October 10, 2022
Article

Marketing: Sometimes you have to throw the business model out (podcast episode #34)

SUMMARY:

Get ideas for pivots, promotions, and people management by listening to episode #34 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had an enlightening conversation with Edithann Ramey, CMO, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

Ramey discussed responding to complaints, time management, and the most transformative lesson in her career.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketing: Sometimes you have to throw the business model out (podcast episode #34)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

When we created a free digital marketing course, Flint McGlaughlin put the focus on the marketer before teaching anything about the marketing, even including The Marketer’s Mindset Checklist to help prepare the marketer.

So, when my latest guest shared this lesson – don’t be the manager you want for yourself; be the manager your people want and need – I had to ask her what her team needed to prepare for successful marketing campaigns.

“When we're all working on one big problem, we do spend a lot of time just making sure that we're vulnerable, that we feel collaborative, that no idea is stupid. Before we even start to think about the guest and what the problem may be, we do spend a lot of time with each other just talking through what a possible challenge is and do you feel like you're working on the things that you can control and just spending some time giving people context before you attack the big problem. It has been very helpful for us.”

This is just one of the lessons you’ll hear from our latest guest – Edithann Ramey, CMO, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. Ramey has managed teams of 40+ and $150 million worth of marketing dollars.

On The Border is a 40-year-old restaurant brand with 115 locations in 29 states and Asia and $361 million in annual revenue. The brand is owned by Argonne Capital Group.

Listen to our conversation using the embedded player below or click through to your preferred audio streaming service.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Ramey that emerged in our discussion:

Sometimes you have to throw the business model out.

While many restaurants struggled amid the pandemic, the team at On The Border quickly utilized the opportunity to drive innovation and advancements, including a new online ordering system, website relaunch, mobile app, new rewards program, team member empowerment, and international growth.

The pandemic had completely decimated On The Border’s on-premise lunch business, causing sales to fall to $9 million. Pivoting to focus on growing catering, Ramey and her team solved for lunch value with combos and advertising programs such as On the Border’s Street Food Menu and Cinco De Mayo specials.

All its dayparts proved positive: Lunch, Dinner and To Go. On The Border’s catering business is now on track to hit $20 million in 2022.

Don’t be the manager you want for yourself; be the manager your people want and need.

Understand your team’s needs and flex your leadership style. Flexing your style will be critical in collaborating with your colleagues, too, according to Ramey.

Pick people you would be friends with outside of work.

You spend too much time with co-workers not to choose allies that you like and appreciate spending time with, Ramey said.

Here is her advice. Pick someone you can stop by and chat about your personal life as well as your professional life with because they are so intertwined. Choose allies who can help you get to the top of your career, by looking out for you, cheering you, and giving you honest feedback. People who help you prepare for meetings, give you feedback post-meeting, and tell you when there is a stain on your shirt.

Stories (with lessons) about the people she made it with

Ramey also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with:

The joy of working in a fast-paced industry.

via Ramey’s father, Ray Velez, a businessman who worked in the airline industry

Ramey’s father inspired her career in a fast-paced industry.

Ditch the “to do” and focus on doing the activities that drive the desired results.

via Wyman T. Roberts, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Brinker International, Inc. and President - Chili's Grill & Bar of Brinker International Inc.

Ramey worked for Roberts at Chili’s prior to On The Border. He inspired Ramey’s mantra, to “do the activities that drive the desired results.” She applies that to her team, to her kids, and to herself.

There are just some things that are great to do, but if they don’t deliver the results you need – don’t do them! Her “to do list” was forever changed, and her ability to focus and deliver results was much improved when she got this advice. 

This approached helped Ramey and her team improve the promotion and delivery of their largest celebration of the year, Cinco de Mayo, after getting 10,000 complaints the previous year.

This year, On The Border advertised, promoted and innovated behind Cinco de Mayo, resulting in the most successful event in the last five years. Sales lift was $1.5 million compared to a typical Thursday. This surge in momentum began in February and is on track to deliver on a goal to be up 9% YOY (year over year).

Build each other up.

via Diane Sanford, Chief People Officer, Local Favorite Restaurants

Until recently, Sanford and Ramey worked together as two power women in On The Border’s C-Suite. She supported Ramey’s initiatives in building up Hispanic women leaders and is an overall great person.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Marketing Careers: Why marketers and media professionals must never lose their wild spark

About this podcast

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.

Transcript

Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a tough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: I just love the satisfaction of checking things off my to do list. For me it's my email inbox. I keep all my to do’s in there, plus all the emails I receive, of course. And when I start with a full inbox and end the day with an empty one, at least a nearly empty one, that's a good day. And you know, this reminds me of something my next guest said in her application.

She talked about the same thing, the idea of like, okay, here's the best career lesson. Don't just focus on that list of activities and getting everything checked off the activities, right. Make sure you do the right activities. It's so much easier to just make a list and check them off. But when you do those right activities, you'll get real success. She's going to share the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories from her impressive career. I'm so glad to welcome Edithann Ramey, the CMO of On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina. Thanks for joining us, Edithann.

Edithann Ramey: Thank you for having me. I can check that off the list that we've done this today. I’ll feel good, too.

Daniel Burstein: And hopefully it's also the right thing to do.

Edithann Ramey: Exactly. Absolutely.

Daniel Burstein: So let's look, I want people to know who I'm talking to,really impressive background here. I'm going to try to fire it off pretty rapidly. Just so people understand, you started NPR working for both Burson-Marsteller and FleishmanHillard. You did Field Marketing at Pizza Hut. You did Brand Marketing at Cadbury Schweppes for the Mott’s Clamato brand. Brand Mareketing at Nokia, you were the Vice President of Marketing at Brinkers International after working for both its Chili's and Maggiano’s Little Italy brands. You were Senior Director of Marketing Brand Extensions at Topgolf, and now you are the Chief Marketing Officer at On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina. So by the way, those are some fun brands you got right there. There are some fun brands.

Edithann Ramey: I love all the brands I work for. It's a lot of people. I mean, who doesn't love food, right? It's been a lot of fun.

Daniel Burstein: Food, fun, food, fun and golf. So you've managed teams of 40 plus. You've managed $150 million worth of marketing dollars. And now if people have never heard of On the Border, In the Border is a 40 year old restaurant brand with 115 locations in 29 states and Asia with $361 million in revenue. The brand is owned by Argon Capital Group.

You're not in Jacksonville, Florida yet, so you got to come here because I hadn't heard of it yet. But when I saw the impressive reach of the brand, I was like, Oh, that's someone we've got to talk to. So what is your day like as CMO for On the Border?

Edithann Ramey: Well, incredibly, no day is the same. You're constantly thinking about one thing, of course, which is driving people in and making sure that they love the food and they love the margaritas and they keep coming back. But every day feels different because there's some days where it's all about the new promotions and programs. Some days it's all about just research and understanding kind of what's going on with the business. And that's what I love about my job, is that while the one objective remains the same, I need to drive sales and traffic and I need to bring people in and delight them. How I do it every day changes and that makes it a lot of fun.

Daniel Burstein: Yes, I like that. You didn't just say bring people in. You said bring people in and delight them and delight because you want them to come back.  So let's take a look at some of the lessons you learned from the things you made in your career. And this first one, because when I think of a restaurant, you know, I think one of the industries that was hit the hardest by COVID, maybe there are a few other that hit hard, but boy, but restaurants were hit really hard. And here's a lesson you learned. We talked about, I'm a planner, so I know this feeling, you're a planner, too. You love that checklist. But sometimes you have to throw the business model out. So how did you learn this? How did you learn to pivot?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah. I mean, the days following the shutdown were some of the darkest, not only personally, but just for our industry. And it almost seemed like all of us thought, are we even going to make it? And what a terrible, dark place to be. And as a planner and as somebody who had the plan and has a plan every year, to not be able to execute the plan just felt insane.

And so I remember being very specific and very thoughtful about what if I thought very differently? What if I stop panicking and think about the levers that I can pull because there's something you can't help. Like you can't help the pandemic, but you can certainly help the fact that you can sell alcohol to go or you can have cool bundles and promotions for to go, Hey, the business has shifted, your business plan has to shift. And it certainly happened then very successfully.

Daniel Burstein: Yes. I see you look at some of the numbers here. You're on-premise lunch business was decimated. You lost $9 million in sales, but you ended up coming out of it with On the Border now has a catering business it’s on track to hit $16 million in 2022. So kind of take us inside of that meeting room. Take us inside this first year, remember it was very fuzzy we didn't know how a hard COVID would be. We didn't how long these shutdowns would be. Kind of take us inside some of your team meetings where you said, okay, hey, people aren't coming in for lunch, but here's how we can get them in for catering. And I imagine, too, that wasn't just marketing, that was working with your peers to actually execute like you can market it all day long, but then now they have to deliver on something new. So what were some of the biggest things you learned from going through that.

Edithann Ramey: You have to really think outside the box, which I know sounds so cliche, but when you've got a plan and you've got a checklist, it's kind of hard to get outside of that, right? So it was throwing some ideas around with the group that we've never thought about before, like, how do you sell alcohol to go, Oh, okay, we'll put in a cup and we'll put a piece of tape on it. Let's be very creative. And then on the catering side, how do you do catering when no one wants to come together? Well, let's get some individualized catering boxes. What if your whole buffet comes all wrapped up in a little box and every person gets their own box with their name on it?

And so as we started to really think about how do we service and how do we deliver On the Border a little bit differently, it was about moving quickly and being able to do some of these things very nimbly. And I think that really helped us succeed. And I, I have to correct you only because I'm proud of it. But as of the last time you and I spoke, the business is now $20 million almost with catering. And it's all because we said who needs this done a little bit differently. So we went after the Marshall’s of the world and the Krogers of the world who were working, who were open, and who needed to feed their teams. And how do we do it a little bit differently so we keep people safe. And it became such a differentiator that it helped us win.

Daniel Burstein: Oh, wow. Nice. Very nice. So that's a kind of great lesson, too, of learning something in COVID that kind of still sticks around. So it sounds like you had the more maybe office workers that were going at lunch and then you said, well, hey, who's still working now and how can we serve them?

Edithann Ramey: Exactly, and they were so grateful for the business that they stayed on even beyond. Hey, they've surviving and thriving, too, but they're grateful for how well we took care of them, but they became our consumers moving forward. And that's been such a gift.

Daniel Burstein: Well, there’s the delight part. I like that. So here's another lesson you said, don't be the manager you want for yourself. Be the manager your people want and need. So how did you learn this lesson?

Edithann Ramey: Well, when I became boss, right. All of a sudden I was going to be the person who managed teams. And I can kind of talk about how we wanted things done. I did it the way I wanted to be treated. I love tons of independence. I love to just work on my own. I don't need a lot of direction and I don't need a lot of validation. I'm not somebody who needs to be told, like the job. But was so fast and furious that people on my team were like, hey, you're so annoying. Like, we need somebody who says, Good job. We need somebody who gives us more direction. Hey, I'm somebody who wants a couple more steps. And very quickly, it was my team that educated me on, hey, I want you to do these things for me so that I can be successful.

And so I learned to adapt my style to others. And it was such a big learning because every time I meet somebody new who's joining my team, I spend some time really getting to know them and how do they like to communicate and how they like to work together? Because it really just makes us so much more successful. Big learn lesson there.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. You know, there's that famous maxim, treat other people how you want to be treated. And I've learned a better maxim is treat other people how they want to be treated, right. Then you have to learn aabouot them to figure that out.

Edithann Ramey: That's that's right. That's the mantra and such a big deal in business.

Daniel Burstein: So let me ask, how do you get your team in the right mindset to create successful marketing and serve the customer, right? Now, I'll give an example. We've got a free digital marketing course and I love how Flint McGlaughlin, he started the course, he didn't just start teaching marketing tactics. He started by focusing on the marketer. We have to focus on ourselves, have to transform ourselves if we're going be able to transform our marketing, created the marketer's mindset checklist, this whole checklist, just to get in the right mindset and the mind frame before we even focus on the customer. So are there any tactics you've found that work well in getting your team in the right mindset to serve customers or maybe it's different for each person on your team?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, I think it probably is a little bit different for everybody. But when we're all working on one big problem, we do spend a lot of time just making sure that we're vulnerable, that we feel collaborative, that no idea is stupid. Like before we even started to think about the guest and what the problem may be, we do spend a lot of time with each other just talking through what a possible challenge is and do you feel like you're working on the things that you can control and just spending some time giving people context before you attack the big problem has been very helpful for us, and in working on kind of the challenges ahead.

Daniel Burstein: And also like when you say this lesson, I think it really applies to customers as well. You know. Just don't manage the way you want to be managed. You manage what people need to be managed. So I'll give you a story from my career. Maybe you've got a story from your career, too, where you've learned that like, Hey, wow, the customer could be very different from me.

So when I started out, I started as a copywriter in an ad agency, and I was writing for these like second, third, fourth homes, ski and ski out homes in Vail Valley,  Bachelor Gulch Village Beaver Creek, and very wealthy, successful people are buying these homes. And I was writing a newspaper ad and the whole concept behind I forgot what it was exactly, but is the idea of, you know, sleeping in and then going to ski.

And so, you know, then my boss came to me and he said, these people are the titans of industry, right? They're up at like, you know, four or five in the morning to see what the markets are doing in Asia, Europe or all this stuff that you're not sleeping in. And to me, it blew my mind. I was fresh out of college where I had very few classes before noon. I thought the whole point of being successful and rich was to sleep in. But I realized, well, wait a minute, I wrote this ad for me. I'm not buying a third home at the ski and ski condo in Bachelor Gulch village. I had to write it for the people I needed to write it for and get into the kind of their head. So if you ever had that experience to that aha. Where it's like, wait a minute, I'm not that customer. The customer is this person who needs this.

Edithann Ramey: Well, I appreciate that you were in college and you're a little bit younger than me. You would think that I would have known this, but I remember working on wine for Chili's that was like, Hey, we don't sell any wine. Wouldn't it be great if we sell wine, between you and I? I must admit, I'm a mega wine drinker. I love my wine. And I thought, well buying everybody else must love it. So we put this whole program together, all these kinds of wine, we're going to bring them in. We put the idea in front of some consumers and they're like, this is the stupidest thing we've ever seen. We only drink Margarita’s at Chili’s. Like, why would you bring wine? And I was so bruised, I was like, why wouldn't you want to drink it if I like to drink it? But it happens all the time.

Actually it's a going to the light. Like sometimes you forget because you put yourself in that seat and you go, Well, if I like this, surely other people will like it. And much like the wine. Very quickly the guest will reject and say, No, that doesn't belong here. You don't have the permission to bring it here and don't be stupid. So I remind myself of the wine all the time whenever a new idea comes, because I really want to bring things that make sense that you want as the guest versus what I need.

Daniel Burstein: That's a good lesson. Yeah. What's right for that brand? Here's another lesson you shared pick people you should be friends with outside of work. So how do you put this lesson into practice when you're hiring, when you're recruiting, when you're just managing your team?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah. I mean, I remember being in a meeting with a whole bunch of people and the person who was leading the meeting said, who here works for somebody they don't like or would you work with people you don't like? And some person was very brave and was like, I work with people I don't like. It's no problem. And then the instructor goes, well, then you must work with somebody you really don't like. And that's kind of sad. And I thought that too, because why would you spend so much time at the office working with others and not like the people that you work with? It adds so much value to your life. So not only do I think about, hey, could I be friends with you outside of the office? But I often think about would I make a 12 hour trip to China sitting next to this guy?

And it doesn't have to be that were the same and it doesn't have to be that we have to be best friends. But I want them to have, at least the people on the team, enough to say if we sat together on a long flight, things to do with me and with the team that feel like are in the same value set, right? Like do you care about the world, do you care about the guests, you care about the brand the same way I do. And so that brings a lot of goodness to the team, a lot of collaborative spirit, because you're working together with people that you like and you want to hang out with. That's always a good thing.

Daniel Burstein: So to me, I think one of the hardest things in marketing is managing creativity, managing that creative process, right? Because, you know, creativity is messy, it's outside the walls, it's all these things. But then you walk into, you know, most corporate headquarters, there's cubicles and four gray walls. And, you know, something I've written before about it's like you can never let your creatives lose that wild spark, right? You always got to remember, no matter. No matter what you've got to work on and you got to give a little bit of wild spark to go a little wild and kind of air it out some. Even if sometimes those things will be rejected, let them air it out some.

So I just wonder, this camaraderie can be great for a team working together. Camaraderie you talk about, do you use it or do you have any tips for managing the creatives specifically and kind of keeping that creativity in there?

Edithann Ramey: I mean, I think you always have to just allow it and let it go free. And then my tip is to always still be grounded on the why, right? It's very easy. Creativity is thrown around so much in marketing and the CFO’s hate it because they think it comes with this price tag that you can't prove out. But the most successful creative moments have been the ones where you've got a lot of cool facts to support it, like here's a trend or here's what I hear about the guest. Here's what I hear about what's coming next or what's happened post-pandemic. And then here's some cool, creative ideas behind it.

I think my advice and what has worked well in my teams is when we ground ourselves in something special, that then leads to the idea, versus being creative for creative sakes, because that just doesn't help and it doesn't give you the desired result. And it all goes back to, hey, don't just take it off, check it off the list, but be very thoughtful about why you're doing it, right?

Daniel Burstein: So how do you find that something special? Do you do consumer research or do maybe testing, focus groups? Do you make your team eat in three different On the Border restaurants across the country every week? Or like how do you how do you find that something special, that kernel for creativity?

Edithann Ramey: There's a little bit of all of the above and if you had any other marketer, they would say the same thing, right? Like, oh, go to the restaurant, go sit and watch it a guest, go read up on what's going on in the industry, listen to the marketing podcast. I will tell you one time one boss told me, hey, you know how you get almost 7000 emails a day from annoying vendors and they write you all this crazy stuff about how are you stuck under a rock, please write me back.

Make it your mission to write back to two. And you will discover such interesting things about what's going on in the industry and what kind of help and support is out there. And you're not going to hire anybody all year but they bring a whole bunch of interesting fact’s. So I do all the above like you said but every so often I pick up the phone and call a new vendor and see what new digital stock or technology they're talking about. Because it really educates me on what's out there and what kind of solutions and solves there are. That was really good advice I never forgot and I still do it to this day.

Daniel Burstein: That's so interesting. So recently we got a letter. Someone mentioned a product in the podcast and we got an email that said, hey, can we share this piece of the podcast? Because you mention our product well. So I think every biz dev guy out there now, every biz dev person is going to share that piece of the podcast and say Edithann Ramey says you should reply to this email. Here’s my Calendly, you should because you're going to get an idea.

Edithann Ramey: You should but don't like to reply to all of them or else you won’t have a job, pick a couple.

Daniel Burstein: The spiked ridges.I like it. So first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from things you made because it's something I think kind of unique we do as marketers, we get to make things. You talked about, you know, making new product offerings during the pandemic. The second half we talk about the people we make them with as you kind of already hinted at. It’s such a collaborative field when the people we make them with are so, so important. Actually the first person you talk about is not someone you worked with per se, but it is your father, Ray Ramey. He was a businessman who worked in the airline industry. And you said from him you learned the joy of working in a fast paced industry. So how did you learn that from your dad?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, and I have to call him out right because he's Ray Valez, because Ramey is a married name, and dad’s going to listening to the podcast. So he's going to want to make sure I call him out right. My dad comes from the hospitality industry and he really was my inspiration for wanting to work with people and wanting to work in the service industry. He was 40 plus years with American Airlines, and he was one of these first people who cared about building teams that are happy because happy teams lead to happy guests, right, lead to happy people that you take care of.

And I remember we would travel together on the airplane, we'd be going somewhere. And one time we were sitting in first class and we had this great flight attendant, like, she just took such good care of us. And on the way out of the plane, my dad pulls her aside. I'm standing kind of off watching him and he gives her a pin like an American Airlines pin. And he said to her, good job, you did really good work today, and I'm grateful for what you did and for taking care of us. And her face was like as if you'd given her a treasure. So I learned much later that it wasn't about the pin, but it was about that moment when you just take a second to thank and recognize. And it's been something I've always wanted to do and think about in my career. But it influenced the way in which I manage teams and look out for people. Just take a moment of recognition and the result is just life changing for someone.

Daniel Burstein: That's beautiful. Are there things that you've done? Sometimes on an off site there will be like someone will get an award or sometimes it's just pulling people aside and giving them a gift card or whether it's giving them a raise or promotion or something. What do you do to kind of find those special moments with your team when they're going above and beyond to really recognize them and make them feel that?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, I think all those tools are great, right? We'll do recognition cards. We'll call people out when they get promoted. I think an easy, quick one is just an email. An email and you copy a whole bunch of people. You would not believe when an email goes out to the organization. I just sent one out for somebody who's with the organization, who's been with the organization for over 21 years, and she started on her birthday and she's been with us 21 years. So I wrote this quick little email about how she turned 21 and she is 21 and how grateful we were for her impact in that she'd to this day made the brand better that when she first started. And she wrote me directly and said that she really been touched by just me remembering and sending out a quick little note. And in this world of virtual recognizing her by including so many people in the communication, it just doesn't take a lot, but it packs in so much.

Daniel Burstein: Well it's noticing that it's actually having your ears perked up to see that. It's not just the thing you do, it's actually noticing and listening for it?

Edithann Ramey: Right.

Daniel Burstein: So I hinted at this in the introduction. One key lesson you mentioned, I think probably it sounds like maybe the most transformative lesson in your career, ditch the To-Do and focus on doing the activities that drive the desired results. And you said you learned it from Wyman T. Roberts, he is the President and Chief Executive Officer and Director of Brinker International Inc. and the President of Chili's Bar and Grill of Brinker International. So how did you learn this from Wyman?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, he recently retired, so we wish him the best. And he was my boss many years ago. Even at that point, he was still very senior and very smart ,and he called me in to do my review first time I'd done something like that with him and so I was very nervous but very excited because I'd done a lot of great work. I had a long list of things that I had accomplished and had taken off my to do list, look at everything I've done.

So I walk in and walk him through it. And at the end of it he goes, yeah, we're still negative. So do you think that all these things that you've done, got the results that we wanted? And I was like, But I, but I did all these things. So yes, but the desired result, we needed to drive positive sales for the year did we get it done? No. Revisit your list and it was so game changing. And like you said at the beginning, it has been the mantra of my life because I see it happen all the time to people. People come in and walk in to see me for their review and they'll say the same thing. And when I talk to them about, hey, what if you redid your list? So it delivers on that one thing you need to get done. What would your list look like?

And inevitably someone takes a pen and they start to scratch things off. Because if you're like that, if you're a planner, even if you're not, if you're just somebody who feels like, here's the things you asked me to do, but I didn't even think about changing the list when we needed to. It happens to all of us. And if  you continue to re edit and edit your list so that you deliver the desired result. You will get there. And it's like I said, game changing.

Daniel Burstein: Well, here's where I think it gets tough. I know it's something I'm guilty of. It's kind of a time management thing, right. So, you know, I heard Seth Godin talk about, I'm going to butcher his quote, but he said, you know, hey, if you got to the end of your day and you got through all those emails and you got through your inbox but you didn't make something beautiful, he’s like, what did you really do?

And I think part of the challenge is, you know, as we focus on the urgent and then you know, we’ve got all these emails, all these little tasks we need to do, all our tasks in the week. But like, how do you find I think it's that time management thing. How do you find that time? Do you just kind of got to pick your head up out of the laptop? You got to pick your team up out of what they're doing and you really got to have that space where you air it out and really try to come up with those new ideas and kind of new ways of thinking about things. Do you have any like time management tricks or advice you've learned to kind of have the time to question that checklist?

Edithann Ramey: This is kind of one of my favorite questions you've asked, because most of the time I tell this story and people are like, oh, wow, okay, I'll go do that. And then I think to myself, I wonder how they're going to do it, because it wasn't easy for me. I had to go back to my desk and be like, How the heck do you rewrite the list? And what do I take on and off? So I actually had to go educate myself on it.

And a couple of tips that I still use to this day is, one, the thing that keeps you up at night on your list, the one that stresses you out the most, put at the top of the list and move the others down. And it's inevitable for humans, there's one or two most of the time, if not all of them. And it can be stupid. It could be the hey, I need to take my clothes to the drycleaner or else I'm not going to have any clothes next week, put it at the top of the list if it’s what's keeping you up at night and you'll feel better and you'll start to conquer the rest.

And then the other, which I wasn't doing at the time, was putting your personal and professional checklist items on the same list. And that would stress me out even more because I have kids and I have a husband, I have this life and then I have the professional one and I was taught to blend them and prioritize them the same, like what are the most critical? And then I felt so much better at the end of the day because I was able to handle some of the ones that were important to me personally and some of the ones that were very important to the business. And I use those tools to kind of help manage. Critical keeping me up at night, important professional and personal. And the list making has gotten better for me. And hopefully with those tips, it will get better for others.

Daniel Burstein: I mean, I like that. I know what your talking about because I think the reason it's hard is there's a mental weight to it, right. Like the some of those tasks, those critical ones. And when you can remove that mental weight. Because as I mentioned with kind of marketer's mindset and the marketer's mindset chuckles, it's kind of all about getting into that right mindset.

The thing we do is hard. So, you know, when you think of careers, I mean some people still have them today, but 100 years ago, 200 years ago, if you worked in a factory and it's like, okay, you go into that factory and you stamp out that, you know, auto body or whatever, and you go in there and you could go in there and you do it, you do it, do as much as you can, and you are like  I feel fulfilled. I stamped out a bunch of auto bodies.

We've got to navigate. Sometimes we've got to do something that hasn't been done at all. And I think maybe this is a good time to talk about, you coming into On the Border. I think you were looking for trying to do something transformative. And I think one kind of point example of that is the Cinco de Mayo, where you lifted sales by a million and a half dollars compared to a typical Thursday, 9% year over year growth from the Cinco de Mayo. So can you kind of take us into and maybe the numbers are higher since we last talked there, too, but can you take us into to some of that as an example of saying, okay, we can't just check off the list, this is how we've done it before. We've got to kind of air it out and see like how can we revisit and rethink about this?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah. And there's a good and sad story behind that success, because when the pandemic is kind of starting to you not be as crazy, right? And people start to open their doors and we open our dining rooms. We didn't open our dining room in time for this. The Cinco de Mayo of the years before, of a couple of years before, and people wanted to celebrate. So they showed up in masses and we were not ready. And in a matter of a day we had 10,000 people write us and complain that we had ruined the holiday.

And I am the President of the brand and others in the brand wrote everybody back and did a lot to win people's business back. But I said to myself, never again. And so much of the success that you talked about with the latest Cinco de Mayo has been building. The last couple of years have been amazing because we learned our lesson. We learned how to manage the people that we have and the inventory that we have and how many people we can get to the restaurant and how much can we sell through online. So all that and how do you manage the flow became very important. We also got a little bit more streamlined in what we offer for the day. Hey, it's going to be these margaritas and these special items and then that's it, and let's just execute that well and then let's go advertise it and talk to people about how we're the headquarters place for Cinco de Mayo.

So, so much of the success from that program came from a disaster. And we really had to dust ourselves off and rethink and redo. And the learning has really yielded some tremendous results. And some of the stuff that we had on our checklist that wasn't driving results are all these promotions and all these deals and all these things that we were doing that just took us away from executing right so that we can deliver on big sales. And when we fixed that, we got better.

Daniel Burstein: I mean, that's beautiful because there are so many times where the smartest things we ever do are from a mistake we've made, right. It's a painful mistake, never making that mistake again. But I just got to ask you, 10,000 complaints, how did you wrap your arms around that? How did you even figure out how to address that? It just seems overwhelming.

Edithann Ramey: It was overwhelming. It took us probably three weeks to get through every single person. But we were committed to talking to every single person. And whenever they wanted a refund, we refunded them. Whenever they said we could make it up to them, we sent them coupons and whenever they just want an apology, we apologized. We did it publicly, you know, through our social channels. But then we did it one on one. It was overwhelming, but we were committed because that's our stronghold, right, it’s the day we own and we were not going to have people not think about us on Cinco de Mayo. So guest recovery is a huge part of marketing and people forget about it a lot. They shouldn't because it really feeds your bucket and brings people back. And in an industry like mine where labor so tight and sometimes we don’t have enough people to make the experience as fantastic as it should be. And sometimes I have to say we're sorry. We are very focused on getting it right.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. That's fantastic. All right. Let's talk about one last lesson here. You said build each other up. You learned it from Diane Sanford, Chief People Officer at Local Favorite Restaurants. So how did you learn this from Diane?

Edithann Ramey: Well, we were the only two senior female leaders within the organization at On the Border and that struck us as silly. Because diverse voices and having all kinds of different people at the table are important. It just brings in different voices. And so she had a tremendous commitment for bringing in and elevating women within the organization.

And I will tell you for a long time, I was so committed to my career that I wasn't as focused on that. And she was the one that said to me, with your background and your experience and the gifted career that you've had, you have got to share your learnings and some of the things you and I talked about today with others so that others can come through and be successful and we can have all these diverse voices within our organization.

And so she and I spent a lot of time with women leaders and developing them and providing content that was appropriate because we thought that at the end of the day, if you felt cared for and you felt heard and you felt understood, you would want to be a part of our culture. And they'll stay and they'll grow. And then more voices would be around the table. And she and I wouldn't be the only ones sitting in the C-suite.

Daniel Burstein: And so you formed like a specific group where you like every quarter, you would you would kind of pick some rising stars. And what would you do with them?

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, she, she spearheaded it and I supported very much so, this idea of bringing in kind of high performing, really talented female leaders within the organizations. Sometimes we did it in person, sometimes we did it virtually. Sometimes it was about just sharing the challenges and stories of running the business every day. Sometimes we would bring in important speakers and talk about other organizations and trends and things that could help them.

And sometimes it was about developing a toolkit, a real understanding of how to be a great leader and how to find your voice and how to lean in. That all made them feel like they were part of something important, and made them more successful at the jobs that they did everyday. Which are not easy, and especially for women in the restaurant industry. It's not easy. So we recognize that and we try to help them make it a little bit better.

Daniel Burstein: Okay. So we've talked about a lot of things, even a lot of qualities of a marketer. If you had to break it down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Edithann Ramey: I mean, you're going to laugh, right? Because you brought it up with the beginning. But I, I still think creativity is at the center of it all. Um, it just has to be very thoughtful and very smart and  very grounded in what the business is. And I think sometimes, and it's happened to me a lot, is people get very wrapped up in the numbers and in the P&L and I get that that's all very important. And how much is it going to cost and what is it going to yield? But don't allow that to keep you from just thinking big and thinking differently.

Some of the greatest moments in my career have been about hey, post-pandemic or hey, the brand was doing great. And then I'm the marketer that shows up and has to work on the comp year to year stuff and what do I do now? How do I think differently? I think that that's the most important thing, is that you never take off that creative hat and constantly be thinking about what else can we do and how can we do it differently? Never have I liked this expression of but we've always done it this way. Oh, it makes my skin crawl. I just don't want to do it. That way. Let's do it differently. Even if it makes people a little crazy and uncomfortable. I don't want to do it like it's always done. I want to do it a little bit differently.

Daniel Burstein: I love that. That's why I got into this industry, right? That's the fun of it.

Edithann Ramey: Yeah, it really is.

Daniel Burstein: Well, thanks so much for your time today Edithann.

Edithann Ramey: Thank you so much for having me. It's a lot of fun talking to you.

Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone who listen. I hope you got a lot of good lessons today.


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