Mother's Day

I love Mother’s Day. It falls at a perfect time of year for me, when all our flowering trees and shrubs are in bloom, the hardy seeds have sprouted in the garden, and I hear from, and sometimes spend real quality time, with my kids.

By Mother’s Day I have received, and drooled over, two Lee Valley gardening catalogues. The local garden centres are open. Most years there is a lift of bagged topsoil on my driveway ready to top up my raised beds. On Mother’s Day, when my daughter Rachel is around, we spend the day moving that topsoil and planting beans, carrots, and the like, and then enjoy an iced tea on the deck. Of course this year I won’t have her help with the topsoil since they live in Kamloops now, but then I didn’t order a lift of topsoil this year either.

After a good day gardening, I go to work at the Star, where we serve many mothers and their families a lovely meal. I really enjoy that part of the day as well, with the happy chatter and beaming moms.

All this focus on mothers has caused me to think about my mother and the legacy she left. She died young, at 67, and suddenly, so I didn’t get all the family stories and recipes I wanted, but she left a less concrete, and more valuable legacy behind. She was a teacher, and delighted in awakening the fire for knowledge in young people. She had a keen mind and a political bent, so we had many interesting discussions about Canadian and American politics. (I can just imagine what she would have to say about the current presidential primary race.) I don’t remember a time when I was not aware of political events – the Suez Canal crisis, Franco’s Spain, the flag debate.

My mother was not a hugger – she was raised by a very proper Victorian grandmother. While positive and supportive, she was not lavish with her praise. She was measured in her opinions and prepared to change her mind given new information. I only saw her cry once, and unfortunately I was the cause of her tears. She was a good mother; she fed and clothed us well, sewed many of our dresses, she taught us about where food comes from and how to darn a sock.

She made sure we wore white gloves and white shoes only between Easter and Labour Day. She inspired our minds and taught us to set our goals high. She forgave us our pecadillos readily and easily, although she often asked the dreaded question, “what do you think you should do?”

Like my mother, I try to be positive and supportive. I try to make well-considered decisions and to show flexibility in my thinking. I enjoy vibrant discussions about a range of topics, and encourage my children to use their brains. I forgive easily. But, I am a hugger. I cry easily and wear my heart on my sleeve. My husband thinks I’m a pushover for a sad story. I’m not really, but I do see the value in kindness.

And now Rachel is a mother. Like my mother, she has a keen mind and is a natural teacher. Like me, she is a hugger. This visible link between generations of mothers makes me cry, and swell with pride.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The three C’s

This year has been a great one for all of us at the Star. Our young cook, Hannah Eiserman, was accepted into the Culinary Institute of Canada. The Food Network recognized us as one of the top ten places to eat at on a cross-Canada road trip. We have had several very favourable magazine articles and great online reviews.

Last Thursday at the Tourism Saskatchewan Awards of Excellence Gala, our cake was well and truly iced, as we won Business of the Year under 20 full-time employees. After thinking about this over the weekend, all I can say is that it is all about people.

Of course, this recognition reflects very well on our team. We have a truly awesome group of people working for us. Their positive attitudes and huge hearts expand my life daily. I can’t say enough good things about them.

But beyond that, I have come up with the three C’s of success.

Customers. Without customer support, none of us would be in business. Whether your customers are the students in your school, the workers you keep safe on a job site, or the people who enjoy your food, customers come first. Customers pay our staff and our bills, and we should all celebrate them every day.

Community. We all belong to many different communities, and are stronger because of it. In the Star’s case, we know the people in Maple Creek make us strong, both through their patronage and support in the restaurant, and through their support of the rest of the community. If we don’t have a strong, flourishing community, we don’t have the ability to flourish ourselves. At the same time, any recognition one of businesses or organization receives reflects on the community as a whole.

Collaboration.  Because our success depends on the success of the community, we have to collaborate with all the other businesses and organizations in the community. This means that while we might be in competition with some local businesses, we need to consider that as friendly competition, not dog-eat-dog, going-in-for-the-kill competitiveness. We have to work together at the committee table and at events. We have to speak well of our competition and celebrate their successes. We have to respect each other’s workforce and forego actively recruiting employees from other businesses.

If we work together, celebrate our successes and keep our standards high, we will all thrive. So while the Star has been recognized lately, the whole community should take that as a feather in our collective cap. Cheers to all of us!

The envelope please

The Star has been fortunate to gain some recognition lately, both provincially as a finalist in the Tourism Saskatchewan’s awards in the category Business of the Year (under 20 employees), and nationally as a Canadian Road Trip Top Ten Hotspot by Food Network Canada. This recognition has set me thinking about awards and their ultimate meaning in a business’s life.

While my first inclination at hearing the news was to turn all Sally Field (“You like me, you really like me!”), I immediately thought about what this would mean to the business and to the community.

Those of us in small towns who own restaurants know how hard a slog it can be to pay the bills and keep our teams together. Add global economic downturns, BSE, floods and cross-border shopping to the mix and you have a recipe for desperate days and sleepless nights. Nerves of steel and good support networks are what keep many of us going.

And then recognition comes knocking, and we think we can breathe a sigh of relief. Now we can relax a bit because customers will flock to our doors and money will roll in, right? Yeah, right.

First of all, any success we enjoy is a result of the efforts of the people who work at the business, and not just the owners. In fact, many times the owners are the least responsible for accolades; they hold the vision but the team carries through on it and works hard to translate it into reality. In our case this holds especially true. Every single member of our team works for the good of our customers, and values customers above everything. Every single member has a job to do and every job is crucial to customer satisfaction.

Second, no business exists in a vacuum. Just as it takes a community to raise a child, it takes a community of supporters to give a business meaning and success. Without our customers, we have no reason to be.

And that brings me to the real cruncher. We have to live up to any public praise we receive. Just as our Trip Advisor reviews define expectations, so does any other recognition we get. And right now, the pressure is definitely on. We have to deliver on the promises inherent in others’ judgement of us. We have to excel.

So, during the next few weeks we are going to be looking at how we can improve, how we can deliver consistent excellence. We are going to expand our frozen dinner business, refine our menu and try to do a much needed dining room facelift before summer. We are going to add members to our team (welcome already to Leslie Lamer!) and make sure we can meet all your expectations.

We are going to continue to support the community of Maple Creek and the Cypress Hills Destination Area, because we realize that we are nothing without the people around us, and what is good for us is also good for our community. By the same token, what is good for the community is also good for us, so we will continue to work with Maple Creek businesses to make sure we are all as good as we can possibly be.

Ultimately, accolades and awards open the door to more collaboration, greater effort and a more committed team. If a local business gets recognition, the spotlight always broadens its focus to include other businesses in the community and the community as a whole. We want to excel because of the community, not in spite of the community. When that is true, everyone wins.