Last week in Scottsdale, Arizona I had the good fortune of attending the Restaurant Leadership Conference for 2012. I had so much fun, especially with sharing my dream about Ray Kroc in this Video! For those of you that missed it, just before the Bill Strickland presentation, I’ll share it here just for fun. I’ll come back to Bill Strickland in a bit.
So, I have to say, that I am blown away by our community! Really blown away! I think many of the attendees were. And so, as I returned to Vancouver, It really got me thinking. I mean, REALLY got me thinking.
Here’s the thing. Of the 30% of attendees that I was lucky enough to meet, to greet and to make some acquaintance, I felt that the quality of the our conversations were insightful, optimistic, kind and generous. Those conversations were a gift for me on a personal level. These gatherings are so important for all of us, because the food business is about people. Making connections. Intellectual, spiritual and emotional. It’s just about the people.
So I started thinking more about that. I really started to zero in on the quality of the Keynote Speakers this year. Not that previous years have been anything to sneeze at; but this year, it was different.
Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
Joshua Olshansky Managing Director and Head of Consumer Retail Practice, Golden Gate Capital,
Herman Cain Former President/CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Former Chairman, NRA
Howard Stoeckel CEO, Wawa Inc.
Ronald M. Shaich Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Panera Bread
Edward H. Rensi Former President & CEO, McDonald’s USA; Co-operator, Tom & Eddie’s.
Seeing that this was a Leadership conference, I studied these leaders. I observed, I listened and I learned. I saw how each of them really connects with their audience when they are speaking. They spoke with high energy, intense belief and a passion towards a higher purpose in their work. It was fascinating for me to watch. I was mesmerized. Impressed. And most of all, I was learning.
“That’s it!”, I thought to myself. “It’s the learning! The intellectual connections! The idea of advancement! Of making our industry better, so we, as people can be better!”. Well, at least that was part of it for me.
So I started thinking more about that.
Then I thought about the followers under these great leaders and within that following is yet even more leadership. As a matter of fact, each facet of our business operations needs to have solid leadership. And so, I started to wonder where exactly that begins and ends, from an organizational perspective.
Then I thought to myself that not all people can be or even want to be leaders. Or do they? I mean, if leadership remains a key theme throughout the entire culture of our organizations, then clearly if we can be leaders in our markets, then all of the people who work for us will feel like leaders. So, it’s not necessarily about individuals as much as it is about whole organizations, industry’s and communities.
I want to call out two particular things I learned from the conference.
1. Ron Shaich spoke on the topic of Conscious Capitalism. Ron’s message struck me hard. It’s brilliant and he has taken this perspective and applied it to the Panera Cares concept. Here is a video that I found on Ron’s fantastic and creative effort towards making a difference in the communities he serves.
When I heard this perspective, I felt like I was watching a master, an artist. I was watching a man that had so much trust in the human spirit, that he risked his neck on a new idea. One that everyone called crazy. And guess what? It’s working. The communities are embracing this new economic model and while that is happening, less privileged people are eating great food at Panera. Getting respect and the end result is that these communities are healthier and those that are suffering from hunger, are getting food. This approach to our community issues is not only brilliant, it serves shareholders as well. This presentation really blew me away at the conference.
2. The second most important presentation for me was from Bill Strickland. Bill was so effective in his presentation, that he had most of the room shedding tears. Why? Because of his authenticity in his mission and his ability to connect with the human emotion. For those of you that missed Bill’s presentation, I am including a clip that I found.
I was so moved by Bill Strickland’s work, that I decided to learn more about his education perspectives. He is building a facility in Vancouver and my plan is to get involved, from the beginning. To bring purpose to others, to wake with intention and to be involved in impacting the human emotion in a positive and purposeful way.
I took away a feeling of hope from these speakers. That in fact, we can do more in our professional careers to make a difference. To really make the world a better place instead of just living to increase shareholder value. I love that idea. Build it and they will come. If you look after your customers, and you create the right environment, behaviour will change. Profits? Well, according to Ron and Bill, if you don’t focus on them, and you just focus on your “higher purpose” as an organization, the money will come.
I woke up very grateful to these two leaders today. I want to thank them both for the gift they gave me in Scottsdale last week. I encourage each of you to learn more from these great human beings.