Ron Shaich, the 60-year-old CEO and founder of Panera Bread Co., has been managing his business for more than three decades. “I consider myself the Cal Ripken of CEOs,” he jokes. “I’ve been through over 100 quarterly earnings reports, and I’m still playing.”
That kind of stamina takes discipline, and it requires occasionally stepping away — to rest, recuperate, and think about the big picture.
“I go to the beach every Christmas,” Shaich tells Business Insider, “and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.”
The entrepreneur says it’s more than just a thought experiment. He estimates he follows through on 75% of his annual goals.
It’s not an overstatement to say that these yearly strategy sessions have changed Shaich’s life, resulting in major business decisions, like opting to sell off Au Bon Pain units and renaming his company Panera in 1999, and transforming his personal life.
About eight years ago, for example, he decided it was time to get serious about his health. Shaich was in his 50s and had never really exercised.
“I realised if I don’t do it now, I never will,” he says. “I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.”
Shaich takes the same approach to business strategy. “We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years,” he says. “How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to feed the growth monster? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.”
Whether it’s every year or every week, stepping back to gain perspective and re-evaluating your goals and systems for achieving them is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business.
“What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does,” Shaich says. “Because what it does is a byproduct of how it thinks.”
And the same could be said for successful business leaders.
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