Nearly two years since I was his employee, I still look forward to going home and visiting the old stomping grounds to say hello to the staff and chat with my former boss. The place is like a time warp instantly bringing me back to those careless summer days and crazy summer nights when all that mattered was good friends, good money, and cheap booze.
So my heart broke a little when he informed me that he’s a different man now and so is the business. “Things are just different now,” he said to me this past November. “I’m getting older and I’m not as close with the staff,” he said reluctantly. This is the man who could out-party all of his 20-something staff and still get up and open up shop the next morning. Frozen with disbelief, I let him go on.
“I don’t go out and party like I used to and business is insane so I stay busy.” I understood, of course. A married man with two growing children, two-time business owner, and revered community member who recently lost his beloved mother is bound to take a different perspective on life.
My friend, your eventful past is not to be forgotten and your successful future is to be anticipated. Here’s to you, bossman, because you were the best boss I’ve ever had.
Most people look back on their younger days and shudder at the thought of waiting on tables filled with hungry and sometimes cranky patrons. Not this gal. I dream of those days when my coworkers were my best friends and when my boss was someone I could talk to about anything. Now I find myself desperately censoring my answer to “Did you do anything fun this weekend?”
This boss is a restaurant owner; a leave-home-early-come-home-late restaurant owner who pours his heart and soul into this place and easily made it the best job I’ve ever had. And here’s why:
It was no secret to him that recognizing employees for a job well done could make a significant impact on the morale of the team. After a successful, busy night of serving, he’d surprise us with chicken wings or come through the kitchen like he was in a high five tunnel with his contagious grin and tell us all what an excellent night we had. Those small things were incredibly rewarding and kept us excited for the next shift to do it all over again. We knew he was proud and appreciative of our time and effort and that made it worth every second. Free t-shirts when we sold a certain amount? Hell yeah!
On the other hand, he was well aware of our mistakes and was quick to hold people accountable. To me, this was essential because there’s nothing worse than watching someone get by on doing the bare minimum. He wanted everyone’s participation and had rules in place that helped to ensure full team participation in all areas. When someone failed to do their part, oh it was going down. So you better check off your name by the “Bathrooms” box in the clean-up chart.
The restaurant business requires pristine customer service in order to build a brand, develop a customer base, and make a profit. He knew this. But he also knew that the customer was not always right (cue the shocked look on all business professionals’ faces). It’s true! Customers can be awful like the time that lady stabbed me in the back with her plate because her shrimp wasn’t fried. I’m sorry, honey, this isn’t Long John Silver’s. Anyway, when it came down to making some tough decisions, he always had our backs. Get it? He trusted his team and had faith in us and that always meant a lot.
Okay, this isn’t a necessity in a boss. Consider it a perk of working for him. He was a blast to work with and for. He played music the staff wanted to listen to, he threw us company get-togethers, and did what he could to make the work day an eventful one. And when I got a little too drunk at the summer party and acquired a ride home, he greeted me the next day with a snicker and a simple, “how ya feelin’ kid?”
So while you feel like times are changing, and maybe you aren’t as wild as you once were, I want you to know that your unconventional leadership style, one that I will try to mimic someday, is one that I will forever appreciate, that and your endless amount of visor hats.
Cheers to you!