Surely Harry Bond has it all backwards.
He thinks that if operators put employee satisfaction first, guests will come and profits will follow.
At the very least, that way of thinking is unusual in a down economy, when every penny counts. But customers of Monical's Pizza, where Bond has been president since 1993, seem to like it a lot. Sales at the 53-store, Bradley, Ill.-based chain were up 2 percent in 2002, something few companies of comparable size could claim.
The National Restaurant Association likes Bond's way of thinking, too. Its Educational Foundation awarded Monical's its Employer of Choice for full-service family restaurants in 2002.
John Kidwell, director of training and human resources development at 200-store Mazzio's in Tulsa, Okla., said there's no surprise Monical's gets recognized with a leader like Bond.
Harry Bond, President, Monical's Pizza.
"He has such a commonsense approach to leadership; he can take (an initiative) that might be academically overwhelming and convert it to real life," said Kidwell. "Then he puts it to work and becomes tenacious about driving it forward."
Too often, Bond said, operators scream about the industry's turnover problem while doing little to care for the people they want to keep. Management turnover at Monical's is a phenomenal 10 percent. Hourly turnover, however, is 94 percent, just below the restaurant industry average.
"That's not something we're proud of yet," Bond said, "but we're working on it."
Creating a company culture that gives employees incentives and rewards them when they accomplish goals, he said, keeps workers happy.
"You can't just have an environment that says all the time, 'Show me the numbers,' " Bond said. "You've got to give them direction, something to aim for. And when they make that connection, you're going to do a good job serving customers."
Three decades and counting
Hired by Monical's in 1974 as a consultant, Bond was charged to unite under a single system a fragmented group of about a dozen franchisees. A CPA, Bond took over the company's accounting, applied new cost-tracking systems and even wrote some computer software.
"I even ran our internal advertising agency for awhile," Bond said. "It was just a small company trying to turn itself into a larger organization."
As the company reduced its debt, streamlined and grew its operations, Bond bought half the company and became its co-president in 1987. He became its sole president in 1993, when his former partner became a Monical's franchisee. With his company on solid footing, he now wondered how he could steer it toward future growth.
"We started looking at what we could do differently, what we could do to change things to become more profitable," said Bond, who, along with wife, Deborah, owns 30 percent of Monical's; eight owners share the remaining 70 percent. "We knew that if you always do what you always did, you'd always get what you always got. And that's about where we were: doing OK but doing nothing too exciting."
Bond encouraged his leadership team to submit ideas for Monical's improvement. To his surprise, articles from the Harvard Business Review appeared in his mailbox. The stories centered on a business model called the Service Profit Chain (SPC), a theory claiming satisfied employees produce satisfied customers, who become loyal customers and bring revenue to a company.
Bond was intrigued, and again he called on his executives for suggestions on how to apply the theory. For the next three years, the company held team meetings asking what it could do to make Monical's a profitable example of the SPC.
"What was great was that the employees were actually driving the change," Bond said. "It would have been one thing if I would have put Harvard Business Review articles out everywhere and said, 'Do this.' But they wanted it to happen. They saw it could work."
From out of their discussions came four major aims: what the company must do to have great employees; what it must do to attract guests who want to buy Monical's products; what it must do to grow; and what it must do to be profitable.
Those four aims resembled a good business structure, Bond thought, and he suggested everyone on Monical's leadership team choose which of those aims they'd like to work on. In doing so, he said, they assigned themselves to four new teams.
"We thought it would take months and years to get that all set, but it really took only about a week," Bond said. "And the people had designed it themselves. They fell in where they wanted to be, and it's worked out amazingly well."
Daring to challenge conventional thinking is where Bond is at his best, said Joleen Lundgren, who is fellow member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART).
"He's very out of the box, and that challenges me a lot to think outside of the box, too," said Lundgren, senior director of training and development for Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings. "He's someone who's talking constantly about his employee development."
Though Bond said his father, Robert, was never a business executive, he said watching how he lived taught him a lot about dealing with people, lessons he applies today in his presidential role.
"He really liked people ... and was one of those guys who cooked for every volunteer organization in the world," said Bond. "He was a man more comfortable wearing flannel shirts and boots, which is a lot like me, though I spend more time attached to a desk."
Lundgren agrees Bond's no-frills personality is what convinces people he's genuine.
"Harry is just Harry, a real person," she said. "There's not one phony or ulterior-motive-bone in his body."
Further proof that Bond's motives aren't for profit only is his extensive involvement in charitable work. He serves on the board of directors for two hospitals, on the board of a local YMCA, and on the board of the Illinois Tax Foundation. He also teaches Sunday school at a Methodist church to junior high students.
As busy as Bond is with his business and after-hours commitments, Lundgren said he always talks about doing more.
"He's at a point where he's really focused on giving back," she said. "He's really challenged himself to ask, 'What can I do now? What's next for me and how can I add value in people's lives?' "
At 50, Bond said that plan doesn't include retirement, which is really good news, said Kidwell. Not only might his disappearance from the industry change the way Monical's and Mazzio's share best practices ("We're not competitors, so it's OK," Kidwell said), it might reduce the already limited amount of time the two men share.
"We never have as much time together as I'd like," said Kidwell. The two men, along with Lundgren, typically hook up at industry-related events. "We always find at least one free evening where we have a martini, smoke a cigar and solve all the world's problems. Those are good times."