Buffets, Inc. CEO Anthony Wedo on Turnaround

Buffets, Inc. CEO Anthony Wedo joined the national steak-buffet company during a challenging turnaround period. During his career, Wedo established a successful track record with turning around companies and was a natural fit for the Buffets organization. He shares his tips for how to manage employees and guests during this critical period.

Watch the video at http://chiefchats.com/turnaround/

Q: What are the biggest challenges of leading a turnaround team?

A: There are many challenges, but I think it’s a privilege to lead a turnaround team, because we’re bonding on a mission together. You have to change the culture, and the first thing to change is how the people view themselves. People have been beaten up in a turnaround, because things haven’t gone so well. So, the first thing you want do is reach out to the people. Demonstrate that you care. Demonstrate that you want to hold their hand and pull them up from the ground. Tell them, “We’re going to win. We have hope.” I want to create a clear vision around that hope.  Once hope is established, then you can establish any goals and objectives you like. But hope has to come first.

Q: What type of an organization did you find at Buffets, Inc.?

A: The organization was battered and bruised. It was trying its best. Trying hard to do the right thing. Clearly it was not able to get the traction that we all want. The key is, once we get hope established, then we create thoughtful goals and objectives. We want to take what I call, “step up to success.” We’re going to do it in a very rigorous way where we have goals, and once we reach them, we establish new goals and objectives, and so forth.

Q: How quickly can culture be changed?

A: How quickly a culture can be changed is really dependent on the amount of energy you really want to put into it. The leader has to be ready to work pretty much 24/7. Once I insert the energy and once we create hope, then the next step is creating the proper solutions that will get the outcomes that you want. It’s a big commitment, but you can get quick results. I think one of the things that I feel good about here at Buffets is we are beginning to see that with the organizational changes that we’re making and many other changes we are making reveal that traction its created quickly.

Q: What leadership styles are you applying to the Buffets turnaround?

A: Demonstration leadership. For example, the field folks want to see you and who you are. They want to shake your hand, and get to know you. They also deserve honesty- a thoughtful, sit-down conversation. I meet with store managers to talk with them about their restaurants, tour their restaurants, and develop that relationship that will begin to bring hope to them about our future. The same goes for the functional folks. In regard to our senior team, I spend long hours with them- scrubbing through everything they’ve been thinking about, because they’ve been pushed up against a really difficult situation. I have to let them know that I understand them, what your goals and objectives are, and we talk through it together, so we can build a new plan together. There’s a lot of bonding through demonstration leadership, and a willingness to give your time to interface with people.