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Boston’s Trident Booksellers and Cafe thrums on a Saturday morning. The place is packed — Busboys bustle past waiting patrons to drop off clean glasses for the bartenders, only to be coaxed out of the way by a waiter looking for their next order, or a host seating a table. The kitchen rages, tossed about under the weight of tickets from the two dining rooms. All morning, and into the afternoon, the staff never stops moving. Even as the numbers dwindle they continue to dance around the room cleaning up, seeing to the last of the guests and preparing for tomorrow.

This unfolding scene pays homage to the operating challenges and pressures of the restaurant industry. These experiences have been distilled through generations of chefs, waiters, and restaurateurs into a set of organizational best practices that are held to with a religious zeal by some of the top minds in their industry. The militant personnel organization of the Brigade System, or the strict philosophies of Mise en Place offer us outsiders a glimpse into the systems these business leaders use to manage the controlled chaos that is a restaurant in full swing.

As operations professionals, we can draw on these concepts as we plan and scale businesses. In the past, I wrote about how sales reps can leverage the ideas of Mise en Place to master organizing their own day. In this series of posts, we will explore how we can apply the organizational principles of restaurants to the lives of staff in growth organizations. Specifically, we will focus in on what we can do as operations leaders to reduce the duplication of effort and the administrative load that the teams we support must grapple with in order to accomplish their primary objectives.

We will begin with a simple concept in Mise En Place: Always keep everything you need in arms reach. In his book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain equates preparing a cooks “‘meez’ – his set-up, his carefully arranged supplies of sea salt, rough-cracked pepper, softened butter, cooking oil, wine, backups and so on”1 with soldiers gearing up for war. In these two circumstances — restaurants and combat —  it feels obvious that everything you’d need must be on hand. If you left all of your cooking oils down two flights of stairs, it’ll add an excruciating amount of time to preparing each dish.

Scaling teams often overlook when we ask our staff to preverbially ‘run down the stairs’ before starting each activity they do in their CRM. To fix this, we can think about a few simple things:

1. What pieces of data will be required before starting each activity and is that data clearly accessible in one place?

A clear example is outbound prospecting teams that will often need to reference a nearby customer in their talk tracks. If that data lives in a separate system your players have to slow down and navigate away from your main CRM each time they want to start a call.

2. Are all of your labels and naming conventions sensible to a someone without explanation?

I personally have dropped the ball on this one frequently as a human who’s good at abstractions. My brain doesn’t struggle to translate Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 into SMB, Mid Market, and Enterprise. For other players this can often be confusing and it’s not hard to understand why. Making these picklists more colloquial allows other teams to more easily digest the information you’re presenting to them.

3. Is all of the data currently being presented to a player useful to them?

It should be a high crime to leave all the fields you have in CRM visible to everyone. Take the time to clean this up and use role-based permissioning to restrict who sees what. Inevitably, this will help new players in particular understand what is important for them to use, or enter into the system.

4. Do the layouts on each object put the most important information up top?

I’ll always remember working at one company where we had left the ‘Status’ field all the way at the bottom of the record. We wanted BDRs to update this on every call to track where the prospect was in our sales cycle. Leaving ‘Status’ below the fold resulted in players constantly forgetting to update this information. Further, the players who were using it had to scroll and search for the field every time they wanted to make an edit. An admin could have fixed it in about the same amount of time it took one of those players to find that field once. It was being done multiple times a day by a team of almost 30 people.

Growth has a dramatic effect on the complexity of our business systems. Couple this with natural occurring difficulties in communication as your team grows leads to a breakdown in disparate teams’ understandings of your CRM. As headcount surges, what specific fields mean, why they are useful, and when the business requires that information can be lost in the shuffle. While these kind of organization questions are a small problem for an early-stage company, the cost of these challenges, and the ROI of fixing them grows exponentially. Keep paying attention to the way you present information, not just the content of that information. This will help speed up the entire business, remove obstacles from players’ paths, and drive up adoption of CRM tools.

1Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly. London, Bloomsbury, 2013. Page 65

Director, Revenue Operations and Strategy - Toast, Inc.
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