Once you have this, everything gets easier.
I was standing in a hot steamy cafeteria dish room covered in smelly food scrapes, feeling pleased as pie with myself.
Mr. Blivens, the Head of Food Services at my boarding school during high school, had assigned me to the dish room. (I was not one of the rich kids at boarding school, I was on work-study, which means you work half the day and go to school half the day).
I don’t know if Mr. Blivens ever read a single “how to be a good manager” book or if he just had an innate gift for leading people — but he was a great boss who taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned as an entrepreneur.
As you can imagine, a cafeteria that serves hungry teenagers is a busy place, and there are many jobs to be done. We had everything: bakers, line cooks, dishwashers, bussers, stockers, cleaners, prep cooks.
Some of these jobs required attention to precise measurements. Others were about steady, simple, and monotonous tasks (like peeling pounds of potatoes). Others were labor-intensive.
When I first started working for Mr. Blivens, he tried me in a couple of different roles in the cafeteria. Loading heavy boxes of produce inside the frigid cooler was miserable for me, and I absolutely hated being in the bakery.
But Mr. Blivens noticed something: I was energetic, and I was good at figuring out the most efficient way to do things. And the dish room was a place that was in dire need of efficiency… and everyone loathed working in the dish room.
Every single day, the dish room would get backed up with stacks and stacks of dirty dishes. Whoever was back there would often wind up staying late, long after everyone else had finished and gone home for the day.
On this day, Mr. Blivens assigned me to the dish room and tasked me with the challenge of streamlining it.
This was the 90s, and our commercial dish room looked like any other: the plastic trays for loading, the long metal chute, the huge square stainless machine where you pulled down the lever to initiate the steamy wash cycle. It was an assembly line of tasks, all overseen by one person.
I loved the challenge, and I basically game-ified it in a way that was genuinely fun for me.
After about an hour of tweaking my process, I had it down. I discovered exactly what was gumming up the operation and causing the bottleneck: if you loaded one tray at a time, the wash cycle ended before you could fill the next tray, so there’d be a delay in loading. The key was to make sure that there were no more than a few seconds before the wash cycle ended and the next tray of dirties was loaded in.
I figured out that if I pre-loaded a few trays, then I had the time cushion to keep the machine fed.
That day, and every day after, I conquered the dish room. Instead of staying late, I finished early.
Other people hated the dish room as much as I hated being stuck in a cooler all day, shivering and organizing boxes of lettuce all alone. The steam, the smell, the dirty dishes, the sweat — I honestly didn’t even mind it. I was in my problem-solving element, I was making a measurable difference for my team, my shifts were essentially workouts, and I was having a blast.
Mr. Blivens understood something critical about running a good business:
And in any business with more than a single person, your One Thing is building a winning team and setting them up for success.
Building a winning team involves a few things:
- Finding the right people for the right roles
- Being SUPER clear about what people need to do and having a way to track that and give feedback so that you’re setting your team members up for success
- Leveraging systems, SOPs, tech, and AI to make sure no one is stuck doing busy work or caught up in unnecessary minutiae when they should be focusing on what they’re great at and what will help move the needle for the business
At Alchemized Teams, we refer to these critical elements as the People, Technology & Systems Flywheel.
People who are in roles they don’t like or aren’t suited for won’t be successful.
People who are drowning in backlogged work will get discouraged… because non-stop stress is a terrible motivator.
If your team is doing tasks manually that could be done automatically… you’re wasting time and money that could be going toward revenue-generating work.
If there aren’t clear systems, you’re exponentially increasing the chances of preventable mistakes… and then you spend your time putting out fires instead of moving the needle on your biz.
Mr. Blivens knew that his team was the One Thing that could make all the difference in the cafeteria. If the team was working, then everything was a million times easier. So he tried all of us in different jobs at first, and he wasn’t afraid to move us if he saw it wasn’t a good fit. To do the produce stocking, he found a beefy kid who loved lifting heavy things and experienced the cooler as a relief from the heat of the kitchen. He found people who loved early mornings and precise measuring to staff the bakery.
He noticed what I was good at and what I naturally liked — and he matched my skills with the right job.
A commercial dishwasher isn’t exactly high-tech by today’s standards, but he understood that it could be used to make everything smoother and easier if it were being run by the right person.
He gave me room to figure out a “Best Process”, essentially creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the dish room that could get passed on to whoever was in there after I left.
Here’s the cherry-on-top bonus of getting your winning team together: you’ll need fewer people, and you’ll actually feel more supported.
When you have the right people in the right roles, and you’ve got your systems down, and you’re leveraging tech and AI — you’ll find that you can actually have a pretty lean operation and still make huge gains.
Because the drag of inefficiency is gone. People feel recognized and valued. You’re making fewer errors. Payroll costs go down, and profit margins go up. Your clients and customers are happier because they’re being served by the right people.
Understanding people, tech, and systems is a beneficial cycle that keeps building on itself, creating more momentum, and allowing you to do much more with much less effort.
That’s the Flywheel Effect.
If you want to find out how to dramatically improve your One Thing — and how you can use the Flywheel Effect to get you there — download this FREE guide.