“You have to change or we’re leaving.” Those may be some of the most powerful words to hit me as CEO of Tasty Catering. And they’re also ones I am most grateful for two employees having the courage to fire at me in 2005. When Tim and Jamie approached me, it must have felt like confronting a drill sergeant. Would I fire back, or was I ready to listen to the younger generation?
Faced with losing two of our best employees, I had to accept that the “command and control” model was failing me. It may have served my father well in the military, but in 2006, I needed a new approach to engage and inspire the millennial generation that would grow Tasty Catering. With my eyes opened and perspective shifted, I wanted to empower employees. And it started with our culture change.
Handed Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and the responsibility of being part of a team—maybe even the Good to Great Council—each employee was eager to generate the new Tasty Catering core values. And employees continue to be the driving force behind changes in the company, large and small. Within a culture of individual discipline and commitment to core values, each employee is free to make decisions and voice concerns without needing approval from a militant leader.
So maybe I have Tim and Jamie to thank for our employees who take on any challenge with confidence and agility. Mistakes happen. Rarely, but they do. What matters is being able to admit your errors and take action to correct them. Because I was able to do that a decade ago, Tasty Catering has blossomed. Garnering the attention of the media and doctoral candidates, our company has won more than 50 awards. The coveted Forbes Best Small Companies in America award is one reflection of the results that come from an employee-driven culture change that led to a 98% employee engagement rate and a 2% turnover rate.
Since relinquishing the command-and-control model of leadership, I have happier employees and clients. And that is a reason to celebrate! As the 10-year anniversary of revolutionizing our culture, this March was the perfect time to celebrate in a big way. As I wracked my brain for a unique way to reward and engage employees, the Tasty Catering “employees who think and act like owners” (Amy Lichner, Jamie Pritscher and Karen Walter) were already planning a month-long celebration. So I can thank our culture for creating this exceptional employee appreciation event that inspired everyone, myself included.
With great pride, I invite you to read the full Forbes story on our culture change and how the Tasty Catering employee appreciation event came to life.