Interviewing Carrie Luxem — the Restaurant Human Resources Expert
I had the opportunity to interview Carrie Luxem, the Restaurant Human Resources Expert.
For a bit of context, i was introduced to Carrie Luxem by Sialo Khan, who forms part of Carrie’s team. I am really grateful to have been able to come across these two wonderful people. Regarding Carrie, i was particularly impressed by her ability to transfer her enthusiasm to other people. Her positive energy is contagious. She has an amazing vision for her team and herself. She is a true leader who challenges the status quo by working hard each day and she leads by example. In this interview we discussed the following topics:
- Carrie Luxem’s background
- Having a strong WHY to have an impact in the world
- Creating a great company culture
- Being an authentic leader
- Employee engagement
- Being an entrepreneur
- Being a consistent performer
- Creating systems and processes to support your ambition
- Carrie Luxem’s new book, Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook
Q1: Could you please tell us more about yourself? Who is Carrie Luxem?
One of my earliest examples of what a passionate and determined work ethic looks like occurred when I was just 10 years old. Around this time, I began helping my father with his small business — a manufacturing facility specializing in tool and die in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. At that impressionable age, each step of business ownership seemed foreign and yet absolutely thrilling. I took in every second and kept a careful eye on my father’s behavior, like the respect with which he treated each customer or the graciousness he wasn’t afraid to verbalize to his employees.
Watching him, I learned the true meaning of entrepreneurship. He ingrained in me the need to demonstrate a dedication to one’s craft, the importance of putting forth your most diligent effort, and the perseverance, honesty, and integrity it takes to own a successful business.
From that day on, I just knew that I would follow in his footsteps, forever chasing that euphoric sense of accomplishment, birthing new ideas, and molding them together into flowing processes.
And so it began. At age 15, I took my first paid position working at the local Dairy Queen. Even though the work was often hot, sticky, and just plain messy, it felt like I had found my place. The management team there had a lasting and significant impact on me, and ultimately, the trajectory of my life and career. This is where the seeds of love for the restaurant industry were planted and where I witnessed how being a truly effective leader and a genuine, caring human being can resonate with a team of employees, regardless of their diverse backgrounds.
Throughout my teens and early twenties, I continued to work in various restaurants and positions, learning a lot about their inner workings, the business side of things, and loads about how to effectively manage people.
In addition to those jobs, I continued to “side hustle” for most of my youth and early adulthood. Nothing illegal though! ;) But I began testing the entrepreneurial waters, stretching my wings and forming small business ventures. From cleaning windows for local restaurants to designing balloon arches for Home Depot to coordinating job fair events to opening a flower shop, I had my share of hits and misses.
In 1997, I moved from my little hometown to Chicago. Wow! What a difference! Thankfully, I quickly found my way, landing positions in the city’s bustling restaurants and nightclubs. Within a year, fate intervened when I crossed paths with Bryant Keil, the visionary behind Potbelly Sandwich Works. At that time, Potbelly had three locations, but Bryant had exciting plans for the company’s future. And needless to say, I wanted in. So in June of 1999, I was brought on as Potbelly’s Director of Human Resources.
For more than a decade, I worked in this amazing role, surrounded by talented teammates and doing the work I love. Through the development and restructuring of Potbelly’s recruiting process and HR functions, those three restaurants bloomed into more than 200 restaurants in ten markets. It was a ridiculously fun adventure.
But after an incredible career with Potbelly, I had a vision of my own — to help restaurateurs learn how to better manage their people, HR systems, and processes. And with that, I founded Restaurant HR Group in 2010.
Everyone gets into this industry for different reasons. But for me, the entire reason I’m in the restaurant HR business — and now branching out into advising and training — comes down to three simple reasons:
1. To make the world a happier place. Yes, I know. It sounds terribly cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Not only do I want to create a happier workplace for my own team, but I also want to extend that to each and every restaurant out there.
2. Because great leadership matters. I believe that effective leadership comes down to building emotional connections with your team, customers, and community. By simply being a stand-up human being, many people find out that they have what it takes to be a great leader. I help employees uncover their leadership traits so they can guide the next generation of restaurants.
3. To create more restaurant success stories. Once you have leadership and systems in place, and a well-planned and unique concept, your odds of success rise exponentially. And with consumers spending nearly half of their food dollars in restaurants, the demand is absolutely there. Together, we can create even more restaurant success stories.
Q2: What is your WHY that drives you each day?
I think that I am the type of person that wants to spread my message throughout the world and impact others in a positive way.
I want to help restaurant owners to grow their business by empowering their staff. I know that I’ll be able to do this by hiring great people who also share the same vision and values as me.
Q3: How do you want to impact the world with your current mission?
While Restaurant HR Group provides the opportunity to partner with owners and operators to handle their day-to-day HR administrative needs, I found there was still something missing.
Restaurateurs were looking for guidance on hot topics such as recruiting crew and managers, creating HR systems, compliance requirements, leadership, and developing a magnetic and lasting company culture.
After hearing about this need for years, CarrieLuxem.com was born.
Through this website and my speaking and advising services, I am on a renewed mission to better inform and educate the restaurant industry in all areas of HR including:
· Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding;
· Culture development and sustainability;
· Safety and loss prevention;
· Payroll and benefits;
· Employee performance management; and
· Termination procedures.
Current and prospective restaurateurs will be able to gain the insights needed to operate a prosperous and thriving business.
Education and training will take place through the use of workshops, webinars, articles, videos, and books. And with a new, exclusive membership model under development, templates, forms, and other pertinent HR documents will be available here soon too.
Q4: What are your plans for 2018?
For 2018, our focus will be on promoting the new book that I’ve written. It’s called Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook.
We’re also going to stay consistent with our content creation. We believe in providing value throughout our different social media pages especially through articles, Linkedin videos and podcasting. We believe that podcasting is an interesting platform for us. We have plans to do a minimum of a podcast each month.
Q5: What are the best practices that a leader should implement to lead his team to bigger goals?
I believe that first of all, people need to be themselves.
Some people are introverted. Some people are extroverted.
I built my company surrounding myself with people who are very different from me.
That’s very important that as a leader you are 100% yourself all the time. Be consistent at what you do.
We’re very consistent. We work very hard and we’re very patient. I have a nice following on Linkedin and we’re working hard to make it larger but it took me years to get to that level. I know that it will take time to grow it in the future.
I think that great leaders focus on very simple and effective communication.
We are living through an information overload era and especially in the world of HR where it’s way too complex and confusing.
I think that people need to be very clear and simplistic in their communication.
No matter what level of success I have, I always focus on improving every day. I have always been like that and I think that this is a great quality for somebody who is leading people.
Q6: It’s all about employee engagement. Without engaged employees, you cannot grow your business. How do you create an amazing company culture?
Everybody’s culture is different. I think that if I have to list some key advices to create an amazing company culture, it would be the following:
1. Putting people first. Caring about each people in your team.
2. Pay well.
3. Offer great benefits.
4. Offer people the opportunities to learn and grow within your company.
5. Have a unique culture. Create your own authentic culture.
I think that leaders must understand that culture isn’t something that you can manufacture.
Culture isn’t what you say it is. The culture is what it is. You have to be transparent and live the culture.
Q7: How did you go about the process of writing this book?
I started working on this book for almost a year ago.
The book is a very simple book. It’s set up like a playbook. There are eleven chapters and the eleven chapters is the entire life cycle of an employee.
It goes from recruiting, hiring, onboarding, leadership and culture to safety and loss prevention…all the way to termination.
I give my perspective on each of these chapters. There is a worksheet at the end of each chapter that is going to help each reader to create their own HR department.
The book is more like a comprehensive resource for HR operators to really help them understand leadership, HR processes, culture, legal risks etc. It will give them a real deep dive into that. It also gives them the tools, the resources, the questions and the right mindset to create their own department.
They basically get instructions for every aspect of HR! It’s going to be used more like a workbook than a straight read. As we always strive to provide more value, readers will be getting a worksheet in the book and added to that we’re also going to link worksheets to my website so that they can regularly go there and obtain updated versions. The worksheets will evolve as the world changes. What you’re doing today to find great people might change in a year because of new platforms, new technologies, new companies etc.
As you may have noticed, I write articles. I like to keep my writing short and simple and the book is exactly the same.
We’re in pre-sale right now. We’re looking to officially launch on the 20th of February 2018.
Q8: Carrie you are doing some amazing things. By what I’ve seen, you have a lot on your plate. How do you handle all the different projects and manage your team by making sure that you are also taking care of yourself?
That’s a great question. Well, I think that it all boils down again to having the right people around you.
I’m all about systems and processes but they don’t work if you don’t have the right people.
As we’re growing, I will need to bring on new people and develop clear processes to facilitate their integration.
However, everything cannot be systemized. Sometimes I have to work early and sometimes I need to work till late. That’s just part of being an entrepreneur and honestly that’s what I love! I don’t want too much structure.
What it’s really exciting for me right now is to hire people that share the same passion and vision as me and my team.
Thank you for reading.
Other relevant resources:
Carrie Luxem Website
Restaurant HR Group Website
Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook Pre-Order Page
When someone Pre-Orders our book, they receive one-month Carrie Luxem Membership FREE ($29.99 value)
Launch Date: February 20, 2018
The Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook is a comprehensive resource designed for operators who want to:
· Understand how dialing in leadership and HR processes outlasts a trendy concept or great location every time;
· Create a culture that attracts the right talent;
· Incorporate onboarding processes that set expectations early and reduce turnover;
· Prioritize relationships with your team and reap the rewards of increased motivation and engagement;
· Identify employees who possess the skillsets to become standout managers and leaders;
· Minimize legal risks associated with OSHA and overtime violations as well as wrongful termination;
· Track employee performance and know when and how to initiate development plans or corrective action; and
· Become an employer of choice and improve your long-term success.
With the Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook, you get play-by-play instructions for every aspect of HR. Add in useful and thought-provoking worksheets, and you’ll be ready for your customized HR game plan to knock it out of the park and fast-track your restaurant’s success.