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Thriving in the Tough Times: Lead by Example

This is Part 4 in a series called “Thriving in the Tough Times.” Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Thriving in the Tough Times: Lead by Example

Continuing series on my approach to surviving and thriving in a downturn:

  • Double down on quality
  • Lead by example
  • Serve our people
  • Focus, focus, focus on the customer
  • And remember why we got into this business


As the owner of the business, the way that any downturn or change, or in this case a pandemic, affects you is significantly different than the way an employee sees the situation.  We both care about the future, but my focus is to keep the business healthy and alive and running, and the employee is thinking about survival. I have to make payroll and debt payment; employee has to make rent and car payment. Needless to say, we both have fear and we both want to survive. Question is, how can I best serve my teammates and how can I also make my payments and stay alive?

Bottom line is, the responsibility always comes back to the owner, and without teammates we don’t make it. That being the case, in this current situation it’s imperative to make the employees feel as safe as possible. From providing PPE and distancing, to just being there for them if and when they need to talk. If I am present and available when an employee has concerns, it can help alleviate some of that pressure. When my employee has less pressure, he or she is able to perform better. That’s number 1, be available and be there to serve when they need you.

With PPE in place and all safety measures that you can do in place and with you as a boss who is present and available, the next thing to think about is the actual job at hand. In the case of a Jimmy John’s Sub Shop we have to slice all the veggies fresh each day, bake fresh bread every 4 hours, hand slice and portion all the meats, make the tuna salad and sauces, restock the shelves and then open. It’s a lot to do every morning and the physical labor that it requires is immense because everything is made from scratch. That being the case what can you do as the leader here? Pretty simple:

  1.  Take the toughest tasks for yourself.
  2.  Set the pace as the leader for your teammates to follow, your team will do what you do not what you say, so just embrace it and lead!
  3.  Turn up the music, let the employees rest when they need to, rock the unit with visible leadership, vibe clear positivity, and last, when someone does something above and beyond, catch them doing things right. (When you do this, you will see more of what you think is right).
  4.  This approach trumps any logic, any meeting or any other gimmick.

Moving on to what else we can do as leaders, just remember this, if it was easy everyone would have their own business. It ain’t easy, it’s the hardest thing I ever did in my life, (besides losing 80 lbs in the last 12 months, which has been brutal).

You gotta arrive early and stay late. Employees have to arrive into a positive, clean, bright, shiny, ready to rock environment if you want them to rock. In the tough pandemic, we have to stand out as going above and beyond. When we do this, not only do employees see it and they feel safer and can be more productive, but the customer sees it too.

The trickle-down effect of leaders who lead by example is significantly more powerful than I ever knew. When I learned it and did it, I was able to blow up my average unit volumes. With your leadership, the customers feel the love, they feel the safety and authenticity just like your employees do.

Being a leader is tough, it’s not for everyone. Everything that happens is your fault. You’re the fall guy. But equally rewarding is when we operate this way, the by product is success. Perfection is a journey not a destination. Focus your energy on the process and continually tweak and tune it and I think in 6 months, you will be shocked at how powerful you can be if you embrace what I just shared. Good luck, its tough stuff. Any questions you may have reach out to me at

Time to buckle down and rock it,

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