One Step Forward

One Step Forward.  The story of the life of Ken Dahlberg, one of the early investors in a little brand called Buffalo Wild Wings, details the account of where the book gained its title. 

He was officially inducted into the United States Army on November 2, 1941.  It was a month before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and pushed America into WWII. 

After six weeks of basic training, he was given orders to the coast artillery at Fort Eustis, Virginia.  One morning at Fort Eustis, Dahlberg and his peers were assembled when the corporal in charge asked for a volunteer to take one step forward.

“We were standing at attention, and were very uncomfortable in our ill-fitting uniforms.  We were making twenty-one dollars a month.  Being unsatisfied where I was at, I took one step forward.”

The corporal barked out again, “Men look at Private Dahlberg.  He’s a leader.  He’s one step ahead of all of you.”

Mr. Dahlberg went on to join the Army Air Force as a cadet in 1942 and was awarded his pilot wings at the end of that year.  He flew P-51 Mustangs during the D-Day invasion and later P-47 Thunderbolts.  He was shot down behind enemy lines three times, escaped twice, but the third time was taken as a POW.  His flying skills allowed him fifteen kills, one of the rare triple aces of the war.  Dahlberg earned the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts and sixteen air medals. 

In 1948, Ken founded Dahlberg Electronics.  A subsidiary of that company was Miracle Ear.  Both companies were sold to Bausch & Lomb in 1993.  Somewhere in between, there’s a little story that ties him to Watergate (the smoking gun), but you will need to research that yourself.  He founded Carefree Capital in 1995, which just happened to invest in Buffalo Wild Wings.  He also was Jim Disbrow’s (BWW co-founder) father-in-law.  Mr. Dahlberg died at age 94 in 2011.  I was privileged to know him.

So why do I tell that story?  Because that is exactly where we are at today as we move beyond the restrictions that have been put in place by our Governor for 55 days and move toward a rolling recovery.  One step forward.

Relationships matter ~ High performers prefer progress over pause; we remain committed to being our best; we use downtime to our advantage, knowing that this is the time to deepen relationships, build new skills, and take one step forward when everyone else is trapped in fear.

We also realize that those we love and those we lead are SEEING our attitude right now. They are seeing and FEELING if we truly practice gratitude, compassion, faith, leadership.

This is our time to show up and demonstrate the remarkable strength, optimism, resilience, and purpose of the human spirit. This is our time to take one step forward.

Remain focused ~ While the environment in which we operate has changed, our mission has not.  Serving great food and beverage with 5 STAR hospitality.  Keep it that simple at the core. 

As our teams begin to return to work at a rapid pace over the next few weeks, our leadership and planning will be tested more than it has the last seven weeks.  The balance of the continued focus on TOGO operations, enforcing social distancing, awareness of the changing requirements of local and state government and getting the buy-in of our team members to promote Feed the Frontline will be met with filling the schedule with training hours, cleaning assignments, organizational projects all while preparing for our dining rooms to open at some level of restriction.  Then it’s an enhanced awareness of guest perception as we provide a safe place as they venture back out.  All the while placing food/alcohol orders, making schedules, managing personalities, following ServSafe guidelines and enforcing responsible alcohol service.

It may feel like a whole lot more…..but it’s one step forward.

Remember to document your path ~ There is no better way to find your destination than to refer to the road map.  If only someone would have called Dora the Explorer.  I’m positive she would have had a map for this.

For most of the business operators in our state and across the nation, the past seven weeks was an overwhelming situation that many could never have imagined.  But if you were alive in 1918, you’ve seen this before.  For many of you reading this message, you remember one year ago, in our own organization, when exposure to a different virus was blown out of proportion by the media and sent our consumer base over the edge in fear.  As it turned out, there wasn’t much of a risk to visit one of our sports bars or restaurants.  However, we are already keenly aware that the pathway back to “normal” is long and winding.  We’ve documented the path.  We have a map.  That’s why when the pandemic hit and the shelter-in place was ordered the leadership at H5H knew exactly where to turn. 

Rest assured that this too shall pass and the consumer confidence will follow a familiar pattern.  It’s gonna be a long journey back.  And remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step forward….and there is no tolerance for two steps back.

As we celebrate Military Appreciation Month in May, I could think of no better tribute than to honor a man that made such a lasting imprint on my life.  Someone that, despite the obstacles, regardless of the potential dangers or pitfalls, even in the face of the unknown, knew what it took to RISE and, when it mattered most Ken Dahlberg took one step forward.