My #1 Business Inspiration

My Number 1 Business Inspiration

Coming up with cool-bean's inspiration for your business can feel…heavy.   And if you are a single owner/operator and don’t have a strong team (or a team at all) you can glean ideas from, it can be down right overwhelming! I particularly feel pressure to be inspired for new ideas come when I look at companies that have some seriously fantastic ideas going on.  However, as Theodore Roosevelt succinctly put it "Comparison can be the thief of joy"


You know that moment when the pressure comes, right?  That looming grey cloud arrives and feel like you can’t possibly keep up with all those cutting edge ideas? Then Fear’s ugly persona reaches up and clutches at your entrepreneurial self-worth.  Fear is such a jerk.  It brings me down when I’m already feeling a little sensitive.

I’ve often been told that I come up with great ideas in my business, but behind the curtain, I too feel the pressure to find great concepts to consistently wow my spa clients.

Here's the dilemma: how is it possible to be inspired when I’m feeling pressure??  And how can I use comparison in a way that's positive for me?

Well, I have three places that I look to for inspiration with my business.  And it can apply to ALL businesses!  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my top three places I look to for influence.

First up....

My #1 Inspiration – Great Restaurants

In my early 20’s, I was a waitress at Earls Restaurants owned by the Fuller Family.  Man, those years were a lot of fun!  Although it wasn’t the healthiest industry to be working in (late nights, eating on the fly, too many after work cocktails) I learned how to multi-task like a demon, how to adjust my personality to the people at my table and how to market my salon business.

Yes…I learned how to market my business in the most effective & efficient way possibly from Earl's.

My ‘big picture’ lesson from working at Earl’s?  Outstanding customer service is your BEST marketing strategy. Click to Tweet


There are so many strategies they got right to sustain their vision, but here are a few of my favourites strategies they used to create happy guests who came back again and again:

Fan-freak’in-tastic Staff Training

Earl’s has a fantastic business model.  As a new recruit, I was put through a very thorough training program.  To become a server (which is where the money was) I began my employment by shadowing the hostess, had in-depth product knowledge of the menu and was tested on it by my manager.   Could I serve yet?  No…I became a hostess and bussed tables for a few shifts.   Only after my manager had deemed me capable, was I allowed on the floor to serve food.  But, even then, I only had two tables to at a time so that I could use my new training in the best possible way without feeling overwhelmed.  It was an enormous relief that wasn’t ‘thrown into the wolves’ like other restaurants I’d worked at.   Once my manager saw that I could handle two tables, I was given my own section of five.

I was systematically taken through a series of protocols to ensure that I was giving the same high level of service as all other Earl’s employees.  And I was watched & corrected as needed throughout my time with them, a total of three years.

My take-away: Well thought-out, consistent & ongoing training is the basis of a strong team that routinely churns out incredible service. Click to Tweet

How to apply this to your own business:

-> Get your policies & procedures down pat. -> If you have a policy & procedure manual, how detailed is it?  I would suggest having two separate manuals: one for general company policies and procedures and another for your service provider protocols.  Both should include customer service scripts for all levels of staff and step-by-step instructions for every procedure.

This may seem time consuming for you but…

-> How could you possibly promise your guests they will receive the exact same amazing treatment from everyone on your team? -> What if, God forbid, something happened to you today?  Would your staff know how to run the business if you were gone for a prolonged period of time? -> Or what if you wanted to sell your business?  Would the new owner be able to step into your position seamlessly without sending guests or staff in turmoil?

There’s a reason why big companies spend time on nailing down policies & procedures!  It’s the only method that allows their services & products to consistently, effectively & efficiently be delivered to you!

A Spectacular Business Vibe

Last weekend my husband, daughter & I went for dinner at The Cactus Club in Victoria.  Interestingly, The Cactus Club has old roots in Earl’s Restaurants.  The owner, Richard Jaffray, was an Earl’s staff member for a few years starting in 1984 and has now gone on to own 26 Cactus Club locations across Canada.  And although he’s got his own ‘vibe’ going on…I can see that he’s taken a page from his early days at Earl’s and his continued collaboration with the Fuller Family.

As I was enjoying my drink and waiting for my dinner to arrive, I was gazing around at the wait staff, the customers and the restaurant itself.  Hmmm…what did I notice?  The team looked so good!  The ladies were all in black with cute skirts, lovely tops and hair & makeup done to perfection.  How they work in heels is beyond me…but they looked great!   Couple it up with the music, fresh design & décor, I wanted to hang out there longer!

Yes, the food was fantastic (have you tried their Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar???), the facility was spotless (I love the flush pedal in the bathroom…I don’t have to touch anything) however it was the overall vibe and all things collectively that made me want to be there longer than I’d planned.  It was fun, classy and trendy enough for a 42 year old to feel included.  If we didn’t have to go to Lauren’s recital, I could have stayed for another drink.  And I’ll definitely be back.

During my days working at Earl's, one my favourite things was serving the same guests for years.  The restaurant even became somewhat of a family for a some customers.  We were their date-night go-to, where they took their out-of-town guests and their place to go when they didn't feel like cooking.

My take-away: A successful 'vibe's is providing your guest an with an exceptional blend to all their senses...with the power being in the details.Click to Tweet

Good service isn't just a great hair cut or workout. It's the service, product, facility, protocols plus the style, personality and friendliness of the staff. You gotta have it all in one smooth ball.  Only then will they trust you enough to be 'their place'.


How do you create a kick-ass business vibe?

I ask you this: what is the overall vibe of your own business right now?  Is everything inline with the feel of your company?  The look of my current esthetics studio is quite simple: pale blue-green walls, white cabinets, white linens, lots of natural light a few chocolate brown colours here and there to anchor...clinical enough to show it’s clean & crisp, yet incredibly relaxing, grounded & welcoming.  How I behave in my studio is the same…fresh and light-hearted.  My music isn’t always ‘spa’ music.  If I have a lot of waxing and pedicures I often play Ella Fitzgerald or Chill Out tunes.  This summer I'm starting to serve cranberry soda & lime as a cool beverage during their pedicures, in the winter I offer various kinds of cappuccinos.  Most days I have to gently nudge guests to head on home so I can stay on schedule and I was booked three months in advance after being open for only one year.

If you’re not clear on your business vibe…get clear...then come up with ideas to strengthen the overall feel of your business.  The best way to start articulating your vibe is to decide what your promise is.

If you don’t have one, this is The Cactus Club’s promise.  Using it as a model, what inspires you about your own business promise?


Proudly Canadian owned and operated, Cactus Club Cafe leads through innovation while remaining true to its Vancouver roots. Committed to delivering a unique experience, Cactus Club Cafe blends the worlds of fine and casual dining through inventive design, unparalleled food quality and a personalized approach to service.

I’ve also used the restaurant industry to get ideas of what NOT to do.

When I have poor service it prompts me to do a reality check on my own business.  Click to Tweet

-> Do I do ‘this’ without knowing?

-> Could I be dropping the ball at ‘this’ place of the service I hadn’t recognized before?  If you don’t like something as a customer, chances are your own guests feel the same way.

This is simply inspiration from a different angle.

I’ll passing on my mom’s advice from when I was 4: treat others how you want to be treated.  If you’ve had exceptional customer service recently…can you pass a similar experience to your guests this week?  It may take a little thought to make another industry's ideas work for you…but it can work!

Your business will attract more new clients and your existing client retention will go through the roof!  

Other points-to-ponder when watching well run restaurants?

1)  How they position themselves to their ideal customer (young? funky? mature? high-end? budget?) 2)  Take a close look at their marketing.  How they ‘speak’, the images, font & graphics. 3)  Their customer service scripts (are all staff communicating the same?) 4)  How they handle screw-ups (hey, they happen to all of us…it’s how it’s handles that makes the difference) 5)  The style of décor

Can you add anything else to my list?  Comment below!

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