business and I forwarded them the first Jack Stack live webinar link and said, “Please watch this. It's imperative now more than ever, it's critical you do your Huddles. Use that weekly communication rhythm to keep people up to date. Throw out the fear from their hearts, let them know what's going on.

1. Share the numbers during good times AND bad times. 

The more knowledge the better because then they don't make it up in their head and have that fear.” And 10 minutes later, I got an email from our new CEO that their huddle was cancelled. So I ran over to Tasty Catering. What do you mean, we're cancelling our Huddle? Well, when people see negative numbers...I said, “It's okay.” So we talked through it, we did cancel the huddle that day. But we talked through it and said, let's put the numbers up there that they're supposed to be there, what our plan was for the year, and tell people the truth. We tell people the truth in good times. We've got to tell people the truth in the not so good times.

So we put the numbers up and put in the forecast of where we thought we're actually going to be, and there was a stark disparity there. By that Saturday, our people and our frontline troops came to their supervisors and said, “Hey, we want to extend that cash runway. So we're okay, we talked to everybody. If we get 20 hours a week, it's okay. Because we'd rather have a job and we'd rather have Tasty Catering survive, then get 30 hours now and not have a job later.” 

And I'm telling you what, when they said that, when I heard that I broke down, because it was just so impactful that the people cared that much about the company and that they were willing to sacrifice.

Steve Baker (25:27): Amazing. Yeah, it really is. I mean, that's, that's the whole point, right? I love the fact that it was—look, there are people out there right now saying we are too busy or we're too frantic or whatever, to have a huddle. And the transparency and the courage that it took for you guys as leaders to say, “No, we're going to have it and we're going to talk about it.” You just get those brutal facts out there and together by creating that safe space, you're recognized for it, you won awards for psychologically healthy, you created that healthy space and when you took away the fear you were able to get that innovation. It's amazing. And people are amazing, aren't they?

Kevin Walter (26:05): Unbelievable how the teams just rally together? Unbelievable.

Steve Baker (26:08): I made a note to myself. I wanted to ask you, what other ideas did the team come up with, because they're way more innovative than we give people credit for, right? Frontline people are just far more creative than we often think.

2. Give them a chance to get creative and they will solve problems.

Kevin Walter (26:23): Well, back in late February, or the first week of March, our drivers all of a sudden had extra time. So they started scouting and being operatives, following other catering trucks around to find out who was still ordering catering and who wasn't canceling. And then that week that the governor shut down restaurants and bars, I think it was eight major competitors in the market, probably the top eight competitors, all closed their doors, laid off all their team and turned their backs on any clients that still had a need. 

And we just, if you're looking at us, we're about a $10 million company. If we shut our doors, we would probably lose about a quarter million between now and June 1st. Keeping our doors open, it might cost us a half a million and paying everybody 20/30 hours a week. But, there's a saying I heard in the last year that never rang more true than nowadays, is that culture doesn't mean anything until it costs you something. And I'd be willing to bet on our people that that extra quarter million we lose by being ready for when the business comes back, by being ready to snap up other caterers’ clients, by being ready to immediately execute once we're allowed a new normal. I gotta feeling we're gonna make up to a quarter million pretty quickly

Steve Baker (27:45): In market share. Yeah. So let's talk about that strategically. Your, I wouldn't even call it a spin, but that quarter of a million or whatever it becomes is really an investment in the business, isn't it? That's the way Jack is looking at it too, here at SRC and our companies. How will you be more prepared or positioned for the uptrend compared to your competition and what way will you do so?

Kevin Walter (28:09): Our marketing teams just have been working overtime on: we're open for business. It's in our signature lines in our emails. We are open here to serve you. We're open, and the messaging that they're doing is spectacular. Instagram and all the different outlets. I don't even know all of them. But it's letting everybody out there know we're open, we're safe. We're going to serve you safely. We're here if you need us. If you've got people that are essential employees, why let them go out to their cars, go to a fast food place, pick up lunch and come back. Why not bring it to the doorstep?

Steve Baker (28:42): Yeah, yeah. I love it.

Kevin Walter (28:44): So it's a better position coming out of this. We're going to be much more ready to respond once we're over this. How are the other people going to hire their people back, if they even come back? How long is it gonna take them to get up to full speed?

Steve Baker (28:58): Just to ramp up, exactly.

Kevin Walter (29:00): We'll be ready to turn that spigot on overnight just as quickly as it shut off.

Steve Baker (29:04): That's awesome. So have you had any, I don't know if you want this as a public broadcast so I don't know if you would have put it out there, have you had anybody who has shut down operations? Or is there any good talent to pick from out there?

Kevin Walter (29:19): Oh, that Monday when one of the caterers did, we were looking for a Director of Operations. We were looking for a Director of Business Operations. And that first day, when the other caterer closed their newly hired, he only been there eight months, applied for a Director of Business Operations. We didn't hire him because, of course, we had a hiring freeze and we're cutting talent. It didn't make sense. We said, “Hey, as soon as we're out of this, let's come on and talk.”

Steve Baker (29:47): Yeah, is what it is, right? Wow. Well, that’s pretty cool. And I heard you mentioned earlier you have the truck drivers started following other trucks to see what businesses were still open. They're discovering essential businesses out their driving around after a delivery? I think you talked about diversification, too. You mentioned the school systems. A lot of kids in Chicago land are on free and reduced lunches, like they are all over the country, and you guys figured out a way to work with that, right?

Kevin Walter (30:19): Yeah, we had them as a client with our processing company for their muffins and breakfast bars. And they continue to hand out meals, and it wasn't the kids picking. It was them putting together bags for him, so their demand went up. So they cleaned out our entire freezers and we were running two shifts of 10 people. Two shifts for seven days a week for three weeks, now four weeks.

Steve Baker (30:43): Your neighbors that are laid off, they're working extra time. That's pretty amazing. Well, that's good. I mean, it shows the innovation that can come from that and being strategically set up now by staying open, and I imagine the trust level at Tasty Catering is really, really high?

Kevin Walter (31:00): Oh yeah, another good thing is the sanitation practices have never been better. And we always scored 95 to 100% on our health scores, but now because that we tell everybody that's the one thing that could sink us is somebody getting sick and we all have to quarantine. So we've got new procedures for signing in, signing out, temperature scanning, glove use, all sorts of sanitary procedures have gone in place. But that's only going to help us once this is over.

Steve Baker (31:28): Yeah, absolutely.

3. Never stop Huddling!

Rich Armstrong (31:29): Kevin, speaking of the measures you've had to take to keep everybody healthy and safe, we have a question in the chat about challenges you have of maintaining the practices of huddling. Especially if you have people at work, that you want to huddle but you gotta keep your distance. Maybe the workers do not have access to a smartphone or something if you want to try to do it remotely. Were there any strategies you took a Tasty Catering to kind of help with that?

Kevin Walter (32:03): For us, our entire sales and admin team has gone remote. They do theirs’ via Zoom. For anybody left at Tasty Catering, we post the numbers, and post the plan number. And then, each week's forecast, we pre-populate so that we don't have to have everybody in there at once. And then leadership members, including myself, when I was still in Chicago, would be there ready to answer questions. And, not only that but we better communicate what's going on this week. 

What are our current wins? Where are we headed? What do we have coming in? What are different teams working on? They don't see the sales team. So we're telling them what the sales team is working on, and what wins they've had. We also established the win wall. There's a big whiteboard in that room that's just plain and we use it for different MiniGames™ or targets or whatnot. We put up the win wall. And anytime we land on a $4300 box lunch order, we put it up there with the sales reps' name. We've also taken it down to a granular level, it's a $4300 bucks lunch order, but divided by our labor percentage, divided by our average rate per hour equals 60 hours more for the team and back this week, that really helped bring a connection between the sales team being responsible for hours for the back and the back understanding. The sales team is really trying hard to get us more hours. So instead of just a $4300 sale, what does it mean to me? Well, we got 60 more hours.

Rich Armstrong (33:32): Yeah, that's great. Yeah, it's interesting when you make those that you provide that kind of example. Kevin is kind of a unique guest for us because you're both a business owner, running your own Great Game of Business practicing company, but at the same time, you're a certified coach for The Great Game of Business. So you're working with thousands of other companies out there helping them. I was just curious, your coaching experience with other companies, how has that influenced the way you have led your own business?

4. At the end of the day, everyone has a profit & loss and an income statement.

Kevin Walter (34:09): I've seen a lot of different industries. I've seen a lot of different size companies, all sorts of different twists and turns in the business world. But it all comes down to one thing: everyone's got a profit loss statement or an income statement. And how do you Game around that? Now, I've said this before to a lot of my clients, is that Tasty Catering is the toughest company I coach. They don't pay me for coaching, so there's less value assigned. And their practices aren't as good as all my clients. Okay. , we're transparent, right?

But crisis hits. “Kevin, we need help. Kevin, we need help. How about this MiniGame? Can you help us with MiniGames? Can you help this team? Can you help that team?” So, this crisis has kind of had them realize on their own, “Hey, we need to up our game. Hey, we've got a resource here. Why don't we use it?” Okay, because I could be command and control. But we're not command and control. We're servant leaders. 

So I can't go in there a year ago and say, you've got to do this and this and this with your Game. Right? Now, it’s, “Hey, we need help.” I'm here for you. So some really cool MiniGames have come out of it. It's new business, new lines of business, essential business hunting for our sales team. For the back room, it's our drivers now on the way back because there's no other caterer vans to follow. They just report on any parking lot that they've seen a bunch of cars in. In a business park or office park. Where are the cars? Where the people? So they come back with the name of the company, how many cars, where it's located, and our sales team attacks. So, they're still in communication.

Steve Baker (35:47): Yeah, you could bring in those no contact meals. That's awesome. Anything to get that revenue in, right?

Kevin Walter (35:53): Anything. Every nickel counts.

Rich Armstrong (35:59): Kevin, our friends from Kiolbassa say they totally agree with you, Kevin. They've been hiring their catering and restaurant customers to feed their production team. And this is an organization that's had this big boom in sales, right? And the stores want all the sausage they can get from this company. But it's also supported the customers who have been so loyal to them over the years, like you mentioned, but also feeding 268 team members to keep them from having to go out and search for food and work. So. you're definitely using strategies as well.

Kevin Walter (36:35): But we'll come out and deliver but that's a heck of a delivery fee on there to Kiolbassa.

Steve Baker (36:40): Well, no, it's free in March. That's what I heard you say? It's time for us to shift over and take a few minutes to take community questions. Rich, I think we got a couple in the chat box now and folks, keep sending them in.

Rich Armstrong (36:58): Sure. One that I just wanted to mention earlier, which I just think is a good suggestion for us and our community is that I mentioned the membership site was in the process of being launched. They said, “Hey, just in the meantime, should we create a Slack channel with the entire Great Game community and just get it going? Get the conversations going.” So thanks for that advice, because that may be something we should be looking into really quickly here.

Steve Baker (37:24): Yeah, for sure. I've got one down. It's sort of related to what you guys talked about earlier. I see what are some strategies for huddling? I'm sorry that you did get that one. Oh, what changes are going to stick after this? Will Tasty Catering pivot in a way that you haven't in the past? Beyond catering? What effects of this pandemic do you think will stick in the business world?

Kevin Walter (37:47): Yeah, absolutely. If we were a little more diversified, everybody would still be working 40 hours, right? At that processing company, Tasty Catering is right around 10 million-ish and there are 2 million. If that was four or five million, then nobody would’ve lost an hour. So now, what essential businesses are there that we can make sure we keep as clients for the long haul, God forbid anything like this happen again? Or, or what's the next Black Swan that's going to dive in on us? So diversification to me is first and foremost.

Rich Armstrong (38:23): Yeah. You mentioned earlier Kevin is that sometimes crisis reminds us where we can up our Game, and one of the practices we talk about all the time within our high involvement planning processes, this contingency, this growth and contingency planning process. And, , a lot of people look at it and say, “How can I use this, really, in my everyday planning? If we have a contingency, why are we executing it now?” There's always the reason not to do it. 

But, wouldn't it have been interesting if people were focusing on that the last three or four years, three to five years of all this out of the box thinking that they could be doing in terms of pivoting their organization. Already had that down, thought through a bit. I know you can't execute on it all, but have some of those ideas in the hip pocket if something like this hits and I think that’s worth remembering.

Kevin Walter (39:15): Something in there is we did individual meals for vegan or if there was a 20 person drop off for training and one person we could do an individually packaged meal for them. But we hated doing individual meals, they're bulky, it's harder to keep warm, a million reasons why. Well thank goodness we had experience in that, we're able to immediately pivot to now every hot meal that leaves our kitchen is individually packaged. So that's something that we're going to hang on to going forward in some way shape or form. Who knows if the day we come out of this, the days of the open buffet lines are over with, with everybody touching the same tong. What's the new normal? Are individual meals the new normal? Who knows?

Steve Baker (39:55): Apparently not unlimited crab legs? Well, yeah, I thought about that driving by one of the buffet places here in Springfield. And Springfield is just one of these odd markets where the restaurants are always full. And it's just like a ghost town. It's very eerie to see these places. But, buffets, the ones I've seen, I think they just shut down. I don't think they had the wherewithal and their people didn't think of what else we could do? It was, well, nobody's coming in. So we're done. And I think the spirit of “we can do this” is something that I've noticed at Tasty for years. And you guys just never give up, which is awesome.

5. When people understand what they’re fighting for - they won’t stop.

Kevin Walter (40:34): That's intrinsic with The Great Game. Our people don't want to lose. They don't want to lose. They just want to win. How are we going to beat the market? How are we going to beat the competition? , right now we know there's probably no bonus for the year. And if we break even for the year, hey, okay, that's a win. But how are we going to be better? Are we better than the rest? Are we going to beat our competition or a couple or am I going to go out of business and we're going to get market share? Which will make us better in 2021. That long term play is in the hearts and minds of the people that play The Great Game. It's not all about today's paycheck. It's about the long term effect.

Rich Armstrong (41:13): Kevin, you mentioned bonuses. And this has been a question that's come up pretty frequently through all of this is obviously some of those targets and goals we've set for ourselves this year are not going to happen. Things have changed, new targets need to be made. And that puts people in a situation where they don't feel like they have any opportunity for the upside of bonuses. And we had a question, actually a comment, question that came up as it said, , “How does a company handle this kind of economic downturn in that, when this whole situation is causing us not an opportunity to hit it?” Our goals that we said might not be possible anymore. How do we keep workers engaged in the program and motivated when they know that they won't be able to achieve a bonus? Do you have any comments on that?

Kevin Walter (42:07): To me it's simple. They're able to achieve job security. They've got a job. I'm sure everybody that's on this call knows somebody that lost their job. Yeah, we're a step ahead. That's a bonus to me in today's times. , this summer, you got a job this spring and summer? You're ahead of the curve. So if people are at work for the bonus, is that somebody that really is engaged and enthused in the company? Are they just doing it to make the dollar?

Steve Baker (42:34): Or from the leadership standpoint, are we leading in a way that helps? Are we giving them enough education to understand that bonuses don't come from a magic tree, right? That we can't pay when we haven't earned. So that's, that's the question is, are they the right people? And are they in the right place? Meaning, personally, right?

Rich Armstrong (42:53): Yeah. I think it's also a mindset that I think the practices of The Game help with employees, to give that mindset that this is not an entitlement. In most organizations, or I wouldn't say most, but there are many organizations out there that provide profit sharing or bonus plans, but they don't tie it back to the financial performances as tightly as we try to do.

So people understand that when the business is successful, that's when bonuses happen. And when businesses are not successful, those bonuses are probably not going to be there. But, your job security is, your benefits are there. Those kinds of things will be there and eliminates that entitlement a bit, I think.

Kevin Walter (43:34): Yeah. I saw a question in chat. I'd like to address because I'm still figuring it out. Somebody had asked, “How do you practice servant leadership from afar? This is day three, so I'm still figuring it out, but it's texting, it's calling, it's Zooming. It's seeing the company wide emails and commenting on them. I've approved two MiniGames in the last—not approved, I've reviewed two MiniGames and gave best practice suggestions to the team in the last 24 hours. So, anyway, I can stay present from, I don't know, 1700 miles away. I'm trying it. So if you got any tips for me whoever asked that question, pass them along, but I'm trying.

Rich Armstrong (44:14): And just keeping the relationship, right? All the remote work is a challenge. I know it's challenging for us at Great Game and at the risk that Jack may be on here. We are actually at our four o'clock today, since it's our holiday, tomorrow is. Friday, Saturday and Sunday we're having a Great Game happy hour. So we're going to be cracking open some beer on teams at four o'clock. But the whole idea is just, hey, let's have some non-work discussions about each other and things that happen kind of naturally when you're together, but it's very hard to do when you're remote.

Steve Baker (44:51): For sure, for sure. So, there's a couple more things that I'd like to cover before we run out of time. And one of them is a question here in the chat: “Revenues down significantly. We're concerned about our cash runway. We furloughed a portion of the staff to conserve cash. Once PPP funds…. We are concerned about bringing…” I'm just not sure if I read that right. “But we're concerned about bringing everyone back versus operating with a leaner team.” Do you have any thoughts on that?

6. Ultimately a business is nothing without its people. 

Kevin Walter (45:25): For us, Tasty Catering, is nothing without our people. They always come first. Because they don't really need us. We're just smart. We're just old enough and have good enough credit and mortgages and loans and whatever. They run the company. So for us, we do anything to keep our people employed. That's our number one. Number one goal. It's our number one responsibility. It's our moral ethical thing to do. So for us, PPP or no PPP, they're going to be employed. PPP comes in, maybe everybody can go back to 40 hours as soon as we know for sure. Right? Who knows if we can even go back a little bit, back pay a little bit, , whatever it takes to keep them whole. I understand some companies aren't in that position. We hit a pretty decent cash buildup from the last recession that taught us that we better keep some more cash. So some have had to furlough, I get it. But it's a tough call. For us, it's always people first. Yeah.

Steve Baker (46:25): I think that's something that we admire about you. Yeah, it's very, very much kind of Jack's mindset. And speaking of Jack Stack, I think there's a little love letter in the chat box. Oh. It says, “Kevin, you reminded me of a story of an angel who said if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination. And then she placed the world gently in the palms of our hands. Thank you. Thank you for having such strong hands. - Jack.”

Kevin Walter (46:56): Thanks, Jack. Thanks, Jack. Appreciate it.

Steve Baker (47:00): Yeah, good stuff. Well, as I said before it is, it's always an honor to have you as part of the team, the Great Game team. We want to cover a couple of other things we'd like you to stick around if you can stay on the couch, so to speak. Kevin Walter, thank you tell the brothers hi for us and tell everybody I want to hear some, some “whoop whoops” later and celebrate all those wins. That's pretty awesome.

So listen, Rich and I are committed to broadcasting every week. , we made that promise to you when we started with Jack a few weeks ago. And it's just crazy, unprecedented time. So we're hosting the live stream to help you the community, both from our perspective, Great Game, and also from the wisdom of the crowd, the community itself. So next week's question, we're kind of changing it up a little bit. We're saying what are some of the out of the box ideas you've got related to this crisis? And how do you put these ideas into action?

And we suddenly realized that it's MiniGames. So just think about that. What are some of the out of the box ideas? How are you getting them? How are you putting them into action, what we'd like to do is we're really going to focus next week on that issue for the entire hour. Not only will we have a Great Game MiniGame expert on hand, we're going to bring Michele Bridges in but also a practitioner just like you to talk us through the ideas on what we can all be doing right now and how to do it to make our businesses and our people stronger.

I think this hour is gonna be perfect to bring your design team to your culture committees too, your frontline people, get as many people as you can. As a community, we ought to have a 1000 people on this call, just to walk through what can we do today to make the business and our people stronger? So let's do it. Let's get 1000. What do you think, Rich? Yeah, we want every Tasty Catering associate to be on that call. Because we've got a great MiniGame,

Rich Armstrong (49:06): , really dig into that question of those out of the out of the box ideas and bring them to that session, because then we can take those ideas and with these experts in the community, we can figure out some really good MiniGames that you can use to execute on those ideas. And, , again, just I'm just reiterating what you said a bit, Steve, is just, this has been one of the number one questions we've had, or one of the top questions we've had from the community is how do we continue to use these idea of MiniGames and I think people have a perception that the MiniGames are good to promote good times. 

And I think that they're originally designed to really just solve problems. And so this is a huge problem. And so if we could break that down into some small things that the organization can really put their focus around and tie things like MiniGames around it can be very powerful. So now week’s session is entirely focused on just doing that.

Steve Baker (50:05): Yeah, I think it's gonna be amazing. And it is one of those things where you can involve everybody right away. It's not something that they have to be heavily trained on. We’ll always be there to help with that, of course. I just got a text. We have a few minutes left if you guys are up for it. So next week, guys we’ll of course post this question, as well as the start to give you more information about next week's live stream. Are you guys up for a few more questions? I got a text from Cassie saying we got some more stuff coming in. So we talked about bonuses. 

Let's see… out of the box ideas. Can you talk about the workshop on Monday? Well, actually, we don't have anything on Monday. We have a workshop on Tuesday. By popular demand, we're calling it the survive and thrive workshop. It's basically the 10 steps of implementation. Right out of Get in The Game, our new book, which I happen to have plenty of copies of. 

And it's also available, like through audible and Kindle for remote delivery, completely virus free. And Jack's book is also available in that same format. So, Tuesday what we're going to do is we're gonna do an all day workshop, it is going to be something crazy, , we'll be giving frequent breaks that sort of thing, but we will literally walk through the 10 steps and talk about how you can apply that thinking each of the 10 steps approach to the current crisis. 

It will be coming to you live from the Batcave, so you better be ready to watch Steve Baker a lot because it's going to be eight and a half hours of awesomeness. So hope you can join us Tuesday, that's the 14th of April. And you can sign up on our site at greatgame.com. 

Another one that came up, “We're forecasting a $50 to, sorry, $50,000 to $100,000 loss this year with COVID but kept all jobs, but froze any raises. We should be getting over $600,000 from PPP. Any suggestions on how to approach showing this money in the P&L and for any gain share plan, and I'm gonna throw that to both of you if that's okay.

Kevin Walter (52:15): For me, wrong or right, my gut is telling me that that stays on the balance sheet in some way or another until it comes over or until you actually get the money. Right? Something just told me keep it on the balance sheets, you're not messing with your game board for the short term until it becomes a reality. Because what if it's forgiven? And what if it's not? There's no guarantee it's going to be forgiven. Once it's forgiven. Then it can move over to the p&l. And once again, I'm not an accountant. I'm just a coach.

Steve Baker (52:47): Just a coach.

Rich Armstrong (52:49): Well, I think the key point here, I totally agree with you, Kevin. And I think the key point is we got to make it with scoreboards with Great Game of Business, it's not about following the accounting rules as much as just making sure people know where the money's at and how we're going to be using it. So I think that's really good advice, especially with your consideration you talked about. Is it gonna be forgiven or not? It can be talked about, I'd certainly talk about it and use it as an opportunity that this is how we're kind of balancing out the financial condition of our business and working through this, but score boarding it. Yeah, especially in bonus plans or gain share programs. Probably not put that in there at this point in time.

Steve Baker (53:31): Thanks, guys. That's actually really helpful for everyone listening and watching right now. I will tell you there's another one here I'd like to get to you. I think we have time for it. “I remember talking with Jack, and the last course we took in Springfield about companies planning for a building a treasure chest.” I think he's referring to the war chest because he says safety again, in the event of Black Swan event. “How critical has this thinking been in stabilizing the company and the people in this current event?”

Kevin Walter (54:01): I'm glad that question came up, to whoever did it, thanks, I'll give you my “Yay.” For us, having that cash cushion and access to credit, now is really gonna come into play. Out of those eight caterers went out of business, we know that two of them were kind of on shaky financial ground anyhow. 

They may not come back. They may not open their doors. So we're trying to leave as much cash as we can available for buyouts, right? To buy our competitors, to buy some more, snap up that market share. We learned that in the last recession. But back then we didn't have any capital set aside, and we borrowed off several life insurance policies and whatnot to buy smoker gators, and buy business. This time, we're a little more prepared. , it's gonna be a whole new world out there.

Steve Baker (54:50): Yeah, for sure. Rich, what would you say in response to that question from an SRC perspective?

Rich Armstrong (54:56): I think again, it's become a very valuable position to be in, right? Being able to go into a Black Swan event, which if you really think about it, Jack has been talking about, not only the recession but the whole reason for the last 10 years the building up that war chest was first and foremost if we hit a recession we were able to work through that recession and maybe need to use some of that money, or a Black Swan like we have. 

We're certainly in that position right now to keep people safe and healthy and keep them employed. Some of that war chest is definitely gonna be used for that. But also, being in a position as Kevin said, to use an opportunity to gain market share to look for opportunities to purchase businesses, those types of things. It's kind of a little bit clairvoyant in that if you remember Jack's laying out the economic realities and he would talk about being some years being slow or up or down and that sort of thing. The interesting thing is that in 2020, that the only word he used was: Oh, no.

Steve Baker (56:18): Yeah, I remember that video.

Rich Armstrong (56:22): I don’t know what that’s about but it wouldn't go up or down. It was just, oh no.

Steve Baker (56:24): Oh, no. Yeah, I remember it vividly. Holy cow. Well, guys, it's been such a pleasure. Always goes so fast. So many great questions from the community. Thank you guys. Keep that up. Every week, we get more and more. Again, next week, make sure that you throw a lot of thinking into what are the big out of the box ideas you've got related to the crisis? How are you putting them into action, bring all of your team so you can sit in together and really make the most of next week's show. 

It'll be 11 Central on Friday and I also would like to remind you about the survive and thrive workshop. It'll be live virtual on Zoom platform like this. Only $295, it's a full day workshop. Tuesday, the 14th. You can find that at greatgame.com/thrive. greatgame.com/thrive. On behalf of everybody, the whole team at the Great Game all spread out over God's green earth. 

And, of course, Kevin Walter, our good buddy from Tasty Catering and one of our very top coaches for sure. And he's a good buddy. And then Rich Armstrong who is just awesome. So guys, thank you so much. Have a great weekend. Enjoy the holiday. God bless.

Kevin Walter (57:42): Don't forget to celebrate any wins you got. Any wins, celebrate it.

Rich Armstrong (57:48): Yay. Thanks, Kevin.

Topics: All-Star Awards, Employee Ownership, Great Game Coaching, engagement, Community

About The Podcast

Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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