The Power Of A People-First Approach
At Shake Shack, happy employees are the key to creating happy customers
There are a lot of differences between Shake Shack and Chapel Hill Tire. Shake Shack sells burgers and shakes. We service cars.
Shake Shack was founded in 2004. We’ve been around since 1953.
The last five years have been good for Chapel Hill Tire; we have opened three new stores and expanded into Raleigh. Shake Shack has done a bit better, growing sales from $217 million in 2014 to $672 million in 2019.
There is one thing we have in common, though. Shake Shack takes an employees-first approach to running its company. So do we.
Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti credits much of his company’s growth to employees that go above and beyond. “Fifty-one percent employees,” he calls them. These are warm, friendly, motivated, caring, self-aware and intellectually curious team members. The 51 percent is the measure of the emotional skills needed to thrive at the job; the 49 percent describes the technical skills required.
“Fifty-one percent employees are committed to championship performance, remarkable and enriching hospitality, embodying our culture, and actively growing themselves and the brand,” Garutti said in an interview for QSR magazine.
You can’t fake your way to attracting 51 percenters. According to Garutti, you get them by paying higher wages, providing greater benefits, and treating them better, overall. As Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer notes, many companies that excel at customer experience often top “best places to work” lists.
“We couldn’t agree more,” says Chapel Hill Tire president and co-owner Marc Pons. “You can’t have a great customer experience without a happy employee delivering it.”
Looking forward, Shake Shack leadership is projecting that the company will top $891 million in sales by the end of 2021. And we think their solid people-first approach is their greatest strength as they work toward this milestone.
“We’re in a people-led business,” Meyer said in an interview with QSR magazine. “It’s what we do better than anyone and it’s how we’re going to continue to invest so that we have restaurants that are standing with great leaders decades from now. But it’s never going to be easy.”
“True,” said Pons. “It’s not easy. Getting the right set of values is just the start. You have to build your culture around those values. We have five core values at Chapel Hill Tire: Strive for excellence, treat each other like family, say yes to our customers and each other, be grateful and helpful, and win as a team. Each week we focus on one value, and the team discusses how we can live it out in all that we do.”
“For example, one of our people recently had an unusual opportunity to live out our value of saying yes to customers,” said Pons. “A customer who had just had an operation called the shop and asked if we could pick up her prescription. Thinking of this value, and knowing that she had nowhere else to turn, the employee agreed to pick up the prescription.”
“We also think our values are a great tool for training. This business requires flexibility. To be responsive, we empower employees to make decisions,” Pons said, “And as long as you can use our five core values to answer how you made a decision, you’re good.”