The Tipping Point
Without the proper team to manage a fast build-out, Mitchell was making so many outside hires that the company didn’t have enough seasoned managers to make sure it was operating within its culture. “The process quickly became fraught with problems,” he says. By the beginning of 2001, Mitchell still had five restaurants to open later that year, and then 9/11 hit.
No Turning Back
The country was gripped with fear and Mitchell’s business plummeted, but he had to forge ahead. “I looked at myself in the mirror and knew I had led us into the mess and now I had to lead us out,” Mitchell says. He reached out to vendors and asked for extended payment terms, telling them the truth—it would take a year for the restaurant group to recover and get current again.
Road to Recovery
In early 2002, Mitchell received a piece of advice that turned his ship around. “Slow down a little bit and narrow your focus,” a mentor told him. “It helped coming from someone on the outside looking in, and I took that to heart.” Mitchell looked hard at the business and got the entire team laser focused on growing the Mitchell’s Fish Market brand, which he sold to Ruth’s Chris in 2008 for $92 million.
- It’s important to challenge your team, but not to their detriment—it will hurt the company, too.
- Be patient with growth. Don’t let overzealousness and aggressiveness cause harm to your company.
- Split the work into teams … so that people’s work can be more focused.