Don’t settle for “Normal”

As a bowling proprietor, are you satisfied with “normal”?

The definition and synonyms of “normal” point to why we should spend less time chasing the “normal” route and attempting to achieve the “normal” outcomes.

“nor-mal” | conforming to a standard, usual, typical or expected.  Synonyms: usual, standard, ordinary customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed. Noun the usual, average or typical state or condition.

Habitual. Conventional. Ordinary. In other words? Boring.

Those synonyms of “normal” are precisely why we, in this industry, have to be on guard against falling into the trap of pursuing the “normal.”

Think about how much time you spend attempting to keep things at your center “normal.” In fact, how often do we get into a rut where we are devoting seven days a week in our endless pursuit of keeping things normal and routine?

We spend countless hours each week speaking to staff, holding staff meetings, writing memos on how to operate our centers. Why? Because we are doing everything we can to keep the status quo and keep things “normal.”

Why is it that we end up spending so much time pursuing the “normal”? The root cause is, in many ways, a positive thing. When we achieve success in our bowling centers, the temptation is to make that success routine. How do we do that? By “normalizing” or “mechanizing” our routines and everything that is working well for us. That tendency is completely understandable, and we all do it.

But when does the pursuit of “normal” and “routine” become a barrier to progress? When we stop innovating. When we stop challenging ourselves to think outside the box. And when we are no longer setting higher goals for ourselves or forcing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. At the end of the day, that is what “normal” is. It’s our comfort zone and it is where we revert back to when we hit a level of success.

The bowling industry today is where it is because innovative proprietors in our field were not satisfied with the norms. At some point, proprietors began challenging themselves to conceptualize their centers as upscale bars and eateries, or as family centers. All of the major innovations we have seen in our industry over the past thirty years are the direct result of a proprietor (or a group of proprietors) ditching the “normal” and pursing what was not just “abnormal,” but, in some cases, actually shocking.

In this regard, the bowling industry is just like any other industry in the United States – whether transportation or telecommunication or digital technology. All of the advancements (think: commercial planes, your cell phone, your iPad) are the result of someone’s idea that “normal” is not good enough.

If you find that your bowling center has plateaued a bit, you may want to consider challenging some of the norms. Do an informal audit of everything at your center. How could you and your employees do things differently to achieve better results? Has anything become so routine that it has a staleness to it?

You will likely find that a fresh perspective on everything – where things are located, how things are presented to customers, how and when you conduct staff meetings – can provide unlimited possibilities for improvements, even in areas you had not previously thought needed improvement.

When it comes to our bowling centers, “normal” is often the enemy. Our challenge as proprietors is to step back and review each aspect of our centers with an eye toward innovation and taking our centers to the next level.

How have you rejected “normal” in your center? Share your story about how you have taken the risk and done something innovative with your center.