And Your Name Is?

Posted 02.18.2009

Last weekend I had a long lunch with Ty Neal, a business leader who is also one of my best friends since second grade.  He shared a personal story with me that is a great example of the impact and footprint that leaders can have without even realizing it.  I texted Ty earlier today to get his permission to share the story with you.  He’s good with it, so here it is.

Ty is the co-owner of a very successful brick oven pizza and bistro restaurant called Matchbox.  In five years, he and his partners have built two Matchbox locations in DC – (one in Penn Quarter and another on Capitol Hill) and another in Palm Springs, CA.  With great pizza, awesome mini-burgers and a eclectic wine and beer list, Matchbox is always packed with happy customers.

With success has come rapid growth and the Matchbox team now numbers 250 employees across the three locations.  Ty and his partners are hands-on owners and leaders and are regularly in the restaurants working with the staff and mingling with the guests. For the past month or so, Ty has been talking and working with a new server named Kevin.  Ty’s a friendly guy and interacts with people easily and Kevin is no exception.  The only problem is that his name’s not Kevin, it’s Eric.  Ty told me how embarrassed he was to recently learn that he’d been calling Eric by the wrong name for a month.

“So, Ty told me, I went to him and said, ‘Dude, I’m so sorry, I’ve been calling you Kevin and I found out your name is Eric.   Why didn’t you correct me and tell me the right name?’”  Eric replied, “Well, I figured you’re my boss and I work for you and I didn’t have any place correcting you.  You could have called me whatever you wanted and I would have been OK with that.”

Here’s the leadership footprint moment.  Ty extended his hand to Eric and said, “Eric, my name is Ty and I’m pleased to meet you.  I will never forget your name.  And, while I’m the owner, I’m not your boss.  No one is the boss of you but you.  And please don’t say you work for me.  I work here too and we work with each other.”

Needless to say that made an impression on Eric and now he’s regularly approaching Ty with energetic reports on how things are going and ideas for improving the operation.  Eric came to Matchbox from a well known national restaurant chain and is so happy with his new gig that he’s brought  five more server friends of his from the old place with him to Ty’s place.  Who says it’s hard to find good help?

There are multiple opportunities every day to stop and connect with the people who work with us on our teams.  If you stop and acknowledge the person by making a sincere connection you earn loyalty and passion that can’t be bought.  If you want to see it in action, head over to Matchbox for lunch or dinner and ask for Eric.  Be sure to tell Ty I sent you.