In interviews with more than 100 entrepreneurs, a consistent theme surfaced. In small companies, everyone “takes out the garbage.”
The theme surfaced again during a presentation this week by two of the management team for Dog Tag Bakery, a nonprofit bakery with the mission to help wounded veterans and their spouses get hands on experience in business while taking classes at Georgetown University. The bakery was conceived by Father Richard Curry, S.J., a professor at Georgetown, and author of “The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking.” One of the key tenants of their organization is “everyone takes out the garbage.”
Yes, entrepreneurs work overtime to forecast their budget and revenue, get funding, pay credit card bills, invoice clients, collect payments, build a prospect database, launch products and services, manage sales and marketing, track operational precision, select and purchase new software and equipment, ensure quality control, hire new people, train people, inspire people, provide great customer service, figure out new tax and healthcare laws, and, while they are at it, take out the garbage. If the entrepreneur is above taking out the garbage, soon, their people will feel they are too. A culture where everyone “takes out the garbage” is one where the team buys into the success of the organization.
There are hundreds of examples from entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed. Here are just a few.
A client needed a project done on a very tight schedule, and it was clear that someone had to work all night long to get it done. The project lead worked furiously through the night, right next to the entrepreneur who was changing the printer ink, proofreading and making more coffee.
A cook quit his job the day of a big catering order before he prepared a thing. All hands were on deck to scrub up, don the aprons and caps, cut, chop and peel, follow the recipes carefully, ensure the flavors and food presentation met expectations, and then deliver and serve the food on time. None of the attendees knew which worker was the entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur realized that a healthier workforce would benefit both the employees and the company. Sick days, errors and accidents would decrease, as would the cost of insurance. He launched a cross-company program providing incentives to exercise, eat right, and get into better shape. The kitchen served fresh fruit instead of doughnuts. The team regularly broke bread together (whole grain, of course). Team sports and exercise programs became available. Employees lost an average of 15 pounds per person, lowered their blood pressure, and increased their energy levels. The results included the entrepreneur (who lost over 20 pounds).
No matter how hard we work or how successful we are, there are great rewards inherent in simple, everyday activities. Simple tasks can lower stress, improve focus, and connect a team. Employees follow the lead of the business owner. If simple, everyday activities are part of the entrepreneur’s job, they become part of everyone’s job. Another benefit: taking out the garbage always gets done.
All the best,