Chef or Ingredients? How to Scale, Systematize, and Sustain Success

In a recent conversation with Ken Natori, President of The Natori Company, I gained a valuable insight. We were discussing growing and scaling a business when Ken shared an analogy. He said, “success can come from a chef or the ingredients.”

The analogy is a helpful way to consider an entity’s success. Allow me to explain.

At some point, successful restauranteurs dream of opening other locations. They think to themselves, “What if I had ten restaurants around the city, the country, or the world?”

This thinking makes sense. If you have one prosperous restaurant, what happens with many locations? Think about the returns and the rewards from that. Suddenly you 10x your income and your impact.

The reality is that going from one thriving place to multiple locations is difficult, especially if customers are coming to that restaurant because of the chef. The question these restaurant owners with big dreams need to ask themselves is what Ken shared with me that day. “Is the source of the restaurant’s success the chef or the ingredients?”

Understanding the chef or the ingredients concept was critical to Ken’s ability to scale, systematize, and sustain success in his family’s 45-year-old business. Ken’s mother, Josie, started Natori in 1977, and she remains the powerhouse behind the brand’s design work. Josie is a fantastic chef. People love her designs and are loyal to her product. When Ken joined the company in 2007, his role was to continue expanding and improving the ingredients. He led the company’s transformation into an East-meets-West lifestyle brand across all categories. What was once an intimates company focused solely on high-end department stores is now a multi-brand business distributed across various channels, led by its flagship website,

How does the chef or ingredients idea show up in your world?

You may not be running a restaurant or a fashion house, but your successes are also subject to the same challenge. If the results are a function of one player or leader, it will be nearly impossible to scale, systematize, and sustain success.

This week’s tool presents one key question and shares six ingredients for you to consider. These are your team’s:

  1. Purpose: Is it understood and inspiring?
  2. Priorities: Are they clear and engaging?
  3. Plans: Are they realistic, detailed, and understood?
  4. Talent: Do you have the right skills, knowledge, and abilities?
  5. Systems: Do they help people to get the most important work done?
  6. Processes: Are they documented, followed, and built on the best tools?

I encourage you to fill out the tool, reflect on where you believe the success is coming from, and then look to develop success purposely, not in the chef but in six key ingredients.