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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.