Many mythological creatures tell us that two heads, or more, are better than one. Janus of Roman mythology could look both forward and backward with two faces. In the business world, and an eye toward the future and a reverence for lessons of the past create a balance for healthy success. But why stop at two? Many Hindu gods possess multiple heads—the creator, Brahma, has four, and the god of war, Kartikeya, has six.
If it takes four heads to spur creation and six to fight a war, then I ask you, how many heads does it take to run a restaurant? I think many of you might feel like a chicken, not with multiple heads, but it’s one head cut off, as the adage goes. The answer is certainly not one, because folks who do it well are never working alone.
One of the top CEOs in the world, Mark Benioff of Salesforce, announced last August that he needed another head—not in so many words. He announced that the company’s vice chairman and president, Keith Block, would become co-CEO alongside him. He credited the move to the partnership the two had formed over five years of working together at Salesforce, though Benioff told Fortune the two have known each other “forever.” It was a marriage of sorts. “We’ve really grown to be great partners. We wanted to cement that, so we’ve exchanged our vows and now we’re co-CEOs,” Benioff told Fortune.
Benioff’s story before he and Block joined forces is one that many leaders, in the restaurant industry particular but elsewhere, too, will find familiar. While Benioff had announced he was going off the grid before this decision was made—landing on the Galapagos for a summer retreat while his cell phone was shipped to his summer home in Hawaii—the business was still churning. His time off the grid proved to him that he was too busy, according to CNBC, and Block’s appointment came shortly after.
But the strategy is not new, to the restaurant industry or the world. Chipotle has tried its hand at co-CEOs, but the marriage of Montgomery Moran and Steve Ells did not last until death do us part. In full-service restaurants and restaurant groups, such marriages are often not so public. Business partners, while vital, often work completely behind the scenes. But many restaurateurs wouldn’t be here without them. And inside the restaurant structure itself, general managers and assistant managers work together with executive chefs and operations managers to make the whole machine run. This is a world where teamwork is the name of the game. Thinking back to my column from two weeks ago, if you struggle to find balance, perhaps your restaurant just needs another head.