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Every business has cooks and chefs but have you got the balance right?

04 July 2011

It’s Masterchef season and according to a funny article I read last weekend we are all getting into the kitchen, but only to conjure up the fancy chef dishes. You won’t find the Masterchef generation cooking basic food for the family every day not because we can’t do it, but because it is boring to do so.

There are of course people  - most often Mums but let’s not stereotype here  - who do ‘plate up’ every day for their families. The food is often predictable, rarely exciting but it’s healthy and turns up with awesome regularity every single night.

The every day folk are the cooks, the fancy pants are the chefs; and of course we need both.

In business we have our own equivalent of cooks and chefs.

The chefs are easy to recognize; they are the energetic, enthusiastic people brimming with ideas and strategies. They are the driven ones, clearly on a mission to achieve a goal, but can be difficult to manage because they get easily bored with the day-to-day stuff.

The cooks on the other hand are the quieter more measured types, and they bring to the business the most essential ingredient – discipline. These are the folk that get stuff done, who execute, who do it perfectly. Every day.

Naturally many business founders and owner-CEOs are chefs. The chefs bring the energy and ideas to grow the business but get into trouble when they hire those they most admire – other chefs. A business staffed with chefs is packed with great ideas but often falls down on attention to detail. Commonly such businesses struggle with financial management and quality of product delivery and customer service.

There are plenty of smaller businesses founded and managed by cooks. Cook businesses do what they do very well but rarely progress to be larger businesses. The reason for this is of course is that they spend all their time perfecting the ‘in the business’ stuff and are disinclined to work on strategy. Having a great small business isn’t an issue but if a cook wants to grow their business they need to hire some chefs.

So my suggestion this week is that you think about whether you are a cook or a chef. And when you have done this, take a look at the ratio of cooks to chefs in your business. All great chefs need to surround themselves with cooks, and all good cooks will learn from chefs.

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