Before I started my career at Great Harvest Franchising, I was hired as a sweets baker at the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Kennewick, Washington. They were getting ready for their grand opening and Ian Kidd, the owner of the Duluth, Minnesota bakery, was there to help train the new staff. As we prepared the renowned Savannah Bars, I stood back from my task, looked at the bars, and, blowing escaped strands of hair off of my face, said “Good enough.” Without missing a beat, Ian responded, “We’re not ‘Good Enough Harvest.’” I stepped forward, made the product “Great,” and the admonition has influenced every product I have made since.
In my previous blog, I profiled Samuel Morse and his pursuit of excellence. Excellence is the forceful and intentional absence of mediocrity. Mediocrity is easy. It is accessible. It is swearing to a diet only to hear a knock at the door and be undone by a doe-eyed Girl Scout whose squeaky-voiced plea leaves you with a cupboard full of Thin Mints. But mediocrity will not lead you to moral success.
In school, I was in a leadership class as a member of the Link Crew executive board—a freshman orientation and mentorship program. Senora St. Hilaire (she also taught Spanish, and the moniker stuck) included in her curriculum The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, the young adult-oriented version of Stephen Covey’s bestseller. In the chapter on writing a personal mission statement, Covey provides examples, one of which, “Nothing Less,” was particularly consequential. I was astounded; How succinct! How comprehensive! What a simple evaluation! “Nothing Less” has been a part of my motivation and decision-making process for the past ten years. It has, in effect, become the mission statement that dominates my subconscious and conscious being.
Each of us has a perceived ceiling on the peak of our potential and capability. However, it is only perceived. I am indebted to my MMA coach for teaching me a lesson on the breadth of our capability; he always asked for more. When I thought I was at my limit he would look me in the eye and ask me for more—realizing the false ceilings that we call “our best.” Our perceived “best” is a mirage; a false oasis that our struggle tells us is a haven that will sate and justify our efforts. But it’s not real; the expanse fraught with difficult decisions continues. What lies beyond is the prize:
“Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours."
—Chapter VII ("This Is John Galt Speaking"), Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Mediocrity is the thief of souls; of spirit. Mediocrity whispers in your ear, “That is good enough. It’s not worth the effort. No one will know that you could have done better. It’ll be our secret.” Your mind may find a way to justify mediocrity, but your soul will know. And the “hero in your soul [will] perish.”
The world is fraught with mediocrity. Here at Great Harvest, we aim to break the trend; to bring something extraordinary to our customers. Our wheat goes through an extensive testing process before we select and blend the kernels that are then sent to our stores to be milled in-store, fresh, daily. This ensures the premium texture, flavor, and volume that customers have come to love and expect from their local Great Harvest bakery cafes.
As an owner, how can you combat mediocrity in your store? Embrace the philosophy of “Nothing Less;” set the example and ask the same of your staff. Don’t accept mediocrity; encourage and advise for excellence; look your employees in the eye and ask for more. Challenge yourself to one pursuit of the best within you each day. If you’re going to take the time to do something, take the time to do it right the first time. And, remember: We’re Great Harvest Bread Co.
Want to make something GREAT with us? Bake up success when you open a Great Harvest bakery cafe in one of our future markets:
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Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957. Print.
Covey, Sean. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Fireside, 1998. Print.
Image credit: Hike in Desert by Kamchatka, licensed via Canva.