I recently finished watching “The Bear”on Hulu after receiving multiple recommendations from friends. I LOVED it! However, I’d be willing to bet that the reason why I loved this show is likely far different than why most people do. Yes, the actors are phenomenal. Yes, the writing is fabulous. Yes, the music is incredible (PS The Bear has a Spotify playlist). Yes, the scenes filmed in well-known Chicago restaurants, at iconic landmarks, or of Chicago’s beautiful skyline will absolutely make you fall in love over and over again with this city. Yes, you will be mesmerized by the characters’ storylines, and despite their flaws, will fall in love with each of them (for some characters it will take longer). Who wouldn’t like this show for those reasons?
However, I fell in love with this show because I saw a talented, hard working individual, due to a tragic circumstance, inherit a business that he didn’t necessarily want, overcome obstacle after obstacle, to build the business he desired. I suppose this is what happens when you watch a show through the lens of someone who works for an organizational development firm that partners with small to mid-sized businesses. You see the show through the eyes of a business owner who is putting their hopes and dreams, blood, sweat, and tears into the business they own. Most critics of the show will state how very real this show portrays the chaos, struggles, anxieties, and rewards of working in a kitchen. For me, The Bear truly underscored the realistic struggles, as well as the triumphs, of small business ownership. I think it provides a real-life lesson in change management, and the conflicts business owners face when seeking change in their business.
For those reading this who haven’t watched the show, I won’t give away any spoilers, but the gist of the story is this:
Carmen Berzatto (aka Carmy) returns to Chicago to take over his brother's restaurant, The Beef, after his brother takes his own life. Despite the complicated relationship with his brother, Michael, and dealing with the grief of his death, Carmy honors his brother’s wishes and takes over the restaurant. Unlike the New York high-end restaurants Carmy has worked in before, The Beef is dirty and disorganized, and is operating in an inefficient and ineffective manner. In addition, The Beef is behind in taxes, gets temporarily shut down by the health department, and owes $300,000 to Carmy’s (and Michael’s) uncle who loaned Michael the money (and this is just in the first few weeks of taking over the restaurant). Despite all of that, Carmy is determined to turn the restaurant around. He wants to reinvent the menu, and create an organized and efficient kitchen - much like the kitchens of the Michelin star restaurants in which he formerly worked.
Sounds fabulous, right? It does to me, and to Carmy and Syd, but not so much to the current staff who loved Michael’s way of doing things. As Carmy begins to create the change required to make The Beef a well-run restaurant, he is met with resistance, anger, and combativeness by the current staff. They do not want to learn how to make any of the updated menu items nor learn new cooking techniques. They thwart efforts to reorganize the kitchen and resist adopting the new processes Carmy implements to create order. And, they lack respect for the recently hired sous chef, Syd, who was brought in to help Carmy create the change he envisioned for the restaurant. The staff, dealing with their own grief of losing Michael and not seeing value or purpose in these changes, simply want the status quo. Sound familiar to you?
However, despite the resistance of the staff and their own struggles with one another, Carmy and Syd stay the course. New menu items are created. Syd, though bullied by some of the staff, continues to mentor, guide, and teach. The kitchen is pristine; utensils and tools are moved within the kitchen to create better workflows. New commands are taught: hands, behind you.
Little by little, the staff began to see value in the changes. And, wow, did things really begin to improve at the restaurant. One cook recognized his love of baking, ignited by the changes and new leadership at the helm of the restaurant. Another team member, who lacked respect for Syd because despite graduating from a top culinary school lacked practical experience in running a kitchen, began to appreciate the guidance and mentorship she provided. She soon realized she could learn from and improve her culinary skills by working under her. Carmy and Syd invested in their kitchen staff by sending some of them to train with and learn from other renown bakers and top chefs. Through time and patience, the vision Carmy had for the restaurant began to take shape. While there was still stress and chaos in the kitchen, trust and respect prevailed, which led to personal development, increased confidence, and a renewed passion.
Any business owner can relate to this. The struggle between wanting to make changes in the business they know are necessary and knowing change will also bring stress, discomfort, anxiety, and perhaps, lack of trust (at least initially) by their staff is daunting. Oftentimes, business owners can't figure out how they can successfully overcome this struggle, and choose to then forgo the changes that can lead to increased growth and success of the business.
The lesson to be learned in watching The Bear, however, is that if you can get through the initial pain points of change, stay the course, and remain committed to bringing about the change, it can and will happen. It may take time. You may lose an employee or two. You may be met with anger, resentment, and hostility. However, as your team sees the benefits of that change, they will come around. They will begin to trust you and trust the plan. As a result, they become happier, more engaged employees with higher productivity levels and job satisfaction, eventually tapping into their true potential.
The next time you create change in your business, be like Carmy.
Make your change/vision a reality.
If needed, hire someone new or recruit someone on your staff to be your right-hand person in making your vision a reality.
Create a roadmap and timeline for that change.
Lay out the necessary steps and tasks required to make that vision happen.
Stay the course and prepare for the questions, criticism, and resistance you will inevitably receive throughout the process.
Be patient with the staff. Change is hard on everyone.
Give change time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it likely will get worse before it gets better.
Believe in yourself and your plan.
Finally, “let it rip” (and maybe check the tomato cans).
Annette Quick is the author of this month’s blog. As the Client Experience & Operations Manager, Annette has the unique opportunity of touching every Reverie client by overseeing the client onboarding process and ensuring all clients receive the highest level of service throughout their partnership with Reverie. In addition, Annette manages the day-to-day operations for Reverie. As a former business owner herself, Annette has a strong admiration for entrepreneurs and empathizes with the unique journey they face.