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Why Thinking Like an Owner is Bad

leadership mindset Dec 24, 2017

If you are a restaurant owner or manager (ugh, I do not like the word manager, however bear with me). You have probably either spoken these words or heard them said to you, “You need to think like an owner!”

Here’s the double edged sword when you hear that statement:

1. Many don’t want to be owners!

Like a lot of things in life, we assume others want what we want. Sorry to burst your bubble, no. Most people don’t want to be an owner (or a manager). If you are a highly driven individual then you have a hard time understanding why others are not driven and want what you want. Here’s a clue: everyone has different wants and desires. I know that’s not groundbreaking news, yet we tend to generalize and group people by the way we see the world.

Have you ever promoted someone thinking that they wanted the new position, only to find out later that they never really wanted it. They most likely took the promotion because they didn’t want to disappoint you. As a leader (not a manager) people will follow your suggestions. That is why being a true leader is so powerful. You must use that responsibility ecologically.

What does ecological leadership mean? It means that the decisions you make must fit all three of these criteria:

  1. It must be good for you.
  2. It must be good for the other person.
  3. It must be good for the guest (or community).

Many get to reason #1 and stop. That is one of the main reasons true leadership is so rare to find in our industry. Many managers just “manage” a shift and never get past what is in it for themselves. In fact, a true leader looks at the three in opposite order. They focus on the guest, the team, and finally themselves. We are hardwired for self preservation and flipping that model on its head is what helps transform a manager into a leader.

2. Most have never been an owner so you are asking them something they cannot truly comprehend. 

Being an owner is not the big party you might think it is. As a restaurant owner in my past I can tell you that if you want to be at the top of your market then it becomes a 24/7 obsession. Even if you are not at your restaurant, you are thinking about your restaurant. When you go to other restaurants your mind is working.

Now obsession is required if you truly want to thrive and not just survive. Most restaurants live in the land of average (mediocrity). Mainly because they are not 100% obsessed with improving.

*That brings me to another topic: 110%. You can’t give more than 100% so please for the love of all that is sacred stop saying you are giving 110%! If most would (or could) just give 80% they would be fucking astonished at the results they get. You only have 100%. Aim for that and you’re on the right track.

Okay, let's get back to the topic....

Saying, “Think like an owner” (especially if the individual had never been a business owner) is like me saying to you: “Think like a fish”!

Have you ever been a fish?

What do fish think about?

How does a fish act?

If you have a puzzled look on your face, then now you understand the same look your staff gives you when you say, “think like an owner”.

If you are an owner you have had experiences that few can truly understand:

  • Working more than you ever imagined (or cared) because you see your goal.
  • Worrying if you are going to be able to cover payroll or that check to a vendor.
  • Wondering what those 3 new restaurants opening a few miles down the road are going to do to your business.
  • You have worked months (maybe even years) without a steady or normal paycheck. 

The list goes on and on. Here’s the thing: you are the owner. You signed up for all of this (whether you knew it or not). You signed the loan papers and the lease agreement. If things go bad, the creditors are coming for you, not your team. Hard for them to think like an owner when they do not have the same level of personal investment you have.

How about this instead? Let’s focus on taking personal accountability.

Everyone can take personal accountability for three things: 

  1. What they focus on.
  2. What they say.
  3. What they do. 


At any given moment you have a couple million bits of information flooding your 5 senses. Everything that happens once that information filters through your brain is on you.

Some take that information and interpret that the world is a cruel, evil place and that people suck. This is called being a victim. The world is working against you and everyone seems to have it out for you. This is a bunch of B.S. or belief systems at work (okay, a little bullshit too). What you expect you tend to get, much like a self fulfilling prophecy. Think your staff is working against you and you’re probably right. It’s funny how people rarely tend to exceed our expectations. 

I asked an owner one time on an initial phone call, “How many people do you have working with you?”

His reply, “About 25%.”

Yikes. All I wanted to know was how many people he had working in his restaurant. I learned a lesson about framing questions that day and how people have their own self fulfilling perceptions.


The one thing people tend to not let go of are the words you say. Words are so powerful and I spend much of my time in coaching clients helping them understand the power of the words that they say (not only to themselves, but to others as well).

Words inspire. Words heal. They also can cause damage. The biggest shift into becoming a true leader is being aware of your word choices. So before you speak run it through this little test (courtesy of Rumi)

Let your words pass through three gates:

  1. Is is true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?

You must answer all three positively before you respond.


You are responsible for what you do. Personal accountability at its core is about taking action and doing exactly what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. Hypocrisy runs rampant in the world alongside its cousin mediocrity. These two travel around and lay siege to all the best intentions and plans people have. 

You must back up those words with solid action. Your words tell me what you say you want. Your actions show me what you are willing to do to get it!

What are you doing right now? Okay, I know you’re reading this blog post. I mean right after this? Are you going to share it and get motivated? How about (right after you share it) you actually get up and take some action that will change you and your restaurant?

Sign up for a webinar to learn something new. Register for that food show that has educational sessions (not just free food samples), buy a book and read it completely. Do something today that your future self would be grateful for.

Restaurants truly change when you stop talking, stop overthinking, and start doing.

Join my tribe BEFORE your competition does!

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