When Chris Frost has an issue with one of his 300 employees, he doesn’t beat around the bush.
“I sit down with my mission statement and value statement and say, ‘OK, you and I have a disagreement, you and I have an issue we need to resolve,’” Frost says.
Frost, who operates three McDonald’s franchises as owner of Frost Inc., finds that getting right to the point and communicating clearly is a driver for any successful business.
Smart Business spoke with Frost about how to make sure you are being clear with your message.
Q. How do you become a better communicator?
The key to it is having a very clear objective, a very clear end in mind, and then getting the right people that have the ability to make decisions involved in setting the path to get to that end goal. Then it’s being very clear with what the steps are to get there and communicating the results.
You have to be very clear in communicating results because if folks don’t know where they stand and how we are doing toward the goal, it is very difficult for them to get there.
Q. How do you make sure employees understand what you are communicating?
I’ve got a group of people that I consider my executive team, and it really gets down to working with them on their communication skills to make sure the message gets passed down through the entire organization. I’ve got a couple of operations guys that I meet with on a weekly basis — minimum of a weekly basis — and talk about game plan and objectives and what the plan is and what the results are and what the goals are. Then, they take it to their team.
Then, on a regular basis, I spend a minimum of two or three days a week in my restaurants communicating with the management people at the restaurants, which could be a couple levels down the ladder [from those] that I meet with on a weekly basis. (It’s) to talk about, ‘What are we working on? How are you doing?’ just to calibrate and to make sure the message that I want sent down is being communicated.
So, we have some checks and balances in there, and for the most part, it works out pretty well.
Q. How do you make sure lower-level employees are being honest with you?
Just being in the restaurants regularly, they know me on a first-name basis. I try to make a point of knowing something about them, their family — having that type of discussion about their son’s soccer team or whatever the example may be.
Plus, they see me regularly. I think that’s the key to it. If I were to show up once every six months and start asking them questions, then I think they are going to lock up. They see me regularly, they know me, and the discussion is pretty laid-back, just asking some simple questions.
Q. What advice do you have on how to create an open environment and be a better communicator?
Be consistent. I think consistency is the key. The other part is, when you determine the course, to hold the line. A lot of individuals, peers if you will (think), ‘What’s the topic of the week?’
If I were to be working with and mentoring someone, my first thing would be to say, ‘What is your objective, what do you want out of this business and what do you want out of this company? Let’s set that goal and let’s set a 12-month plan that says, ‘This is what we need to do.’ We’re going to be consistent, we’re going to be clear with our direction, and we’re not going to jump from week to week.
It’s going to be a clear message, and we’re going to be focused on results and not change course.
Q. What is a pitfall to avoid in communication?
Don’t have what I call unplanned meetings. Don’t waste time with time wasters. If we have something to meet about, we’re going to meet, we’re going to discuss the topics and we’re going to be clear on it. But don’t have meetings just to have meetings.
People have a Monday meeting and, ‘We meet on Monday because we have a Monday meeting, not because we have something important to meet about.’
The key to being a good communicator is when you have the opportunity to communicate, that what you communicate is relevant, it’s needed and it’s timely. The best way to word that is, don’t have Monday meetings because it’s Monday, but to have Monday meetings because we’ve got something relevant.
How to reach: Frost Inc., (813) 991-4874