Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Are You Willing?

One of the joys of living in a new town is exploring the food scene. Rather than quickly settling into dining at “our favorites,” my husband and I have made it our personal goal to try a new restaurant every two weeks. This fun goal led us to walk in the front door of the Brick Street Cafe in Greenville, SC.

Known for their pecan pie cake (yum, I want some), Brick Street Cafe has been a landmark in downtown Greenville for over 24 years. From the outside it looks like a regular cafe, but the moment you walk in the front entrance you are transported to a different world. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like being in the world of Alice in Wonderland. The colors, textures, memorabilia, vintage furnishings, and the expansive rooms are a sight to see.

We shared a lovely lunch of crab cake “samich”, vegetarian quiche, tomato dill soup, unsweetened iced tea, and what the heck, a slice of their famous sweet potato cake. When the cake came to our table, we realized that we were already pretty full, so we asked for a container to take it home. But then the cake called to us, and we thought, okay, just one bite before we wrap it up to go. You know what happened next: one bite lead to another bite. By the time our server Charity came with the check, the entire cake was, well, completely gone! It’s easy to see how and why Brick Street Cafe has lasted the test to time: outstanding quality, great value, exceptional service, an inspiring and creative environment, and delicious cake!

Ring the Bell

That first impression was only enhanced when I went next door to Stella’s Music Emporium, a vintage shop. We had the good fortune to meet the owner, Sarah Wilson (see photo below). This unique vintage shop captures the imagination and invites you in. I spotted a crazy little novelty bell ringer with the slogan, Ring for Wine. It cracked me up and I just had to buy it for my sister-in-law. But there was no price on the item. So, I asked the store clerk for the price. He rang the bell and waited a second or two, then said, “Well clearly it doesn’t work, so it can’t be that much.” (He was referring to the fact that no one brought him a glass of wine after he rang the bell.) Then he went off to confer with the owner for the asking price of this curious little item. He came back and told me because it didn’t work, the price was only $3.00. What a deal! A great gift served up with a slice of humor and fun. And that’s when the owner of the store (and the restaurant next door) Sarah Wilson came out to say hello. Dressed up in a vintage costume (wish that I had taken a picture of her then), I could tell she was a unique character. I told her of the wonderful dining experience we had at her Brick Street Cafe, and praised our server, Charity, who was outstanding not only in her service, but with her personality, kindness, and conversational skills.

Mentoring Emerging Leaders

That’s when Sarah told me a bit of her philosophy of running a successful business and for hiring, managing and retaining top talent. “Are you willing?” was the leading question she had for job candidates. I was intrigued to understand more of what she meant by that. I asked her if I could stop by and visit with her again with my nephew Adam McAfee who would be visiting me from Atlanta. Adam just graduated from college and has a dream of owning his own restaurant – actually a fleet of food trucks specializing in gourmet tacos and creative cuisine. I wanted to help connect him with successful restauranteurs and chefs who could impart knowledge, wisdom, and insight (and maybe more connections) to help him launch his dream. Sarah said YES!

Sarah’s Recipe for Running a Successful Business

My nephew Adam and I popped by the Brick Street Cafe the next day to spend some more time with Sarah and her colleague Ralph. The two of them shared valuable insights with us on what they know to be true about running a successful restaurant business. Much of what they shared is applicable to other types of organizations as well. How about yours?

  1. People with passion always make the best employees. Beware of candidates who profess that they’ll “do anything” to get the job or opportunity. That’s desperation speaking, not passion, nor true interest, and not even real commitment.
  2. Hire self-motivated people. Employee incentives and rewards don’t really work to sustain motivation long term. Employees are either self-motivated or they are not. They are either willing to do their jobs, or they’re not.
  3. It’s always showtime. The restaurant business is like show business. Every day is a new performance for an ever-changing audience. You must bring your A-game every time.
  4. Be with your people. As a business owner you must spend plenty of time with your customers and staff. Don’t hide all day in your office reviewing the numbers. The true numbers, the numbers that really matter, are sitting at the tables in your restaurant. Pay attention to them.
  5. Perseverance is everything. It’s about doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. “I don’t set goals; I just keep moving. It’s just an uphill climb. It never ends.”
  6. Give them more. Don’t just sell a product or service, create a memorable experience. “This is a break from the battle,” said Ralph. What he meant by this is when customers walk through their door and sit at their tables, it is their job to transport them far away from the battles and stress of daily life, even if just for an hour. That’s what they do. That’s the heart of their business at Brick Street Cafe. 
Here I am with Sarah Wilson, owner of Brick Street Cafe (on the left) in her creative office space. Check out the spirited signs on the fireplace mantel.

Are YOU Ready, Willing and Able?

While you may not be in the restaurant business or food service industry, Sarah’s insights can help us all be more successful in our careers and with our customers/clients. She got me thinking about these additional questions:

  • Are you ready to take charge of your career, invest your own money and time in upgrading your skills and abilities? Will you stop waiting for your manager to tell you what you need to do to better yourself and your future opportunities?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to deliver excellent service and exceed your customer’s expectations? Do you even know what that looks like? Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone and spend more time with your customers? Can you listen well, ask good questions, and learn from your customers, even if you don’t like them?
  • Are you able to effectively solve problems, especially people problems, even if it’s “not your fault?” Can you do this without getting angry, violent, or overly emotional?
  • Are you ready to ask for and receive feedback from your manager, peers, and customers? Are you able to reflect on that feedback, look at yourself objectively, and make the necessary changes in your behavior, style, and performance?
  • Are you willing to experiment with new ideas and to try new approaches? Can you tolerate the risk of failure? Will you embrace the lessons that those failures offer to teach you?
  • Are you able to bring your best self to work every day? Will you push yourself beyond your comfort zone and overcome human laziness to be self-motivated and self-directed? Do you know how to re-engage yourself and stay full present, even if you are bored, disappointed, distracted or annoyed?
  • Are you willing to mentor others who have career dreams and aspirations? Will you take the time to share your knowledge, insight and wisdom with them? Will you lend your social capital and introduce them to others in your network who might be able to help them along their journey?

I invite you to take each one of the above questions and spend ten minutes or more privately journaling your thoughts and answers. Don’t rush off and post it on social media. That might feel good–a rush of instant gratification–but it won’t last long. Becoming truly outstanding in your work requires deep thought, personal reflection, sustained effort, and connection with inspiring leaders like Sarah Wilson who strive to do the same.


Anything Can Be Repaired

In April 2018 my husband and I launched an Airbnb house. As a first time Airbnb host, we quickly figured out what it took to create a positive experience for our guests. Thus far, we have had 58 bookings, with guests visiting our town from all over the United States, Europe and as far away [read more]

Building Peace in the Workplace

I’ll never forget a meeting that I attended with a digital marketing company based in Connecticut. I was meeting with the two partners to discuss the possibilities of joining their team. Within ten minutes of sitting down, I could see the tension between the two partners rise at an alarming rate. At one point they [read more]

Building Peace Into Diversity

I am so proud of my friend and fellow Rotarian, Teresa Miller, for contributing an article to my blog this week. She is one of the most persistent people I know. Her focus on introspection and personal development is inspiring. She also has a huge capacity for and commitment to volunteer leadership and public service. [read more]

The End of Job Security?

After a 35-day partial government shutdown, affecting an estimated 800,000 federal workers and their families, there is hope in sight. Well, at least for 3 more weeks, at which point who knows what is going to happen. Another shutdown? Did you know? This recent 35-day shutdown holds the record for the longest government shut in [read more]

A Puzzling Experience

Last weekend my husband asked me the question, “What are we going to build this weekend?” He was playing off the blog post that I wrote at the beginning of the year – What’s Your Power Word for the Year? We have selected the word BUILD for our power word for 2019. To keep this [read more]

Rejection Resilience

It’s the third week of January and already the windows of new opportunity are opening up. In my case, a door had to be shut before a window could open up. You know where I’m headed with this one. I’m talking about the optimistic expression, “every cloud has a silver lining.” What’s the upside potential of difficult [read more]

Time for a Reorg

Last weekend, my husband and I helped my parents pack up their holiday decorations and get their house back in order. We also wanted to encourage them to put their 2019 Word for the Year into action. They have chosen “Declutter” as their keyword for the year. They have a big house and love to shop, and [read more]

What’s your Power Word for the Year 2019?

It’s my favorite day of the year – New Year’s Day – when all things are fresh and possible. It is a day of reflection on the highlights of the prior year. It is a day to declutter and re-organize my physical and mental space to make room for new ideas. It is a day [read more]

Because you may never know…

You never know whose life you are going to change for the better. You may never hear about the impact your simple acts of kindness have on other people. In the absence of feedback you may start to wonder if it really makes a difference. I’m here to tell you that it does. And that [read more]

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