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Suprising Efficiency at Exit 14

Posted on July 27, 2018 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Brown

North of Wichita, Kansas at a QuikTrip just off I-35 at exit fourteen is the last place I’d have gone looking for a lesson in efficiency, but just about daily the team there puts on a demonstration that is worthy of respect and can serve as a model for many companies looking to sharpen their operations.

The first morning I stopped by my only intent was to grab a soft drink and be back on my way to work. My first impression after walking inside was how busy the place was. That was soon followed by dread as the checkout line was 10-12 people deep. My only thought was, “Great….I’ll be late today.”

I filled my cup with ice, poured the Coke Zero (with a dash of vanilla) and went to get in line. Then the magic happened. Despite being number eight or nine in line, it was my turn at the register in mere seconds it seemed like.

The team working the cash register was amazing to watch. There were two lines open, but each cashier was operating quickly from both sides of the counter. As soon as one transaction was finished they would instantly start ringing the next order up on the other side. The resulting quick turn made me a fan, but also a skeptic. There is no way this was standard operating procedure for this crew…it just was not sustainable.

Since that day I’ve made it a point to stop by more days than not on my way to the office. Their ice tea is very good and the doughnuts on Friday are surprisingly tasty coming from a convenience store. What has captivated me though, is just how efficient the store operates and the consistency of it. That, and knowing my wait in line will never be long.

What I’ve really been trying to learn during my visits is how they are pulling this magic off. Operations that run well always fascinate me.

After seven months of observation, here are a few things I’ve noticed from the QuikTrip at Exit 14:

Their eyes are always open.

There are shelves to be stocked, floors to be swept and the other mechanics of operating a high-volume c-store and when you walk into this one, all of those things are going on. While the workers are going about their chores they are also doing something else. They are keeping their eyes open. Once a third or fourth person gets in the checkout line one of the stockers will instantly move behind a register and start checking people out.

They understand the shelves have to be maintained, but they understand even more the importance of getting their customers in and out of the store as quickly as possible.

Do your people have their eyes open? Are they looking for the opportunity to help you achieve the first most important activity? Do they even know what you think their most important responsibility is?

The people of this specific QuikTrip do…and they are working to make it happen every single day.

Know Your Role

When the line gets long, the next person up moves to the register. Not all of the employees head to the register creating delays with starts and stops as people think someone else will handle it. No, there is one person that makes the move to the registers to serve as the checkout person. If the line keeps growing, then the third person fills their role checking customers out. Everyone else stays busy with the shelves and floors.

Everyone in this QuikTrip seems to know just what they are supposed to do and when. This C-Store has a well-organized ballet that operates effortlessly. This takes training, confidence and someone in the store is doing a great job of leading this team.

Does your team know their role? Does each one have clear understanding of what their priorities are? If they don’t, how do you ever manage to hold them accountable?

The store is always staffed properly.

Yes, lots of money has been lost because of excessive labor costs, but there is also a lot of money lost because a business does not have enough people working.

The QuickTrip at Exit 14 always seems to have a proper set of workers at the right times of day. The registers can be manned to keep customers moving, but the shelves are also fully stocked…there is no compromise between both aspects of quality service. This is accomplished because they have enough people on hand to take care of both in a timely way.

When you don’t have enough people working, inevitably you end up compromising in some area of your business. With time this specific issue will show up in customer support, quality or some other key element of your business. This is what happens when people are pushed to the brink and not provided proper support.

If you are seeing a slip in how your company operates maybe it is a good time to look at your team and evaluate what they are doing, the time they have to do it in and the resources provided to accomplish their daily list. Do it honestly and not with your rose-tinted goggles.

They always have a smile on their face.

Sometimes when a business operates at a high efficiency level it is easy for employees to become robots and lose a key skill. At Exit 14 that is not the case because even in their highly structured environment they manage to keep a smile on their face and a pleasant tone in their voice. It is not easy to do that when you are focused on keeping people moving and stocking shelves, but they speak in a positive way and look you in the eye when transacting business.

How do they manage to fight against the odds and maintain their customer service faces? The only answer I can come up with is that they must have a good leader who trains people well and understands what he wants in a team member before he makes a hire.

How serious do you take the venting process before you make a hire? Too many times companies will try to get the open position filled as fast as possible to relive any temporary increase in workload while there is a vacancy. Don’t fall into this trap. You will have higher turnover, more training costs and more ineffective hours because you got in a hurry.

Where do you see high efficiency in the world you live in and what is creating it? If you can capture key elements and incorporate them into your business you can be sure that you will find new levels of success and have employees that are more highly motivated.

If you are having a hard time finding a model to help you hone the operations of your business, then you are invited to head to Wichita and visit the QuikTrip at Exit 14. You will not be disappointed.


Wendy's Going Small to Go Big

Posted on February 22, 2017 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (1)

By Gary Brown

You can follow Gary on twitter @gnbleadership

Wendy’s has reached the conclusion that their chicken sandwiches are tough.

They are right and they have been on the path to this decision for more than a decade now for one reason. An incessant demand for suppliers to provide more product at ever lower costs.

The poultry industry has obliged this demand from almost every major quick service restaurant by growing ever bigger chickens as fast as they can.

Here are how events unfolded. Back in the day (like the late 80’s) poultry companies grew a bird size that produced chickens to meet the demands of companies like KFC, Church’s and Popeye’s. This required a bird that would have be processed (slaughtered) around 4.25 pounds. It took about eleven days for a pound of weight to be added to the bird.

Then things changed.

In 1983 McDonald’s introduced the McNugget. It was just a few years earlier that Burger King introduced their Original Chicken Sandwich. The result was a surge in chicken demand at retail, fast food, restaurant chains…wherever food was sold.

To meet the demand more and more chickens were necessary and plants were built to handle the spike in business and make sure that consumers could have their needs met.

Like all things, money eventually became a real issue. Chain restaurants were demanding ever lower costs from their suppliers and there was always a company out there willing to step up with a new way to shave a few pennies from the cost.

What was one of the best ways to achieve this? Push more pounds through existing operations. More throughput pounds equals lower overhead costs for every pound of finished product.

How do you get these additional pounds through the plant? First, you make changes in the regulations around processing. Many of these removed longstanding regulations that were out of date in a modern plant era.

The second solution was to grow bigger chickens.

It is not unusual today to find chicken companies growing birds that are processed at eight pounds or more. These incredible weight gains are being achieved through sophisticated feeding programs at each point in the bird’s life and the industry can add one pound every seven days.

Everything in the management of these birds can be done very naturally and efficiently, but it is hardly the way things are done in nature.

The result is the chicken we have today. Chicken pieces that are absurdly large, incredibly thick and in many instances, very tough.

There are other contributing factors, and I have supported many of them to achieve the costs goals of customers and the profit mandates of the companies I’ve worked for. While food safety has not been comprised by these innovations it has led to a product that is lacking flavor and often hard to use by the consumer.

Will the direction being taken by Wendy’s lead to a change in the demands of other QSR chains? Time will tell.

In my opinion though, taking a step back in this case is actually taking a step forward.


Chipotle: Better Days Ahead for Them and the Food Industry

Posted on January 19, 2016 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (1)

By Gary Brown

Follow on twitter @gnbleadership


On February 8th Chipotle is going to close all their locations in order to focus on and address food safety concerns that have plagued the chain for months.

If Chipotle believes they have continuing issues with food safety then why are they waiting until February 8th? If you are in the business of feeding people, your doors should never be opened if you don’t have serving safe food at the top of the list before opening your doors open every single day.

More than ever, serving safe food is the case at Chipotle.

So when you hear that the chain is taking a day down to focus on food safety, take it for what it really is. A PR stunt to help regain the trust of the consumer.

That said, it is interesting to consider why the burrito company, by their own admission, has experienced so much trouble in keeping their food safe for consumers: great pride in using fresh ingredients and traditional preparation methods.

Think about that. Frozen foods that are so often maligned and automation in preparation would have given the consumer a better chance of being served a meal that did not make them sick.

Here is something you can bank on about Chipotle specifically, and the food industry in general: food safety standards throughout the food industry will improve as a result.

In 1993 hundreds of people became ill and four children died as a result of E. coli in the hamburgers served at Jack in the Box. The company’s very existence was threatened as a result. Many think that would be a small consequence because of what happened.

Instead the chain became an industry leader in establishing new food safety standards.

What were some of the positive results for food safety that came from the Jack in the Box incident? Here are a few:

  • The warning labels you see on meat sold in grocery stores.
  • E. coli became a reportable disease through state health departments nationally.
  • Mandated cooking temperatures for hamburger meat of 155 degrees.
  • Jack in the Box implemented the nation’s first HAACP program at a fast food chain. Virtually all of them have programs in place now.

The challenges of today will be tough for Chipotle to work through, and their very survival as a company is not a sure thing. However, if they are honest with the public about what happened and how they are fixing the problems, they can have a really bright future still. Just look at Jack in the Box.

An even greater result will be an increased focus on food safety throughout the food industry that will benefit all consumers. It has happened before.



Read the Declaration of Independence

Posted on June 29, 2015 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1


Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

Column 2

North Carolina:

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Column 3


John Hancock


Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton


George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

Column 4


Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross


Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

Column 5

New York:

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

Column 6

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple


Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery


Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:

Matthew Thornton



Who is Cutting Your Grass?

Posted on February 2, 2015 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Gary Brown

You can follow Gary on Twitter @gnbleadership

For years I paid to have my grass cut. We wanted the yard to be in top shape for weekends and that meant it needed to be done consistently on Thursday. With my travel schedule, that was not something I could plan on making happen. It was also a good way to get back several hours of time for my family after being on the road so often.

Then, there was a brief period between jobs and there were two good reasons to do my own yard. One, I had plenty of time on my hand. Second, it was a way to reduce spending.

 Getting back to being the guy doing the yard work was an eye opening experience for me. There were places in the yard that needed seeding, others where fire ants had moved in and a leaf removal issue that had to be addressed.

 What was the lesson? There were things happening, literally in my own backyard, which I had no clue about.

 The people I had put in charge of these things never even said a word about them and with enough time these issues would only get more difficult to manage.

 Today, cutting my own grass always leads to a learning experience. I see problems that are developing early and get to track their progress to see if intervention is necessary. There is time to think about the improvements we can make in the yard to make it more livable, or right for having company over. It also feels good to look at the finished task and smile at the results.

 It can be like this in business as well. We trust that things are happening like we expect, but they are really trending in a totally different direction.

 If you never get into the facilities you are responsible for, you can be sure there are surprises waiting for you there. Things that might not show up in the metrics you use to evaluate performance, but would be an early warning of looming issues.

 When you only rely on sales people for information about your customers you could be missing insights that make the relationship clearer than a spreadsheet can.

 Visiting a distribution center might show opportunities in logistics beyond cost per mile.

 It takes time to get out, move around and look at things, but what you learn and the new ideas that are sparked can make it some of the most valuable time you invest.

 Is somebody else cutting the grass for you?

Key to Success: Right Product AND Right Price

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)


By Gary Brown

Follow Gary on twitter @gnbleadership

There is a key to success for your company to know in growing your brand and expanding your sales footprint.

 It is not really a secret, but too many times this key gets lost in all the facility utilization reviews, accounting spreadsheets and sales forecasts.

 If you know this key, then the odds of success in reaching your goals is much higher. If you don’t have it, then all of your thinking, financial projections and new marketing plans are most likely useless.

 Ready to know this key? This key that is so important that the future of your company? Here it is:

 You have to deliver your customers products that meet their needs AND are priced appropriately for the market.

 There was a company I spent time working for that truly believed their “differentiation strategy’ was going to be a rousing success. They would introduce new products that would excite their customers and enable them to charge incredibly high prices for these great new products.

 Good idea in theory, but there was one problem.

 The customers they wanted to sell these products too had menus already with established prices. Bringing them a new product that was off the charts relative to everything else was just not a realistic thought.

 In other words, if all the other appetizers on the menu were priced at $5.99 it was going to be hard to double that price for another item on the menu.

 The products were great and customers fell in love with them. They did not fall in love with the pricing and passed on the opportunity.

 Right product. Wrong price.

 Getting the price right, but the product wrong is also a problem. Meeting the cost criteria for a value menu does not mean you can take the customer “trash in a bag” and have success.

 Right price. Wrong product.

 Want to up the odds of success as you take new, or current products, into the market to grow your customer base? A few simple actions can make a world of difference in the outcome for your company.

 Here are a few to consider:

 Evaluate what the menu range is for your current customers and determine what the upper limits for price are. Then consider if your new product(s) can be folded into their menu strategy without causing significant issues?

 Know what the return you need to make on a new product is. Greed has stopped plenty of good product ideas. Make a good margin, but don’t ask for so much that the product can’t be sold.

 Evaluate all new products launches, both failures and successes. You may be producing products that don’t fit the pricing expectations of your customers. It is also possible that the products you are trying to take to market are just wrong for the business you are in. Know why something made it…or failed.

 Get out there. The best product innovations don’t begin in a test kitchen. They start with people who go to the grocery store and look at the shelves, watch people shop and ask questions of their customers. It begins by being in your customer’s kitchen and knowing how they get things done in the back of house. Once you know what is going on, you will be much more prepared to start solving problems for your customers.

 Like most things in life, success in growing your business is a process. As you get ready for the next big thing to happen in your business, don’t forget to consider that the products and pricing you take to the market are the real keys to achieving the results you want on your financials.

 Get these two right and the rest should be a little easier.

 Want to talk about your product and price process? Let me know by dropping an email to [email protected] and we will find a good time to talk.

Remember When Johnny's Grill was Great

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

 By Gary Brown

 Follow Gary on twitter @gnbleadership

Johnny’s Grill in Tuscaloosa, Alabama served one of the best hamburgers you would have the privilege to enjoy. It was cooked on a grill that had been seasoned with years of service and was served in an atmosphere that was everything you should expect of a great hamburger. It was dark inside the restaurant with tables that wobbled and a counter where you could pull up to dig in.

It was always crowded at lunch time with everyone from college students attending the University of Alabama to people on a lunch break from banking or construction.

It was always crowded until….

Johnny’s Grill moved to a new location. It was cleaner, brighter and there was a shiny new grill to cook on. The burger went from great to pretty average. The experience went from awesome to, well, common.

At some point shortly after the move, the crowds stopped coming and Johnny’s Grill became just a memory of once great hamburgers.

What happened? Johnny’s Grill no longer offered anything unique. What they offered was almost the same as any number of other places.

In today’s world it seems like some companies get so caught up with making sure they don’t fall behind their competitors that they lose their unique identity in the market.

The big three burger chains constantly work to avoid falling behind any new menu offering of the other and do so at the expense of their core products that have brought their customers in for generations.

College football recruiting sites all deliver almost identical content and it is hard to find anything that makes one ultimately more useful than the others.

Tune in to local sports talk radio and every show is talking about the same topics in almost the same way, with the same guests.

When you think of the companies that represent the best in their class, it is not often that they are spending most of their time trying to replicate what someone else is already doing. They are working hard to improve what they already do better than anyone else.

The advice for today is don’t be a Johnny’s Grill. Stay with what you do great and avoid becoming average.