Success in business depends on this one thing more than anything else


5.6 min read

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Success in business doesn’t depend on how much money you have or whether your business plan is spot on, it comes from the team you surround yourself with. Over the years I’ve worked with so many great people and achieved so many amazing things with them that just wouldn’t have been possible if I endeavoured them alone. The restaurant business is bloody tough, margins are low and hours are long, and to turn profit it relies on everyone in the team. Take running a kitchen for example…


I got my first job as head chef at only 24-years-old at Hotel CBD (thanks to Mr John Hemmes) and it was the first time I’d ever had to manage a team. It was pretty tough because I was employing guys that were 30 to 35-years-old to work under me and a lot of them showed no respect towards me because they felt they had a lot more experience than I did and were better cooks than me. That may well have been the case but I was head chef and I was there to manage the team as much as anything, so I had to be strong, show some authority and put these guys in their place. Negativity can be a big problem within teams, be it in a kitchen or an office. I believe it only takes one negative or disruptive person to become a bad influence and affect a whole team’s dynamic.

As a manager and a business owner, it’s important to see this and realise how it can affect your business and your team as a whole. When you filter out the unproductive and negative behaviour, people work and communicate better and in turn create a happier more positive space to work in. So my point is; don't be scared of making changes in your team to create a better work space for everyone. While it wasn’t easy managing these guys or letting them go when I needed to, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to run that kitchen solo. I learned so much from Mr John Hemmes about doing business and managing staff.


While the way staff were treated back then is very different to how staff are treated now, I’m a firm believer in being firm but fair. Your team is your business’ biggest competitive advantage so it’s vital leaders look after their staff, and in turn, your business will thrive. As I began building my team at Salt, Bistro Lulu and Moorish, I learned that in order to grow as a leader, it was important for me to surrender my ego and step back so my staff could flourish. And they did. In Salt’s first year we had a turnover of $5.9m, were named Best New Restaurant in the SMH Good Food Guide and given two chef’s hats.

Once you build up a trust with those in your team, my philosophy is to give them as much freedom as possible, otherwise they’ll feel like their suffocating and being micromanaged and will end up leaving to go somewhere else. Giving staff freedom shows your belief in them and creates respect. It also gives them a sense of ownership and pride over their work.

There's also a great saying:

"Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don't want to."

That sort of system has been a huge ingredient in the recipe of my success. I’m also a firm believer of promoting within the company if it’s possible rather than getting in expertise. I already know the strengths and weaknesses of my staff, and I’d rather promote someone I know rather than employ a person I know little or nothing about. Creating this relationship with your team and encouraging work environment makes them want to stay and produce good quality work for you. It also sends a clear message to your staff that they have a future with your company and as your company grows there will be opportunities. It promotes loyal staff who believe in, and are passionate about your product. Besides, you and your team are working almost every day together towards a common goal and that’s to make the business as successful as possible. So, now you can see why success in business depends on your TEAM more than anything else.