In today’s success-obsessed society, some individuals and companies are afraid of failure. But, as we grow and evolve in our personal and business lives, we realize success is ultimately predicated on learning from our mistakes. Sure, some blunders can be fatal to your career and/or business — and should be avoided at all costs — but undoubtedly the path to success is littered with mistakes.
And, regardless of size or repute, every company falters at some point. Take McDonald’s Restaurants as a classic example. In the ’80s, executives must have thought they’d hit the mark with the introduction of the McRib sandwich, but the associated hype never produced the expected results. Similarly, a few years later, the company experienced less-than-stellar results when it introduced its McPizza product in the late ’80s. And, in the 1960s, in an attempt to introduce a “meatless” product at the company’s Chicago location, founder Ray Kroc learned first-hand that not every new idea is a winner when he tested a cheese-topped grilled pineapple on a bun for customers who didn’t want to eat meat on Friday. Sure, the “vegetarian” idea was innovative, but customers didn’t like it.
Similarly, many of us remember Coca Cola’s less-than-successful debut of a new Coke formula in 1985. The product launch produced such anger from loyal Coke drinkers, who hated the new product so much, that company execs were forced to take it off the shelves, after only 79 days on the market, and bring back the original formula.
While entrepreneurs are natural risk-takers, never really letting the fear of failure hold them back, even when perhaps it sometimes should, most companies are generally risk-averse. Add to that our typical Canadian “cautious” approach, and you can understand why many company execs prefer to remain in their comfort zone. But that’s a mindset currently being challenged by management consultants who believe true innovation can only occur when companies take risks and move into uncharted territory. It’s a reality today’s top franchisors are learning fast as the market becomes more competitive and consumers continue to be more demanding.
This month, in an effort to learn from the failures that make companies stronger, I’m pleased to introduce a new column called “My Best Mistake.” It will appear in the magazine throughout the year and feature various respected industry leaders, ranging from presidents to GMs to executive chefs and suppliers. By sharing some of their mistakes, we hope readers will learn lessons by osmosis, gaining valuable insight along the way. Just as importantly, highlighting their gaffes will show us the human side of seemingly infallible leaders, teaching us, that while mistakes can often be embarrassing and get us into trouble, they also allow us to grow in ways we could never imagine. This month’s featured leader is Robert Bartley, senior director of Food and Beverage (Air Canada Centre) and executive chef for Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment (MLSE) in Toronto. Happy reading.
Foodservice and Hospitality February 2013 Features: