Nikki Hall | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nikki Hall

Background:  

Austin-based HotSchedules provides mobile, cloud-based technology for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. The company serves more than two million users in over 130,000 locations across 26 countries.

The Mistake:

I jumped to conclusions without thoroughly analyzing facts and data.

Earlier in my career, I used a lot of what I called gut feeling or intuition to make decisions. But I learned over time that in some cases, it also makes sense to get more facts. For example, at one point I was in charge of a smaller organization. We used our employee survey data to help us make decisions. We ran the survey every year and made conclusions from the results.

In one case, we had acquired a company and when survived, a certain department indicated they didn’t feel valued or appreciated and felt overworked. So we concluded management wasn’t nice or not not paying attention to the details when it came to employees. We had a hard year. So we told manager they needed to do better. But things weren’t improving.

It wasn’t until we drilled down and gathered additional information and analytics that we discovered that the problem wasn’t that management or leadership wasn’t treating the employees well. Their discontent had more to do with the way the bonus plan was put together for the particular organization.

It took nine to 12 months to figure out that the existing incentive plan was not helping us get end results. We saw a very negative impact in terms of turnover as we figured this out. Once we changed the structure of the plan, the turnover was reduced.

I learned that I needed to gather data and facts before making an initial conclusion. 

The Lesson:

This was a big lesson for me. I learned that I didn’t know everybody and all the details of what was happening. I needed to take the time to gather feedback from people that were on the ground and listen to them. I learned that I needed to gather data and facts before making an initial conclusion. Basically, I learned that data is critical in not just knowledge but in being able to influence others such as senior leaders and board members.

In another case at a different organization, we did an initial employee survey after a merger. We found that the results in the work-life balance area for consultants were not positive at all. Fortunately, this was a team that kept a lot of metrics of where they were spending their time.

After analyzing the data, we realized the consultants were overdelivering to customers. Clients would ask for more things and in an attempt to provide great service, the consultant ended up working a higher volume of hours and this was hurting their work-life balance. We were also giving away revenue. Once we realized this, we changed our model of how we trained consultants and how they responded when asked to do something beyond their original job.

This ultimately helped improve revenue and work-life balance. We could see their stress level go down, engagement scores climbed and revenue improved. I learned that taking a step back in a situation was a game changer for me – that it’s important to think about the data and what it’s telling you. We could not just conclude that we needed to cut hours for the consultants to improve their work-life balance.

This ultimately changed my career in terms of making it much easier to get things done, influence others and get positive impact from employees.

 

Follow HotSchedules on Twitter at @HotSchedules.

Pictured: Nikki Hall. | Photo courtesy HotSchedules.

 

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email jscheibel@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Austin.