I come from years and years in the small business end of the restaurant industry, where owners tout the title:
“Chef,Owner and Chief Bottle Washer.”
I decided after very little thought and planning, that I would follow in the tradition as a restaurateur and serial entrepreneur, and don the illustrious title when I opened, in succession, a private catering company, then a larger, full-service catering company, and finally, a full.-service casual fine-dining restaurant. I am sure I schmoozed (Pennsylvania Dutch for mashed, smashed, crammed, etc) 20 years of work hours into about eight years. 80 hour work weeks were not uncommon (at least at work!) but a social life was VERY uncommon (outside of work!)
Sure, I have a notch in my hat, memories and a following and being a local celebrity, a bunch of newspaper clippings and a legacy, but not much else to show from it. There is nothing to brag about. There are no additional revenues coming by direction from it. While the sign for the restaurant is still in place, another restaurant is doing just fine in the location. But for all of the hard work, I have to ask myself: was it worth it?
I actually took away a great deal of knowledge and experience, some of which I have included in my (not) five or so things you’ll want to avoid as a business owner:
- I went into the business by myself. Even Frank Sinatra – “Old Blue Eyes” as they called him, had the Rat Pack. While partnership is like a marriage, going at it alone is quite like riding a tandem bike from the back seat by yourself. You just can’t make out too well doing it by yourself – and there is only so far you can go.
(“Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my Way.”)
- I wanted to have the best food at the lowest price! Yeah!! I wanted to be the Wal-Mart or Target of the Restaurant Industry. While it seems to make some sense: if I offer a great product or service at an extremely low price, everyone will want to buy it. I promise you, in most cases, this doesn’t work. Instead, focus on offering a good or great product at an APPROPRIATE price. Everyone cannot be the cost leader!
- I didn’t know myself! What? Even though I had a great skill as a chef (per my clientele!), that knowledge and experience did not make me a great restaurant owner! Even as a good restaurant owner, and could not run the restaurant and prepare all the meals. I couldn’t even do a great job running the kitchen and preparing all of the meals! I hadn’t considered that! I hadn’t planned for that! I thought I could run a 300 seat restaurant with off site catering and two banquet rooms with one restaurant manager! I am a strategist: I come up with innovative systems, strategies and processes. That doesn’t make me an ADMINISTRAIVE PROFESSIONAL!! Go ask my friend, Walter Akana, at Threshold Consulting, where he talks about identifying strengths in one of his blog posts!
- I didn’t identify the resources around me that would have helped to fill some of the holes in the business, such as an ACCOUNTANT!! While I had bankers, lawyers and insurance people, I didn’t leverage their great skill and experience. I didn’t take the time to identify potential investors and start the organization with more cash in the bank. I didn’t connect with a great marketer or have a marketing plan for that matter. I thought that my product was so unique that everybody would just come!! Nine times out of ten, it will never happen.
- I decided to save some money and be the “Chef, Owner and Chief Bottle Washer!” It ended up costing me a lot more this way; I couldn’t adequately monitor the restaurant, I worked long, long hours, I micro-managed the managers that I did hire and frankly, at times I got so tired that I could not produce, and had no backup plan. What would have happened if I’d gotten sick for a couple of weeks??
It all comes down to this. Think about it: when you are planning your business, you want to plan it for success. This means that you need to put the time into the planning stages and get a good understanding, not only of who YOU are and what YOU bring to the table, but what DEFICITS you bring to the table and how to address them. One of the biggest challenges I see for the serial entrepreneur is bookkeeping and payroll. Another challenge I’ve seen with those really smart consultants is the inability to sell their product! If you are a public speaker, you may need to hire an admin person to keep you organized.
My friend and strategic partner, Nicole Greer, gave me a great deal of insight on understanding not only myself, but also, other people. She uses a PEP analysis, which takes about 15 minutes to do, and comes with a brief coaching on individual strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can begin to apply your new knowledge, and find out where you fit into your organization. Don’t you think it’s about time to “FIRE THE CHIEF BOTTLE WASHER?!?!”
Aepiphanni Business Solutions is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping people get into business, and stay there. We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including restaurants, catering and event planning. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions. If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].