Jack Bayt believes that dedication to your trade can carry you pretty far. But he also thinks that to take your business to the next level, you need to educate yourself both about your business and about what the other guy is doing. With that in mind, Crystal Food Services a catering and food services company that also runs banquet halls offers employees an in-house training system and keeps an ear open for what the competition is doing. Today, the president of CFS stands watch over a company looking to expand its staff that can swell to nearly 1,000 during special events and on its 2006 revenue of $70 million. Smart Business spoke with Bayt about grooming talent and how to learn and implement lessons from the competition.
Learn from the best. I go out and observe and keep my eye on what the competitors are doing. If I see something I like I say, ‘OK, how can this fit in our organization?’
I’ve always been interested in the history of Rome and that was one of the best things the Roman Empire did. They came in and they didn’t throw out any of the old stuff. If they had a community that was working or great things that worked for that culture, Rome just inculcated them into theirs. It was like a ball rolling down the hill, picking up the good things along the way and leaving the bad things behind.
If we bring in a new worker from the outside and they say they came from a place with a better system, boy, we have no ego over here. I want them to tell me about it and show it to me, and if it’s better, we go for it.
We look at what people know and when we bring someone in, I ask them, ‘What do you guys do better than us?’ And you get enough ideas that you can act on from that conversation.
Work with potential. I do a lot of visits to the units and see people.
There are different times of the year where we do some major special events and I’ll identify some of the younger kids that I think have potential, and I’ll actually sit and work with them in situations at these events and we try to mentor them.
I like to see their work ethic and look for people that are always wondering what more they can do. You have to study them in their work and see how they interact with people. From there, if someone wants to know how I did it, I’ll be happy to share my story with them.
We try to spot that in the young kids we want to bring into the system. It’s about steppingstones, and I’m happy to work with people who have an interest in learning how to move up. Not everyone we work with has that. Some people want it now rather than waiting but when we see those people who want to learn, we’re happy to teach them.
Pay attention to whom you hire. In our business, most people use their jobs as a steppingstone to another job, saying, ‘I’m in this job now but I won’t be in a few years because I’m actually looking for another job.’
Well, that’s strike one for them. We learn that when that comes out of someone’s mouth, it’s not going to work.
We want people who want to be in this business because they have a passion for it. We try to weed out that and we don’t like people who jump from job to job. We sort of take out those as negatives and then look for the positives after that.
We are a pretty fun, upbeat group and because we deal with the public, it’s important for us to see that in someone to see if they can be social and communicate clearly. We also value organizational skills and how you can delegate and put things together.
But wanting to be in the business to start with is so important and we ask them about that right from the start of an interview. We’ll take a chance on people who we think we can get to the next level if they can show us that.
Educate employees and let them move up. We have a thing called Crystal University and (employees) have a passport of where the job will take them, with the end journey being into management. We watch them each step of the way to see that they’re working on learning more and see them kind of stepping outside of their box, which is great.
I started from the ground up, and I always wanted the opportunity for someone to be able to start and go from the ground up. We set metrics based on their goals, and part of the training that comes through the Crystal University, and that passport kind of defines that and helps them show what they’ve learned.
We develop a professional development plan for each manager and at each step, they get their passport stamped. It’s something kind of fun to do and we give them a chance to get out to different units and try to show they can do new things.
You have to give them a chance to work with different-sized units and different areas of the field. You have to let people try different things to see their complete skills.
We have all kinds of different clients and services, so you have to go up the ladder until you can make it through all those stepping-stones. And as they go through that, you can see who the shining stars are and it helps shape the first step in our advancement line when we have another opening.
HOW TO REACH: Crystal Food Services, www.crystalfs.com or (317) 951-1700