As the Owner/Operator of a Chick-fil-A in Delaware, Tim Sweetman knows that his restaurant is more than the breaded, boneless chicken breast between two buttered buns people have come to know and love. Though it is, admittedly, delicious and worthy of such fanfare.
It is also a family-owned business of more than 70 years that strives to be a part of its customers’ lives and the communities in which it serves.
Tim’s very first job at 18 was at Chick-fil-A, so after college and trying his hand at marketing, social media management, and communications, he returned to his family – the Cathy family.
He returned to work for an operator that gave him his first job for three years before being presented with the opportunity to go through the operator selection process in order to become a partner with ‘an incredible organization.’
And, as would be expected, the opportunity came with a lot of work and responsibility.
Tim has a general manager that oversees operations and a team of directors that oversee specific areas of the business, like the front counter, drive-thru, kitchen, and more. Then, there are the managers that oversee the day-to-day and incredible team members – for a staff total of around 80 people.
But Tim was dreaming bigger – and after studying more successful operators, he realized he needed help if he wanted to grow. And the common denominator for those successful operators? Assistants.
“I started seeing that they were simply taking their 40 hours a week and able to double that without putting additional effort in,” he explains. “The other piece was I personally have struggled with staying on top of every small detail while also trying to focus on creating a culture, building an organization.”
Without an assistant, Tim had to focus on everything at once – and things just inevitably slipped through the cracks. And, as Tim admits, some of those things were really important.
Enter: Tammi Kyle, BELAY VA
“I didn’t want to just stay on top of the details,” Tim explains. “I really wanted to be proactive in leading the team [and] creating the culture that we wanted, and then in order to do that, I couldn’t be bogged down in the details. I would say I was spending a ridiculous amount of time in email and not enough time serving my customers, understanding their needs and leading and building my team.”
And that’s where Tammi could alleviate many of the administrative demands on Tim’s time so he could focus on culture, growth and the big picture.
First, it was the emails. The “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails.” Then, it was everything else.
“I assist with email, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, HR, team communication, his personal communication, trip-planning, and appointment-scheduling,” Tammi shares. “I assist with scheduling interviews, contacting those that are interested in having an interview – the whole process. Whether it’s the first interview, second interview, final interview, onboarding, getting them in the system, getting their direct deposit set up, getting their uniforms, I keep in touch with them throughout.”
And with that, Tim’s life changed.
“She was processing all my emails and my life changed,” Tim says. “And I would argue that that’s probably one of the most powerful things that can happen for any leader is to no longer be spending unnecessary time.”
Now, Tim can instead focus on the things that he wants to focus on, like creating stories of care for his team and guests.
“One of the coolest things that she’s been able to help me do is write and send [handwritten notes] out,” Tim shares. “It gives me the opportunity to make sure that nobody’s missed in being encouraged in our organization and those that I meet with.”
“[And] in the midst of COVID, I’m focusing on operations [but] wanted to make sure that we’re taking care of our team. So I asked Tammi to help me find and organize some team member appreciation events – and she’s completely managed them from a distance, start to finish,” Tim says.
“I really enjoy helping him,” Tammi adds. “I love seeing things come to pass. When he’s excited and has the free time, he’s able to sit back and do what an owner-operator should be able to do because he’s not bogged down with the admin tasks.”
And with that, Tim was able to get back to what he loves most: selling chicken.
“What we do is sell chicken. I didn’t get into the business to do administrative work or sit in the office. I got into the business because I wanted to serve people,” Tim says.
But Tim’s not the only one in the Tammi Kyle Fan Club.
“I truly believe my wife would never allow me to not have [Tammi’s] support,” Tim gushes. “And my team has just such an appreciation when they’re able to interact with me and see me as the leader – and not the admin guy. That’s made a big difference.”
“If you hear their heart, you have the ability to [help them] grow into being successful and give the result that they were looking for,” Tammi explains.
“There’ve been so many times that I’ve looked back as a brand new operator, and I still consider myself kind of a rookie,” Tim says. “I just can’t imagine going through some of the challenges of opening a new restaurant without support. I just don’t know how it would’ve made it. I don’t know how I would’ve been able to accomplish it without [her] help.
“Even if it’s just your wife turning to you and saying, ‘I get to see you a lot more than I did before.’ That’s really important.”