When I was growing up, my family didn’t have very much money.
I always wished that my parents were loaded and that they would have bought me trucks and quads and whatever-else-teenagers-could-want, but they didn’t.
And when it came time for college, I became very familiar with what getting a government-subsidized loan looked like.
Because somehow — at least for those first few years of college — I didn’t exactly have the skill-set to earn enough money to pay for college.
But in an ironic twist of justice, many of the management lessons that I learned as a waiter are still with me today.
For example, I still see people ask the question “do you want it right or do you want it now” on a semi-regular basis.
In the management-training-ground that also happened to be a restaurant, there were three groups of people:
- Highly commissioned salespeople (waiters),
- Highly fixed compensated operations people (cooks)
Generally speaking you were in one of the three groups.
And in a foreshadowing as to how corporate America runs, someone in management got a bright idea one day.
They would start timing everything with a stopwatch.
Stuff like how long it took to greet a customer once they sat down, how long it took to get their drink order to them, how long it took to get their meal delivered and how long it took to check on them after you delivered the meal.
All-in-all, I think there was 417 different times that you were supposed to meet – and if you didn’t… well, I guess something bad happened.
And as it was intended to do – it increased the sense of urgency: in the wait staff.
Now that someone was walking around with a stopwatch, you had waiters and waitresses running around trying to hit every time that was dictated by the manager-guy who was timing everything.
The problem was… someone forgot to clue the cooks in on the idea that the waiters were now being timed.
And so on a regular basis, you would find the waiter looking like he (or she) was about to explode asking the cook “uh, how long on those onion rings?”
And the cook would look over with a brilliantly sarcastic look on his face and ask one question:
Do you want it right or do you want it now?
And then one night it happened.
The stopwatch was put away forever — or at least as long as I worked there.
Manager-guy was standing by the kitchen window with his stopwatch in hand and I asked the question:
How long on the onion rings for table 143?
And out came the usual reply:
Do you want them right or now?
And I lost it.
I took one step toward the manager and looked him right in the eye and asked him one question:
Do you want to eat that stopwatch right or now?
And I think he got my point.
So if you are in sales and someone from the operations team asks you if you want it right or now, walk right over to the person who has the vested interested in the organization’s success, look them in the eye and ask them if they have ever eaten a stopwatch.
And you might be surprised at how quickly they focus on aligning the organizational interests.