Operational efficiency is a mechanism in business that requires a significant amount of upfront mindshare or mental load time. For many entrepreneurs, it can feel so overwhelming to establish these efficiencies that they just simply don’t. Then it costs them. Sometimes in money, other times in personnel or missed milestones, overlooking scalable ways to optimize the business almost always ends in missed opportunities. The sEATz team understands this and sought a proven Chief Operating Officer, Charles Willis, to clear the way. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Charles to pick his brain and ask him how he does it. You’ll want to read this.
Charles graduated from LSU with a computer engineering program degree and later went on to business school in New Orleans. Some time after, he found himself in Houston, having migrated from a smaller engineering firm in Louisiana to a larger one in Houston. It quickly became apparent that Charles has a polished ability to lay out all the pathways for a particular event to happen or play out, assess the impact of each, and then decide which pathway yields the best results. Doing it again and again, he pressed the point that thinking a few steps ahead isn’t a “nice-to-have” but rather, a “must-have” in business. Charles has been a long-time friend and partner of former sEATz CTO and Pinot’s Palette Co-Founder Craig Ceccanti, where together they built Pinot’s Palette from scratch. This is where it gets interesting.
While it’s one thing to build process and protocols that get printed into a handbook, in Pinot’s Palette’s case, all the way down to where the paint, brushes, and canvas are set on the table (to avoid wine spills), Charles talked about the mapping structure he used to lay out a play-by-play for setup, breakdown, and personnel buy-in.
Equating his mapping structure for how to avoid costly mistakes during a paint and wine night to that of a magic trick, we mused over the level of detail that goes into making something so simple that others feel empowered to say “Wow, I could have done that, now that I see how it was done”. To the notion of heavy mental load times or, in other words mindshare, mapping and understanding the impacts of operational efficiencies or worse, inefficiencies, is the hard part. Providing the “wow” factor in the final product is the easy part.
Charles talked at length about something Co-Founder Marshall Law also expressed importance behind, getting the right people for the job. Charles went on to say, “You can train people robotically to do things but in doing it that way, you won’t help them understand the ‘why’, and that breaks down their own personal buy-in, or level of integrity they could otherwise bring to the job [your brand].” He pointed out that after the leaders of the business derisk and optimize the operations, it’s ultimately up to those employees in the business to carry out the mission, signifying that the work doesn’t end until you can get the personnel to buy in like you do. “The goal of actually scaling a business,” as he puts it, “is to work relentlessly to figure out how to keep the integrity of the brand within every employee who works in the company, so that it works the same way when you’re not there, as when you are”. As an obvious sports fan, Charles took the idea of sEATz in much the same way he did his previous business dealings. He brings precision, strength, and efficiency to the sEATz leadership team and the future is a bright one.