wanna keep reading? hop on over to thesecond365.wordpress.com …
wanna keep reading? hop on over to thesecond365.wordpress.com …
It seems almost silly to sum up what I learned in year one. It’s like asking a kindergartener to give a commencement speech. There’s a whole road ahead of us and we’ve only just laced up our shoes and started the trip. Or whatever.
But if I had to pick one thing that stands out–something I know now that I didn’t know on day 1 of opening FOODE’s doors that I know for sure now it’s this: Social Media is a powerful, powerful beast to a small business. It can save your tail when you have a lot to say and absolutely no money with which to say it (i.e. Facebook, Twitter). It can catch you completely unprepared with your pants around your ankles (i.e., Groupon and the droves of new faces it brought). It can tick you off and leave you with no way to defend yourself (i.e., the blasts on Yelp). And, it can help you share your message with vision, precision, and (if you’re lucky), a little bit of personality.
We knew what we needed to do as soon as we could afford to do it. Well, I should say, Beth knew. Beth always knows. And if you ask me, we can never afford it, but Beth knows when to insist. And as we approached the end of year 1, she insisted we launch a new website. So here it is. The new site, the new blog, the next step of FOODE.
It’s the beginning of the next beginning. Or whatever.
This is my last entry for thefirst365. I asked Joy to write the blog post for the final day … after all, FOODE was her idea.
I could get all emotional here, but I’m not going to. That’s not my style. Remember, I’m the first to admit that I’m still not a great businesswoman .. I have so much to learn. But I did learn a lot – and I’d like to share it with you.
So, here goes.
Research is everything. Do not rush into anything. Trust your gut. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Think smarter. Trust your instincts. Have an excellent staff. Pay your staff well – or as much as you can. You get what you pay for. Be honest. Have tough skin. Cherish customers. Get comfortable saying no. Be okay when someone says no to you. Attack debt. It’s okay to be scared. If you want customers to come back, more than the product has to be wonderful. Be kind. Be tough. Get ready for surprises – and some are going to cost you. Not everyone is your friend. Get used to being poor. No social life. At one point, you’ll think about quitting. Make it your life – there should be no Plan B. Give customers a reason to connect with you and your product. It’s okay if people blast you online … if you think about it, it’s actually pretty funny. Smile. Have an excellent business partner. Growing pains are okay. Admit when you’re wrong. Be humble. Sometimes, people can be mean – even if they don’t mean to be. Find a positive way to release stress. Ask a lot of questions. Do not over-extend yourself, or something will suffer. Be brave. Stand up for yourself. There’s a reason why other small businesses have been around for years – figure out what they’re doing and why people continue to support them. Pay attention. Watch every little detail. It’s okay to be sad. Don’t cry. Get your shit together. Don’t curse. There is never enough money. Be there every second of every day you’re open.
And finally …
You will never, ever work this hard again in your life – unless you’re lucky enough to make it to year two.
What a year.
we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it!
Joy and I went out to eat last night in Old Town Alexandria. We went to Virtue Feed & Seed – one of our customers told us to check it out. It was amazing. But I have to tell you what blew us away the most was the atmosphere. It. Was. Incredible. It looked like the place cost them a fortune. Joy looked at me and asked me if I wanted to have a place like this, and I told her yes. But not now.
There’s a price to growing too quick – and it’s one that Joy and I admit we can’t afford. I will not live my life in tremendous debt – and as much as I’d like to have a place like Virtue, I know I just can’t afford it. I’m sure the people who own Virtue busted their tails until they could create this amazing spot. It probably took them years. I hope one day I can do something like what they did.
But until then, the $5 tables I found on craigslist will have to do.
You know how I feel about websites like Yelp. I’ve devoted time to the my feelings about it on this blog in the past, which is why I want to pass along this article I saw in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I hope you enjoy the read.
I’m really hoping that no one notices that I purchased the finest box of hair dye that $5.99 would allow, put it on this morning at 5 am and now have black dye streaks running down my forehead. I really, really hope no one notices.
Joy and I had – a plan. We wanted to stand back during one service and watch our staff in action. We wanted to see what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and what needs to be done so Joy and I can take a half of a day off.
That plan lasted about 20 minutes.
Here’s the issue: Joy and I still do too much. We still struggle with giving up control. We micro-manage. We need to stop that.
We have a Sous. I have a right-hand woman. And, Molly Molly Molly is making a brief return to help run the dining room. We have really, really good people around us. We need to let them do their job. We need to figure out if they are doing their job. That can’t happen if we continue to have our hands in every single detail.
So, we took a step back and we watched.
We started in the kitchen. Couple of things we noticed: the hot line calls on to the cold line to do too much. If, for example, the hot line ran out of pork belly – the cook would call out to the folks on the cold line to cut them more. However, it’s not the cold line’s responsibility to do that – and it means that the cooks on the hot line aren’t prepped for dinner service. That’s a major problem. Another major issue: wiping the plates. The edge of those white plates should be polished. The person eating should see their reflection in the edge of those plates – and too often, they’re not. Wiping the edges is an after-thought. That blows me away. Those chefs and cooks are in most mornings by 7:30 preparing the food – why is plating it an after-thought?!? That enrages me.
We moved downstairs. Molly Molly Molly was on cash stand – so I wasn’t worried about a thing regarding that. I had two women running around like crazy, up and down the stairs to go get food – instead of one person running and the other person making sure the customers had drinks, had cleared plates, etc. The scene felt almost chaotic. Then, I had a guy ask me about a wine price. I told him the prices were on the back of the menu, but he didn’t have a menu – and in that instant I realized that we should also have the prices in our tiny market, too.
We went back upstairs and instantly the chefs on the line asked Joy for her help. Our project was over.
In those 20 minutes, we saw our crew doing a lot of really good things. We also saw a lot of room for improvement.
Joy and I are going to do the same thing again tonight. We’re going to make this place great.
You know how some people read books by Warren Buffett or Donald Trump or Suzie Orman or about Steve Jobs to figure out who a person is that created such an impressive business empire?
I’m pretty sure the best business advice I’ve ever heard comes from Jay Z and Kenny Rogers.
Stay with me here …
There’s a song in which Jay Z says “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business … man … “
Think about it – is that not brilliant? He is a business, man. He has turned his life into an empire. The man is a phenomenal artist. He’s probably a better businessman. Everything that guy does makes him money: from his clothes (he has his own line) to his music (he owns the label) to his love for sports (he owns an NBA team). He had no reason to make it to the top – except one: each decision that he makes has turned him into a business … man …
Obviously, on a much, much, MUCH less scale, I feel that I, as a small business owner, should be doing the same thing. Each move should be carefully plotted, each decision should have a benefit. If I can’t justify my decision as a smart business move, I need to let it go. No Emotion.
And then there’s Kenny Rogers … the man who so brilliantly sang “you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, they’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.”
Okay, sure … this lesson comes from a gambler. But isn’t it really great advice? There’s a move I really want FOODE to make – but I can’t. I was presented with information, and that information doesn’t go in accordance with my bottom line. I have to walk away.
So, there it is. Some people have their MBA’s, I have life lessons from Jay Z & Kenny Rogers. I’m cool with that.
We met with our accountant on our day off. It was a two-hour meeting, and it was incredibly helpful.
We asked if we were on the right track. The answer was, much to our relief, yes. We asked if we were doing okay. Yes. We asked why, if we were on the right track and we were doing okay, did we not have more money in the bank. We quickly learned that was something we had to answer. She pointed out that we give her financial information at the end of each month - she’s not involved in the day-to-day operation. She doesn’t see what’s going on in the kitchen each day. She doesn’t see the dining room. We have to start answering our own questions.
Our accountant pointed out that our labor percentage was well within industry standards. Our food costs, however, were high. That, she said, is something we have to figure out how to get under control. Is there too much waste? Are portion sizes the same on each plate? Are we updating our prices as food costs go up?
As far as the dining room: how many covers do we have each day? Do we base our estimations on customers, on table turnover, or on chair turnover? Joy and I just kind of looked at each other. We don’t have those answers. But we will.
Our accountant said we “must protect the corporation.” Everything we do should protect the corporation. Every move, every decision – everything. Joy and I got it.
The accountant brought up some other stuff. She told us in the future we may want to consider offering our employees simple IRA’s. She says there’s a tax benefit to it and it helps retain good workers. She said it appears Joy is the more emotional thinker than I am. I think I do have an easier time separating emotion from decision-making than Joy does.
We learned a lot. And in true Beth & Joy fashion, on my way out I saw the accountant had thrown away a bunch of old rubber bands. I reminded them of everything they just told me about watching every dollar and making sure I understood where each cent was going. Then, I reached down in the trash can and took the pile of rubber bands. It was undoubtably not a high point of my life, but I did need rubber bands so it probably saved me a couple bucks. I’m not proud.
One more thing…
Each time Joy and I head to the accountant’s office, we like to see how many of her promotional pens (the pens publicize who she is, what she does and has her phone number on them) we can walk out of there with. The answer was three. One time we got out of there with 8.
Next time I’m shooting for 10.