KISS your Management Problems Goodbye

Running a chapter might often feel like an overwhelming and impossible endeavor.  Two articles that I read recently, however, give credence to the notion that the best way to run your chapter might be to KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) it.

They detail the task of running a business; the first features Jerry Murrell discussing the success of his famous burger chain, Five Guys. The second highlights effective management techniques from some of the simplest small business owners: the Amish.

Three especially important techniques to note:

1.  Your best salesman is your customer.  “Treat the person right,” Murrell notes, “and he’ll sell for you.”  Thus, Five Guys boasts a simple decor: they spend their money not on fancy decorations or gimmicks, but on the one product they sell: food.  A valuable lesson for fraternity recruitment: huge recruitment events with all the bells and whistles won’t impress anyone; rather, the conversations and interactions that you have with potential new members selling the values of Sigma Nu will leave the most lasting impression.

2.  Everyone must feel ownership.  The example Murrell uses?  Cleaning bathrooms:

“…it’s definitely not macho to clean a bathroom.  But if the auditor walks in and the bathroom isn’t clean, that crew just lost money.  Next thing he knows, the guy who was supposed to clean the bathroom has toilet paper all over his car…”

If house duties aren’t getting done, don’t keep hounding the one or two individuals who aren’t performing.  Divide the chapter into house duty teams and if one individual fails to do a house duty, his team is penalized.  This creates a sense of shared responsibility and ownership.  Fraternity has never just been about one person.  This idea of ‘getting your hands dirty for the good of the team’ is especially apparent in small business owned by the Amish.  Erik Wesnar, a former sales manager who observed the Amish, noted:

“One thing I heard consistently was ‘I’d never ask an employee to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.’  It’s like a mantra.  They will exhibit that by jumping in sometimes and doing the dirty work.”

In fraternities, we often over-emphasize our ‘earnings.’  With age, we ‘earn’ the right to not do house duties, not attend social events or philanthropic events and, most importantly, we automatically ‘earn’ the respect of younger members simply by virtue of our age.  Any functional organization – fraternity or small business – will demonstrate shared workload by all members, regardless of age or position.

3.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right.  You can’t buy coffee or chicken sandwiches at Five Guys.  Why?  They tried selling those products and neither stuck.  But instead of continuing to sell mediocre products, Five Guys stopped and stuck to selling what they do best: burgers, fries and hot dogs.  What good is a Philanthropy Committee composed of two seniors who never come to chapter meetings?  How effective is a crisis management plan that hasn’t been updated since 2001?  If you can’t effectively implement a new idea or program, wait until you have the resources to do so.  For help in prioritizing your chapter’s needs, perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis, found in the Strategic Planning LEAD session.

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