Put people first and your business will flourish – Lessons from one of the masters!

Let me tell you about one of the Central Alberta employers we provided with an award this year. His name is Thierry Pregliasco and he owns three McDonalds restaurants in Olds and Innisfail. He started off as a business owner in France, very focused on the productivity piece of generating revenue, but during his experience running a restaurant in Guadaloupe began forming his “people first” philosophy as foundational to his business model. At his restaurants in Central Alberta, Thierry is very much loved by his staff. He knows all 80+ of them by name and takes the time to find out tidbits of their lives and interests which he then acts upon. When I first met him outside one of his restaurants, he was giving toys his children had grown out of to one of his employees, and returning a dish from a staff member who had sent home an ethnic delicacy to Thierry’s family.
He fast tracks employees for leadership and provides high potential staff with numerous opportunities to grow and develop. His support ranges from outside training to salary advances to hug or a handshake after a tough day. As an immigrant himself, Thierry knows what it is like to have to uproot yourself and restart from scratch, and he knows firsthand how difficult it is to negotiate cultural differences when you are running a business in a new country.
That’s why Thierry is so focused on attracting, hiring and supporting immigrants to his restaurants and his diverse staff is reflective of this focus. But Thierry’s people focus doesn’t stop at any one group. He thinks daily about how to support and encourage the teens, single parents and senior employees at his businesses and muses over ways to have people work even more effectively across generational differences. His staff loves to work not only for their great boss, but with their diverse colleagues. They frequently mention how great it is to work in a multicultural environment.
Another aspect of Thierry’s people focus is to be constantly coming up with new ways to better serve his customers. When we were taping Thierry’s video interview he was very excited to share with us a new recognition event he was in the process of planning. The gist is that elderly customers who come regularly to McDonalds for a cup of coffee, meet their friends and get to know the staff should be recognized for their contribution to the business and to the atmosphere of the restaurant. So he invited them all to a McDonalds staff party where he recognized them for excellence along with his staff. At that point we had to stop the interview while the crew regained control of our emotions. I had tears in my eyes.
My father is 86 years old and goes to McDonalds a couple of times a week to meet other seniors in his community outside of Edmonton. I can’t imagine how special he would feel if he were recognized like this at his local McDonalds.
So you may say, what difference does it all make to Thierry’s bottom line? What is the ROI on all these “nice” things Thierry does for his staff and his customers? Firstly let me emphasize that Thierry is a very savvy business owner. He is big on making changes based on metrics in all the production aspects of his enterprise and he obsessively tracks sales and marketing trends. But when it comes to supporting people, Thierry does not measure. He just treats them like valuable human beings and regularly shows his interest in and appreciation of things they do. And it certainly has been paying off. His restaurants have consistently been in the top 10 in sales in all of Canada. When you think how many McDonalds restaurants there are in Canada, that is saying a lot.
So what can you as an employer, take away from Thierry’s success?
• Get to know your staff and show them you are interested in them and in their lives with little gestures that matter to them.
• Hire people from a wide variety of demographics and show your appreciation of them all.
• Ask questions from staff and customers to gain insights into how to serve them both better.
• Reflect and focus on the customer experience in new and innovative ways, targeting different demographics each time until you really know them.
• Fast track employees with potential.
• Measure your efforts towards revenue AND show support to people – the two goals are not mutually exclusive.
• Be a “mensch” – an authentic, real human being who cares about others.

I hope you enjoyed this personal insight into one of the 2016 Alberta Global Talent business owners. I certainly learned a lot from him!
To find out more useful employer strategies from local business stars like Thierry, click on our webtool button!

By Marie Gervais, Shift Management,
Primary Consultant for AGT Project March, 2015- March, 2016