There was a period in my life where I thought I was destined to be a chef.
While that didn’t work out, there are a number of lessons I learned from that period of my life that I carry with me to this day.
If you want to unlock your potential and be a leader that people will follow, you must be prepared.
Today, I want to explore how the concept of mise en place, can help you in various aspects of your business. In this post, I’ll be giving you a useful how-to prep guide with tons of resources…right after I serve some tasty context.
The Key is in the Preparation
Mise en place is phrase which means “putting in place” or “gather”. It refers to the setup required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift. (Wikipedia definition)
If you’ve ever watched a professional chef in the kitchen, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. The magic happens as you witness years of training and experience unfold before your eyes. The cooking process flows in a controlled rhythm, with each ingredient added at the proper moment and careful attention placed on every detail. The chef is tuned in to heat, time, texture, flavor, and presentation.
This can only happen when the chef is free from distractions. They must be free to get lost in the moment, immersed in the pursuit of perfection.
But if you want to see the symphony unravel, and bear witness to a more chaotic moment, pull the chef’s focus from the cooking process and make them simultaneously prepare the ingredients they need. Even the best chefs will be more prone to make mistakes when they do not have everything they need for the moment or must divide their attention to things that should’ve been done beforehand. It’s inevitable that something unplanned will alter timing and attention.
Here’s how this applies to business.
Mise En Place for Business
I’ve been working with companies as a consultant for 14 years. Over that period, the number of clients I’ve dealt with who were NOT “building the car while driving it” were greatly outnumbered by those that were.
It seems in this fast paced world of ours that there simply is no time for planning and preparation across any dimension of business.
I really feel for all of the clients I’ve worked with who in defeated exasperation would say “I don’t really know and unfortunately we don’t have the time to figure it out.” To keep with the metaphor of the post, these are chefs who are stuck peeling carrots and chopping onions while simultaneously trying to serve a 5-course tasting menu…while figuring out what’s on the menu.
Do you smell something burning?
Mise en Place for Brand
If you don’t know what your company stands for in this world, why it exists, what it believes, or how to tell that story in a compelling way, you are not ready for anything else.
- How will you market your business if you don’t understand your position in the market?
- How will you sell if you do not understand the deeper problem you solve?
- How will you innovate if you don’t know where you intend to go?
Defining your Brand sets a point on the horizon that you are always moving toward. It allows you to adapt to any circumstance by defining your priorities. It feeds your marketing, sales, culture, and everything else.
If you try to figure this out along the way, you may never find your way. Stop, take a beat, and do the prep work. When you’re prepared, it doesn’t matter what new line of business you start, or what networking event you’re at, or what podcast you get invited on to, you will know what you’re going to say about your work.
Mise en Place for Marketing
- Who are you marketing to?
- Where are you marketing?
- What strengths and weaknesses do you have internally?
- What tools are you using?
- What is our process for executing a campaign?
If you don’t have your tools, your processes or standard operating procedures, or strategy set, you will go wherever the wind takes you. Soon enough, your CFO is dancing on TikTok. Stop it.
When you publish a blog post, create a video, or want to promote a new product or service, you need to have everything in its place.
- You don’t want to be picking an email marketing system when trying to reach your audience.
- You don’t want to be posting that important video on your brand new Youtube channel that you haven’t even setup yet.
- You don’t want to be scrambling to put up a new website AFTER you turn on your lead generation engine.
Do your prep work.
Mise en Place for Sales
You will almost always lose to a competitor who is better prepared.
- If you are scrambling to create a proposal, you’ll lose to the competitor who has delivered it faster.
- If you’re making up your sales pitch as you go along, you will lose to the competitor who understands their value propositions and positioning.
- If you are going back and forth with emails and scheduling, you will lose to the competitor who has a system they control with a click of a button.
Sales is only scaleable and sustainable through proper preparation. You need to know what you sell, for how much, and be able to answer the majority of the prospects questions, or they will go generally where they can get more confidence, expertise, and certainty.
Sales is the cornerstone of your business. Do you prep work so you can cook when it’s time.
I help with all of this and more in my How to Start a Business in One Week email course.
Mise en Place for Productivity
Take off the plastic wrap and remove it from the box and every project management tool looks great. It’s got that new productivity smell. But if you don’t the necessary prep work, it will be moldy and rotten in no time.
I’ve seen the inside of Asana at a lot of different companies, and the unruly chaos that happens inside a productivity system that hasn’t gone through the necessary preparations, cannot be overstated. Knowing what each person needs to see, how the system works, and how you all plan to work together is best decided before you start the work.
When it’s time to work, you don’t want to be figuring out your system for managing the work. You want to be able to rely on the system to be the source of truth, so you can cook.
If you need help with your productivity systems, try Super Productive. It’s a productivity consultancy that I co-founded to get businesses select the right productivity tool and set it up for success. Unlike other companies that do the same thing, we build systems that work for both neurotypical and neurodivergent people.
Mise en Place for Leadership & Culture
What kind of leader do you want to be? Do you plan to figure it out in the moment?
What about your culture? Are you deliberately creating a certain type of environment?
Great Leadership is proactive and thoughtful, rather than reactive and random. If you want to create the kind of culture where people feel cared for, safe, and trusted, it doesn’t happen by accident. “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” right? Well, the truth is, most of those managers, never had any leadership training, and make most of their decisions in the moment, often reacting emotionally.
If you want to be a great leader and build a great culture, stop and think about what that means. Do the prep work to ensure you end up with a beautiful meal.
If you need help with Leadership and Culture, may I suggest you start with my 5-star book The Lovable Leader: How to build great teams with trust, respect, and kindness.
Be Ready for Anything
With the proper amount of prep work, you can calm the chaos. You can be in the moment, calm, cool, collected, and creative. You can be prepared for anything.
I’ve given you some tools and things to think about. Let me know how it goes, and I’m here if you need me.