5 things I learned from my boss

1. Maintain a customer-first mentality

Working in a service industry (and in my case, a cafe) means that without the customers, you don’t really have a business. This requires putting the customers’ needs into consideration before your own, from simple things such as acknowledging and attending to the customer when they require assistance, to making sure that they are getting the best service they can get every single time. There’s nothing worse than a customer who has just spilled their drink and needs help cleaning up while a staff attends to something in the kitchen which is less urgent.

Note that there is a difference between a “customer-first” mentality and a “customer’s always right” mentality. If their request is unreasonable or negatively affecting the business and other customers, well mate, sorry I can’t help you.

2. If it’s not right, don’t serve it

Tying closely with maintaining a customer-first mentality, think about whether you would want to receive the food or drink that was just served. Usually in a cup of coffee, there are two main things: the espresso shot and the milk (and maybe sugar). If the espresso shot looks like it’s going to taste bad, make a new one. If the milk is over-burnt or doesn’t have the right texture, start all over again. If you’ve added white sugar instead of raw sugar, same thing. The coffee industry is extremely competitive in Australia. You’ll lose a dollar or two as a business, but if the coffee is inconsistent from one day to another, customers know and they’ll find a better alternative.

3. Hire for attitude, then train for skill

In the cafe industry, employees will always come and go. Similarly, there will always be someone looking to temporary work. Not everyone will have the right skills for the job but that’s expected. You can usually judge a person’s attitude and work ethics the first time you work with them, which is why trials are important. If they’re friendly – great. If they’re keen to learn – even better. In fact, my previous boss has told me it’s easier to train someone who’s never worked in a similar role than to teach someone who’s worked elsewhere, since they are bringing old knowledge which may conflict with the existing processes.

Even more importantly, we all want to work with someone with an enjoyable personality.

4. If someone makes a mistake, don’t blame first. Correct it, then learn from it

This is one that requires some patience. Here’s a fact you may not know about: everyone makes mistakes (gasp). No, but seriously, no matter how perfect someone is, they will make a mistake at one point or another – whether it’s getting the orders wrong, accidentally spilling a drink, breaking a glass etc. How you recover from it is even more important. Fix the mistake, clean up, remember what went wrong, and just don’t do it again. Easy.

As a boss, if you put the blame on the employee right away, first it makes them look bad in front of the customers, and secondly, they will just feel worse and might perform even worse. Which leads me to my next learning.

5. Respect and trust your employees and they will reciprocate

Respecting the staff’s needs within reason, whether it’d be a temporary personal issue that requires a leave of absence, or adapting to their likes and dislikes, is important. Above all, there’s nothing better than a boss who is is willing to be hands-off with the operations of the business in his or her trusted staff. Trusting that they have the best intentions in mind and that they will do as they say empowers the employees to do things more diligently and wanting to do a better job.

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