High Quality is a Recipe for Failure - TurnAround Executive Coaching

I live in a mixed income neighborhood. I was delighted when a new restaurant opened with a lounge style, creative tapas, and space for mingling. The staff were well dressed and professional. There was a waiter for every 3 tables! No more Joe the Bartender nights. It was worth twice the price 🙂   What a shock when Volcano suddenly closed its doors. I’m still in mourning,

BUT Business success balances quality against cost.

We all want to hire a lot of Grade A staff. Let’s assume that you own a restaurant. In this example, you hire only specialty chefs – pastry chef, sous chef, saute chef, fish chef, glacier, etc. Add professional waiters with 5 years previous experience. Just to be perfect, add a maître d’ to die for.

Would you get the Zagat Award?

No. In my neighborhood your restaurant will be bankrupt after 3 months. You cannot afford a staff team where everyone is a superstar and there’s too many staff anyway. You need a mix of employees at different levels and just the minimum number of staff.

Success in business requires a few Grade A staff, a few Grade B staff who are teachable, and constant firing of Grade B staff who won’t learn and also quickly fire Grade C staff who actually hurt your business.

A great business uses a Salary Cap. The Salary Cap is simply the total amount of money that you can spend on payroll. You can split the Salary Cap any way that you want. If the Salary Cap is $1 million, you can hire 10 people at $100,000 each or 20 people at $50,000 each.

The Salary Cap is easy to find. Start with your total revenue and subtract Fixed Costs (lease, taxes, mortgage, depreciation, interest, and insurance.) Now subtract all supplies and inventory purchases. If you own the business, subtract your return on investment.

The remainder is your Salary Cap. You can hire as many people as you want as long as the total salary is under the Cap. See how it works in this example.


Revenue: $5 million

Minus Fixed Costs: $1 million

Minus Inventory and Supplies: $1.5 million

Salary Cap = $2.5 million

Won’t people pay more for quality? Why not hire all the chefs in the first example and simply raise the price of every meal by $10. Your revenue goes up and so does the Salary Cap.

It depends on your market. If your business is in a high poverty area, people may enjoy very competent waiters at the restaurant and great food, but they will still eat at McDonalds. Your recipe for success may be to hire some Grade B- people and hire one good trainer and one good supervisor who can fire people regularly. The combination will give you enough Grade A staff to be a success.

I’ve always hated cooking. It takes so long and not easy either. You have to experiment with the recipe. Of course, people who like to cook get better and better at it. You have the same challenge with your company. The only way to get good at it is to experiment to find the right mix of staff. No one likes to fire people or move them around. It’s hard to find new people and train them. What a headache! Just like using recipes 🙂

Have patience. Keep practicing until you have the perfect recipe. Bon Appetit.

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