A piece of the pie Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009
Although he’s been selling Domino’s pizza for 35 years, Mike Orcutt still defers to his 1,200 employees before making decisions about his company.

“If the folks who are right there talking to the customers haven’t bought in to it and don’t think it’s a great idea, it’s not going to work,” he says. “It doesn’t have a prayer. Our customers aren’t going to outthink the people servicing them.”

Orcutt’s franchising company, Cowabunga Inc., owns and operates 79 Domino’s locations throughout Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

Smart Business spoke with Orcutt about how to align your employees’ goals with the goals of your company.

Q. How do you keep employees engaged?

We try to develop a process where everybody’s got some skin in the game. Essentially, everybody has a job that numbers are attached to. There is a constant self-evaluation going on with these people, and they really start to manage themselves a whole lot better.

When they prop themselves up and compare themselves to somebody else who is performing or not performing, it creates an environment where everybody is learning from each other.

Q. How do you attach goals to metrics?

We’re very open about goals and our income statement and our sales with everyone. Basically, our competitors are going to find out what we’re doing anyway if they want to. The big thing is make sure everybody is engaged in making sure those numbers are going in the right direction.

You do that, first of all, by being open and honest and letting people know what these goals, profit goals, employment goals and all these numbers are.

What’s not measured is never managed. So we keep score of just about everything we can. We run scorecards and bonuses and all those things, but what seems to work the best for us is just recognition for people. Saying, ‘Hey, you’re on track.’ Let people know what the value is of moving those numbers in the right direction.

In any case, people aren’t going to get a raise if we’re not making more money. When we are making more money and improving as a company, the odds are really good that you’re going to get a raise, either through your bonus or salary.

When things aren’t going well, like this environment is a little tougher and we have to work a little harder, a little longer hours to get done what we want to get done, everybody is in there doing that, too.

So they’re in there in the good times and the bad times, but we are constantly measuring the level of improvement and what our effort is. We want to get better on a daily basis.

Q. How do you determine the goals your team should aim for?

Goals stem from the fact that you get better or worse. You never stay the same. So every single day that you are operating, you need to be better than your last day’s work or better than your last year’s effort or better than your week before’s effort.

We measure all of those because we learn from all those numbers. We measure our new customers; we measure our lost customers who haven’t ordered from us in 120 days. We measure too many things sometimes, but we do have a lot of tools to evaluate whether we’re getting better in those areas or worse.

When we’re getting worse, we try to look at a number of things to find out why. Is it the managing performance? Is it the marketing performance? Is it a store performance? Is it wrong product, wrong place performance? Once we’ve made those constant assessments, then we go after our targets for improvement.

Q. How do you sort through all that information?

There’s no rocket science to it. You say, ‘What is the problem? Is the problem profit?’ Well, our sales aren’t down. So then you’ve got to dial in on food costs, promotions, average ticket, some of those issues.

You dial in based on where your weaknesses are showing up, then you do the same for your strengths. Take a look at your strengths and say, ‘What is making us do so much better in sales, but our profitability is dropping?’ So you look for solutions in different directions.

Look at the strengths and the weaknesses at the same time, because one usually affects the other in the short term and definitely during the long term if you don’t move on your direction.

Q. How do you decide how to fix problems?

You’ve got to say, ‘Did we raise prices too much? Was our advertising weak?’ We do that by talking to our local store management team, employees, then we do customer surveys. Basically, we assess and evaluate every piece of the process. Once we decide to make a change, we take our problem and our solution idea — which usually comes from the field — straight back to the people who sell to the customers. If they don’t buy in to it, we usually don’t do it — because they’ll either sabotage it because they’re not buying in to it or it’s just a really bad idea.

HOW TO REACH: Cowabunga Inc., (770) 777-2217 or www.cowabungainc.com