Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I was afforded the opportunity to work at IN-N-OUT Burger. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I truly owe a lot to what I learned as an employee in their organization.
IN-N-OUT is a family owned business that originated in southern California. They pride themselves on freshness, quality, and customer service. They held their employees to a high standard and treated them with respect. Their managers were trained well and treated well, which in turn caused them to treat their staff well.
I thought they were just a great company who cared about their customers and staff, but I came to discover that the roots of their values were found in the Christian faith. The owners and the family were strong believers, so much so that they placed John 3:16 on the bottom of their cups and other scripture could be found throughout their stores.
I loved working in such a great environment!
As I look back at my time there, I strive to apply many of their values to my life and leadership.
So, how can churches and other business owners be like IN-N-OUT?
I am going to list four ways our Christian faith should influence how we lead our businesses or even serve on staff in a business and all five are things I learned from my time with IN-N-OUT….
- Lead with clear values: When your employees, co-workers, customers, etc. know your values and they are demonstrated in your work it enhances your integrity and reputation. If you say you value quality, but your equipment is old or your product falls apart, then quality is not a value you truly hold and it will be evident. If you say you value your employees, but you treat them poorly, then you will lose their respect and their work will deteriorate because of your inability to show you value their work. Lead well with clear values and live by them.
- Open your door: When you have an open door to your staff, no matter what level they are, you open yourself up to a more trusting relationship. When your staff or customers know they can contact their boss, there is a sense of security. Allow people to connect with you. Do not be an untouchable ruler. I met a leader of a major non-profit who gave out a business card with all of his information. I asked him if he was ever worried about receiving angry phone calls. He replied, “At least I would know and I can fix it. Sometimes, people just need to be heard, and who better to listen than the president.” I respected that and I am sure his customers and staff did too.
- Value your people: Despite what that might sound like, valuing your people includes customers and staff. Sometimes, leaders tend to care more about the customers because they are the people bringing in the money and the staff get mediocre care. Then, there’s leaders who will care more about the staff, but provide poor customer service. When we value all of our people, then our businesses will thrive. Provide incentives for staff, listen to their concerns, celebrate their success, and give them opportunities to move up. We need to go above and beyond in customer service. We cannot ignore customer concerns and respond to their comments. It doesn’t mean we have to do everything they suggest, but we do need to listen to their thoughts. That shows value and we need to show we care.
- Encourage ownership: When leaders allow their staff to own their positions, they are empowered and encouraged to do their best. I loved working the fry station. I was given clear expectations, but I was given freedom on how to accomplish the task. We had time goals to move cars in the drive-thru, and many times, fries were the hold up. I prided myself in making sure I had the right amount of fries ready and having fun while doing it. I would sing songs, say hi to everyone, and tried to be friendly (although I know I had bad days and failed at that), but I owned the fry station. I was encouraged to. That made me feel like I had a role of value and purpose. I did it to the best of my ability. I also saw others owning what they were encouraged to own. I took pride in my store and would take offense when people put it down. It was like I owned the store. We should encourage our staff to own what they are doing, so they take pride in where they are.
If you didn’t notice, the four ways are an acronym. What should move us in our leadership?
We should love our neighbors, our staff and customers are included in that. We should love our work so much that we stress a system of values. We should love our staff so much that they know they are valued and empowered to own the work.
Love should be the motive in everything that we do.
When customers feel loved, they come back. When employees feel loved, they don’t want to leave.
I wouldn’t have left IN-N-OUT when I did if it wasn’t for leaving to West Virginia. I wish they were here or I could own a franchise here, but they’re family owned and they won’t budge.
May we lead well in love. May we lead with values, open ourselves up, value our people, and encourage ownership.
Perhaps, business owners who are Christian will see their reputation increase for God’s glory.
Peace and blessings friends.
QUESTION: What are some leadership qualities you learned from your first job?