Leadership + People: Episode 42 - Mary Crafts - Part 2 of 2

Mary Crafts, CEO and President of Culinary Crafts – the largest off-premise caterer in Utah, talks about responding to life’s freight trains and how she grew her company to where it is today. Crafts says her business scaled because she developed the core values that meant the most to her and she hasn’t turned back. It’s about knowing your clients, managing them well, and keeping them important.

Show Notes

  • You can’t manage 300 staff alone [01:11]
  • Breaking bread together; sharing lives together [04:25]
  • You cannot scale without systems in place [05:37]
  • We have to learn how to prioritize [08:24]
  • Freight trains; Without a second chance to go back and make it right [11:30]
  • Financial Goals: Mary Crafts’ ’67 black Cutlass & why she didn’t worry about shutting down during the recession [12:50]
  • Integrity is the most powerful tool any business person can have [14:46]
  • Striving for the best, starting with a rutter [16:29]
  • Learn more about Crafts’ podcast [19:59]

Show Audio


Mary Crafts EP.42-18

This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: July 10th, 2018

Show Transcript

[BEGINS] 00:00

Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, senior executives and entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies, and what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.

HOST – JESS LARSEN: This is part two of our episode with Mary Crafts-Homer.

GUEST – MARY CRAFTS: Sometimes it’s a freight train and you don’t get a second chance to create and go back and make it right. And, we don’t like freight trains. So, be looking at the pin pricks of what you need to be doing in your business and get to it.

00:46 JL: So, let’s pick up where we left off on part one. Next question I want to go for is, thinking about 10 timesing a business from 30 staff to 300 staff. What do you feel like are… what do you feel like are the lessons that people who haven’t done it wouldn’t know? Or, you know, what would people who haven’t been through that, what advice would you have for them?

Advice for Those Looking to 100X Their Business

MARY CRAFTS: You can’t do it alone. It’s easy to manage one. It’s easy to manage ten. And, I actually probably even managed 30. But then it becomes hard, and you can’t manage them well. Even at 30, I couldn’t provide the support that every staff needed. The training that each staff needed. The support with their payroll or what kind of health benefits here, and I’ve been doing this job, but no one’s really taken time to train me because I don’t really know how to do it and so, I’m just kind of learning by hit and miss.

Oh, ok! [laughs] And that old adage that you have to spend money to make money is not always true, I will tell you that. But, sometimes it is and you have to be willing to say, “Ok, if I want to have a quality team, I have to be willing to spend money on them.” If that means I drive the same car for the next year, I will do it because adding an extra person on who is just an HR person or just the payroll person, or just the person who’s doing trainings, and maybe you’re a small enough company that you can hire one person you’re lucky that can do it all. But, you have to have help and support. I did it too long all by myself and the team suffered because I was, people would come in and I’d say, “Fill out this application, ok, we’re going to go out on a job tonight, just keep your eyes open.” [laughs] That was it. That was the total training that they received was, “Keep your eyes open, ok!” And you know, I did pretty good. I went probably 25 years of this business by just keep your eyes open. And so, obviously, I did it too long.

But when I did put those systems in place and people came on and now there’s an onboarding sheet that they read about the job before they’re onboarded. And then there’s a post onboarding sheet that they read about the trainings that they’ll be attending and how many, and they need to check them off and meet those things. And now there’s somebody they can talk to all the time about their payroll and those kinds of things. So, sometimes we do have to spend money to support our team and keep them whole.

Break Bread Together, Come Together

MARY CRAFTS: Another thing the team loves to do is just to come together. Come together in trainings, like for example, our team here — Every single person on our staff knows that at lunch time every day, we break and we break bread together. And they can come whether they are on the shift or not and they can be here with us and have lunch with us. It’s just that time where you get to set aside. Sometimes we break for an hour and just laugh and sometimes we break for 10 minutes and then you’re right back at it. It just depends on what the week is for us. But it’s that idea that we are taking time for each other. This act of breaking bread, we laugh about it, we joke about it, we take it for granted, but it literally is a real peace. It’s something that held our society together for centuries around the family dinner table, around the campfire, where you would break bread together. There’s something that happens when people eat and share their lives together. We have lost that in this society. Way too many Blue Apron meals are being delivered and you know, people go out to dinner way too much. I’m as guilty of that as much as the next person, but every Sunday, we stop it and all my family and grandchildren, they come for dinner and mom cooks and we break bread together and that act means a lot. So, I take that to my team. Take opportunity to break bread together. No matter what you’re doing. No matter when you create that whether it’s the morning coffee break or whether it’s the first Saturday of every month you’re planning an activity. Take time… take time for them.

05:12 JL: That’s great advice. So, let’s do another question about expansion. Thinking about customer acquisition — when you start breaking in to the multi-millions, what did you find different or what advice would you have for folks who are trying to reach that, you know, they’re getting big, but they want to get really big?

Organization & Systems: Requirements of Scaling

MARY CRAFTS: Right. It’s, you know, kind of all back to, really it circles back to the same thing: organization and systems. You cannot scale without systems in place. If you don’t have a CRM in place, you lose track of them. I’m like, “Oh yeah, I know that person. Let’s see, we did an event for them in…” You know, seriously. I mean, that was fine for my first ten years. After that, you’ve got to have that database. You’ve got to be able to know who your clients are. And now I mean, I still see most of the emails that come in from people who are calling in, but I visually just see them as I scan them. And every once in awhile, I’ll see one who’s an old client and I will come back on the email and I’ll say, “Oh, Tricia, so good to hear from you. You remember that last event we did?” Blah blah blah and I try to impart a little piece of history back, but for the most part I can’t do that.

Companies that are scaling huge and have huge CRMs, you don’t have that happening. So, there has to be that kind of database that they can reference and say, “Oh ok, we’ve done five events for her previously. They were all high-dollar events. She lives in Park City and she loves beef and pork, but she hates chicken.” I mean, all that’s in there. They can see and so they know how to talk to this woman. The next one pulls up and it says, “Loves us but doesn’t have a lot of budget. Be sure and only pitch her chicken. She doesn’t like to see things that she can’t afford.” Ok. That’s valuable because I no longer have the ability to give everyone the information on every single client that’s ever worked here.

When you go to sell your company, you don’t have anything to sell if you don’t have a CRM, you just don’t. That’s where your money is. It’s right there. It’s all wrapped up into those clients and so, make sure that you’re keeping track of that as you scale up. It’s the best thing you can do to support your whole team, your whole — whether the sales people or whether they’re the actual doer bees, whatever. To have that kind of CRM for people. And people feel so taken care of when people remember things about them. “Oh, I wasn’t here when you did your last event at the Memorial House, but I’ve heard about it. Yes, and they had such a nice time out in the garden.” “Yes, that’s right, how’d you know that?” So for me, that’s one of the biggest things needed for scaling is making sure that you have a way to manage your clients and your customers, and keep them important.

07:56 JL: So, I wanted to talk about this because, you know, sales teams are famous for having a CRM nobody uses. You know, you probably knew you should have had systems before you got around to it. You know, doing all these interviews and talking to all these folks, I feel like I get to relive all my mistakes, interview after interview, right? [laughs] Why do you think so many of us don’t do what we know, or take too long to get around to doing what we know we should have done?

Piles of Priorities

MARY CRAFTS: It’s prioritizing. That’s simply what it is. People think that they have something else that’s more important. And so, invoicing the client is more important than keeping track of the client. Well, clearly that’s so. But, it’s part of the bigger picture, so we have to learn to prioritize. I’ve had things that are sitting over here as you’re sitting here looking at my desk. So, as you can see there are four distinct piles. This is the pile that must be done today. This is the pile that I want to get to this week. This is the pile that has to be done this quarter. Quarter, so I’m stretching it out. That pile over there is a pile that I’ll do when I get to it. Now, how many times do you think I get to that pile? Never! I never make it to that pile ever! And finally, I’ll go through it and be like “Ah, I’ve done that, or throw that away, or that’s ridiculous anymore, or yeah, I need to move that.” But I never make it to that pile because I have things that I’ve put in front of me that are immediate. And sometimes I think it’s important for us to make those kind of lists of what things are the most important for our business to grow? Is it to have a CRM to keep track of our clients so that when I have a new product come out and I want to announce it, I want them to know that Mary now owns wood-fired pizza ovens and you can bring them to your backyard or whatever it is. I have a new piece of software. This is what it is. Click here to watch this demo. Whatever it is you want your old clients to know. And so, you really need to kind of prioritize and realize that those big projects that you’ve been putting off — ah, that whole word, “procrastination” — that you’ve been putting off are probably the ones it’s time to bring front and center.

So, as this system here makes no sense to anyone but me. Just me. But sometimes, even if I don’t get to number three, I will look through number three and say, “Oh! I should have done that because now we’re in a mess!” [laughs] And you have to re-prioritize. It’s not that we don’t know that they’re right, it’s just that we’ve put something else in front of them. And, you have to relook and reevaluate that all the time. What worked for you six months ago may not be working for you today. So, be looking at those priorities all the time. Sometimes unfortunately, it takes a 2×4 — a problem — to get us to take a look, and I will tell you that it is my prayer every day that I will learn by the pin prick. Someone just has to prick me a little bit and I’ll go like, “Oh, ok. I’m paying attention. What is it you need? Ok, I should look at that over there — that’s a problem. I see. I’ll get to that next month.” And when you say that, then sometimes the universe needs a 2×4. “Oh my gosh! Ok, I’m paying attention. I’m paying attention! Ok ok ok, I heard ya, I get that.” And you get a chance to correct.

Sometimes it’s a freight train and you don’t get a second chance to create and go back and make it right, and we don’t like freight trains. So, be looking at the pin pricks of what you need to be doing in your business and get to it! Maybe it means that you work an extra hour every day at your office. Just that. For this next month, tell your family I’m working an extra hour because I’m going to get to that list and I’m going to do it so that when I get those systems in place, I’ll actually be able to — from then on — come home an hour earlier. How about that? Ok, I can live with that. I like that.

Managing Debt & Payments Outright

MARY CRAFTS: When you have financial goals, financial goals are one of the biggest things that I think that people get in trouble with especially in new businesses because once they’re rolling, they’re like, “Ah, arrived have I!” And so, we’re going to get a new house. I’m going to get a new car. It’s okay if I put it on payments. All those kinds of things. And I think that debt is probably one of the biggest things that we don’t manage well in this country, obviously. But we don’t manage it well on the company level or on a personal level. And, when… I live debt free. Completely. My home, my cars. I don’t buy a car until I have the money to buy it. When I first made that decision, it was my first year in business in catering and I was driving a ’67 black Cutlass. I decided I wasn’t going to go out and borrow money for a van, and I was going to drive this until I had enough money. And I saved, we scrimped, patched my pants — all sorts of things — and then I had enough money to not buy a big, beautiful white van, but to buy a used Suburban. That I stripped all the carpet out and took the seats out of and away we went. Then finally, I had enough money to buy a van. And then you save for your next car, and if it means that you’re driving the same car four years longer than you thought you would, get over it! Swallow your pride. It’s alright because then you can be at my age and drive into the dealership and buy your new Mercedes and pay cash because you’ve lived by this principle year after year. The first time you save enough money to buy a car outright — maybe it’s, you know, a used Ford and then it’s this and then it’s that. But the principle applies the same.

Don’t sign up for what you can’t afford. That’s why during the recession here I didn’t worry about shutting down. Catering companies across the country were closing right and left because all their advance corporate business just canceled. Flat out, just said “no.” This happened in the fall. All Christmas parties were canceled. But nobody came to shut me down because I owned my vans. I owned my equipment. I paid for my food as it was brought in. I didn’t have to worry. Sure, we had to pull and tighten the belt and get lean, but I didn’t lay people off and we survived. In fact, we more than survived. What happened was I had people beating down my door offering me discounts to be my vendor because they knew I would pay. They didn’t trust to deliver to anybody else, but they knew I would pay. Integrity, and that level of integrity, is the most powerful tool any business person can have. It will bring them more money than beyond their wildest dreams, to have integrity. Because when the going gets tough, everybody wants you. I was given more discounts to, “Please, let us be your rental company. Please, let us be your food vendor. Please, can we do this for you? Can we be your florist?” Becase they knew 1) I was going to have business, and 2) I was going to pay them.

15:24 JL: You know, we probably have time for maybe one more question here.

MARY CRAFTS: Yeah, give me a question, I just talk, you know, you have to finally give me the “(indistinguishable)…” I thought I was going to have to drag stuff out of this woman. She’s just a chatterbox. [laughs]

15:39 JL: Are you kidding? You make my job easy. K, so, you have a different approach, a different mindset, a different attitude that’s pretty obvious — just being here and just the way you present yourself, the standard you hold your staff to. You know, there’s so many other organizations that, they do a good job. You know, and they legitimately do a good job, and they stay in business for years. It seems like you’ve been able to create an environment of, “Good is not good enough. We’re going to be the best.” And you’ve somehow been able to make that contagious amongst, you know, 300 staff. Any thoughts about people who, they don’t just want to be really good, they want to be the best? Any thoughts?


16:27 JL: Let’s hear them.

Striving For the Best, Starting with a Rutter

MARY CRAFTS: So, starting off, I knew that I had to have a rutter — something that was going to direct my path when the going got rough, that would pre-make the decisions for me. Because I already knew what the decisions were because I had those principles in place. They weren’t principles my parents had given me. They weren’t principles that my church had given me or my community. They were ones that I dug deep for. I read a lot, I thought a lot, spent some time in the mountains, even. And I came up with some very concrete core values for me. It’s like having a pre-decision, something’s prepaid for you and that all things are funneled through them. And for me they were these: Excellence. Everything that I do, I want to bring my very best. Now, not perfectionism. Perfectionism will kill you. But excellence inspires you. And that I knew I was bringing. Integrity. If I didn’t have integrity, I have nothing. I learned that from my dad who was a small businessman in Iowa. He was completely trustworthy. And that’s — I knew what I wanted to do. At the end of my life, I wanted people to say she was… she had more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known. That was so important to me. Three, I wanted to be about abundance — the law of abundance. Not scarcity where I’m afraid I’m going to run out or clutch everything tightly to me like I’m going to lose it. But live with my arms outstretched knowing that I cannot give away all that I have when my arms are like this because I am in the position to be receiving. Not this clutching to everything. I play win-win. What goes around, comes around. I want you to be treated like this, you treat me. I wanted to live my life in this company that way. And the last principle was service. If I could be of service, then I have met my life mission. If you have the commitment to live those kind of values and you funnel all decisions through them, you’re going to have a company and people who surround you who are that way. And you begin to gain a reputation that that’s what you’re about. People want to do business with people who are experts in their field, who are bringing their very best — people they can trust. People who can find joy in service. Our highest award in this company is a batman pin. I wear mine and people see it and they go, “Oh, I love that, that you’re batman. You’ve come to the rescue! I love that!” I go, “Oh, no, no, no. We’re not batman. We’re Alfred. We’re here to serve so that you can shine and have your name in lights.” That’s what determines the success of a company — the rutter that they start with. And, if they didn’t start with it, it’s time to get it. Craft a meaningful life.

19:48 JL: Love it. Well, on those lines, you have an entire show about this. Tell us, if people want to get more of this, tell us where they can look you up on iTunes, or…

MARY CRAFTS: I’ve been doing my podcast now for about five months and when I tell people about that, they go, “Oh, it’s about food should I get my recipe books out?” And I go, “No, no. No, no. I’ve been there, done that. This is not about food. This is about my life lessons and different things that I’ve thought along the way that I wanted to just leave — leave behind me before I left.” And, before I left my company, I wanted to leave it for my grandchildren, for the world, for the woman who doesn’t know how to get up — she’s so strangled with fear, for the businessman who’s failed and doesn’t know how to get back up. I want you to be a champion. I want you to learn how to fall and get right back up, and not be afraid anymore. So to that end, I started the podcast. I’m now in Number 27, so there’s lots to listen to and they’re usually somewhere in that 15-20 minute range. They’re sometimes as short as 13 — not very often. Sometimes they’re as long as 30. But just enough to listen to on your way to work to start your day. They’re pretty uplifting, I have to say! There’s no downers. You won’t go, you know, “Oh, I wish I’d listen to that before I went to bed. Now I’m depressed all day.” No, they’re pretty uplifting and they’re called Crafting a Meaningful Life, so that none of us get to the end of our life and say, “Wow, I regret how I did that.” No regrets. Regret’s the worst of all human emotions because you can’t do anything about it, but rather, joy. Joy that I did my best, always.

21:30 JL: Yeah. Love it. Well, thanks for spending so much time with us.

MARY CRAFTS: You’re welcome! It’s been a pleasure.

21:35 Music Begins. 21:42

Hi, my name is Logan Wilkes and I’m the CEO of Corporate Alliance. A few years ago, I moved to San Diego to build a new market for us there. The biggest deterrent I had to success was I didn’t know a soul. I often thought to myself if I just had a thriving network or influence, this would go 100 times faster. To be honest with you, I had never felt so alone in my life because A) I didn’t have an influence, and B) I didn’t know anyone that was going through the same thing that I was. If you have ever felt like this and you were looking to grow your influence, join us at one of our upcoming events. You can check us out at CorporateAlliance.net and request an invite to one of our upcoming experiences. (22:28)

[ENDS] 22:32