One of my favorite boss's of all time Mike Jenkins taught me a great deal about business and life.

Mike was big guy towering over 6'3" and the size of a linebacker with a deep booming voice. If Mike was in the room you knew it. He was very intimidating when you first met him.He was brought in to turn around Diedrich Coffee and Gloria Jeans where I was VP of Development. 

Now Mike was not new to fixing what was broken with a company since he had just finished taking Boston Market through bankruptcy and selling it to McDonald's.  Before Diedrich and Boston Market Mike had been at Steak & Ale, Bob's Big Boy, T.G.I. Friday's, Metromedia Steakhouses, El Chico Restaurants and Vicorp Restaurants. 

He started as a waiter at Steak & Ale. And he probably got great tips given his physical stature and presence. I would have tipped a guy like that generously. 

Mike told me his story about fixing Boston Market before selling it to McDonald's.

As Mike described it Boston Market was out of control with food costs and labor too high and sales too low. 

Now his solution seemed very simple. Boston Market was addicted to discounting and thought their competition was McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's, etc...Mike told his team they were wrong and proclaimed that the deep discounting would end. And not only that the big advertising spending was over too.

He got Boston Market back to 3 basics:

1. A focus on customer service;

2. Selling food at a full and fair price, and;

3. Simplifying the menu so the restaurant team could serve great food hot and fast.

The average unit volumes decreased but the units became profitable.

Mike said to me that there's way too much silly talk about strategy when what really matters are the tactics.

What Mike believed was that you take the business one piece at time and look at what's working well and fix or get rid of what isn't.

He told me the biggest challenge weren't the actual fixes. It was getting people to buy into them. He believed if you didn't get the buy in you were inviting failure before you started and doomed.

I remember what got Mike started in telling me his Boston Market stories. You see we had the Orange County Register delivered to the office and every time he saw deep discounted Boston Market free standing inserts it would get him going that the handpicked McDonald's team was going down the wrong path.

Was he right at the time? Well, McDonald's did eventually sell it.

(Mike did great things at Diedrich Coffee too. About 6 weeks into the job there we were faced with being put in the recovery group with Fleet Bank, threatened NASDAQ de-listing and a huge accounting nightmare with an unrealized material loss of close to $17 Million. 

Mike got us together and we got through that too. However that's another story.)

Mike's story ended May 2, 2002 after less than a year's battle with gastric cancer. I miss Mike and I will be forever grateful to have learned from him. He was one of the kindest and best people I've known in my career.



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