One Business, Two Crises, and Three Steps That Ensured Survival

Let’s be real. There’s no such thing as certainty for any business. Recessions come and go. Bubbles burst. External impacts transform industries and organizations, seemingly overnight. And as we’re being reminded today, pandemics put economic well-being at risk, not to mention life itself.

Against this backdrop, here’s a true story. Back in 2002, I co-owned a food-delivery company called “Restaurants on the Run.” As a startup, the business had some clear strengths: There was demand for the service, and my partners and I were in the right market at the right time. No surprise, the business took off, becoming a proven revenue generator. As owners, we were all passionate, energetic and loyal to our mission, the common denominator of pretty much all entrepreneurial ventures.

Problem was, our success was likely more about luck than brains (or passion). The company had some fundamental weaknesses, flaws that cast us into a tailspin when the 2002 dot-com crash hit. Fortunately, we took action and saved the business, implementing a solution that enabled us to then weather a second crisis: the 2009 recession. What did we do exactly? It boiled down to three steps, collectively a response just as relevant today as they were back in 2002. Here they are:

1. We discovered and defined our Vital Factors. Vital factors are “the key measures of your business.” They’re the 20 percent of activities that matter most, those that propel and sustain 80 percent of your results and, ultimately, your success. Every business needs to identify Vital Factors, and it was MAP Consulting that helped us with this process. For Restaurants on the Run, we looked at our data and activities, determining our Vital Factors, measurables like profit per delivery, on-time delivery percentage rate, and customer retention rate. These Vital Factors propelled us forward and mattered most. Everything else, particularly in uncertain times, was considered trivial. So we took immediate action, putting our Vital Factors at the center of all activities, galvanizing the organization around those key indicators.

2. We focused on our most important asset: our people. And everything about how we managed them had to improve. So we created a better job matrix, better job descriptions, and a better hiring, onboarding and training process. We skilled up, put the right people in the right seats on the bus, and consistently assessed their capabilities, backing all efforts with a strategic staff development plan.

3. We implemented and executed a proven accountability system. Using the MAP Management System® as our accountability framework, we built alignment and executed around our Vital Factors, assigning people to take ownership of audacious goals and strategic responsibilities. We measured success, taking necessary corrective action and celebrating whenever possible, with a bonus program that rewarded wins.

So what happened? Remarkably, operating under the constraints of crisis didn’t lead to demise. It led to a systemic change that empowered our culture. It drove innovation. And, ultimately, it transformed Restaurants on the Run into an accountable organization that consistently proved its worth, even as it weathered numerous, serious storms.

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