Solution Provider Nightmares (And How To Fix Them)

By Dave Sobel  |  Print this article Print

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares where the celebrity chef helps struggling restaurant owners fix what ails their businesses just may be the recipe to help you shape up your own business.

I’m totally addicted to Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.  

I’m not much of a reality TV show fan, but somehow this show has gotten me hooked. I watch both the US version and the UK version, and my wife watches along with me.

For those that haven’t watched, the format is rather simple. Chef Gordon Ramsey, a well known celebrity chef with a number of successful (and a few that weren’t!) restaurants around the world is invited to come to a struggling business and work with them to help repair the business, and it’s all on TV.   He meets the owners, meets the staff, examines the kitchen and menu, and then starts making recommendations and changes.

While every business challenge is unique, the patterns have become so apparent that I feel like I could almost do what Ramsey does. The problems are almost always the same:

There are always people problems. Somehow, the owners aren’t getting along, or they don’t have a realistic view of their business, or aren’t communicating. 

  1. The food is always of lower quality – and the owners don’t recognize it.
  2. The menu is almost always too large, with massive numbers of dishes.
  3. The kitchen usually is pre-preparing items, bulk cooking and then saving items – often wasting a number of them.
  4. Inventory isn’t being managed well, resulting in significant cost.

Ramsey almost always has the same series of prescriptions that help the business.

  1. Building a system to ensure high quality food is delivered.
  2. Simplify the menu, focusing on a small core of items that are of high quality.
  3. Focusing on fresh inventory, increasing quality while not stockpiling inventory.
  4. Help repair the communication problems around the owners.

There’s a certain core solution here that is consistent, and thus very prescriptive. In fact, these are basic business concepts. As I think about the solution provider market, most of the basic problems solution providers face tend to be around the basics of business operation.

Focusing on a small core set of products and making them easy to buy – your small menu – is a recipe for success. Evolved managed services providers find that by standardizing customers to a core set of solutions they are able to achieve economies of scale, drive profitability, and increase customer satisfaction.  

Building a standard set of processes that ensure your delivery – your food – is of high quality is another key to success. Mature solution providers have found that by investing in process, they can grow and mature, onboarding more and more customers while ensuring standards remain high.

While solution providers don’t always necessarily have inventory (although some do), the idea of managing your cost of goods, particularly your investment in resource that you don’t use right away, is important.  If you sell product, you have inventory to manage – but services and the support pieces around them are also key. RMM licenses, software licenses, even on-the-bench engineers are all resources to be managed

And finally, people. Communication, much more than technology, is a problem in business. How your people communicate with the customer, with each other, with you, and vice versa, impact the business.  A focus on improving communication goes a very long way.

Kitchen Nightmares reminds me in each episode that basic business skills transfer across industries. Keep an eye out – being yelled at by a chef might be good for your business.

Dave Sobel is the founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies, a consulting firm that provides information technology (IT) and computer networking services to the small business, faith-based and nonprofit communities in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Dave Sobel is the founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies (www.evolvetech.com), a consulting firm that provides information technology and computer networking services to small businesses in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.Evolve Technologies provides a wide array of services including server installation, virus protection, network security, backup services and complete information technology outsourcing. The first Microsoft Small Business Specialist located in the Washington, D.C. area, Evolve Technologies is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. Prior to founding Evolve Technologies, Sobel worked as a Web architect for a consulting company. He also has experience doing security, network and infrastructure design for Fortune 1000 companies. Sobel holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the College of William and Mary. He can be reached at dave@evolvetech.com.