Updated: May 23, 2020
“If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take”
Alice in Wonderland
I remember the first day I walked into a Mexican Restaurant that was for sale. It has been in the same location for 28 years. I loved cooking so much, it had been my passion since I was 8 years of age. I had searched inside myself to work out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to run my own business.
I had gone through divorce, had taken some time to sort my emotions out and was looking for something to ignite my passion. I had spent years in business with my ex-husband and a very successful retail business of 19 stores. My time was spent managing and training 350 staff in retail. I developed a Retail training manual that was picked up by a Registered training organisation. I had also owned and worked in my own restaurant previously with my family.
I knew that I had made a lot of mistakes then, but that was all good. I would not repeat those mistakes again, but take them and learn from them. I told myself, “You can do this!”
As an adolescent and over a number of years I had worked in restaurants, cafes and hotels. I had cooked food at markets. I had learnt an incredible amount about my own businesses, and other people’s business in those years.
My fatal assumption – “If you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does the technical work.” As Michael E.Gerber, says “it just isn’t true.”
I took the work I loved to do and turned it in to a job…first was excitement; second, fear; third, exhaustion; and finally despair…then rebirth!
Like most people that go into business – initially you are doing it all. Now I didn’t have a partner. I was doing this on my own with my two children. I was the business woman, the manager and the controller and driver of the business. I played a long list of roles – the accountant, the human resources manager, the cleaner, the chef, the dishwasher, the kitchen hand, the stock purchaser, the front of house manager and the bar attendant. Alongside this I was a mother - my daughter was 10 years of age and my son, was 16…so I had all the duties that go along with this as well.
I developed a strong team around me and eventually was able to follow other interests whilst my team managed my restaurant. Not without the pain that went along with that! Staff stealing from you. Not following through with their duties, when you weren’t there.
As the old saying goes, “If only I knew then, what I know now!”
“Your best teacher is your last mistake.” Unknown
Nevertheless, as an entrepreneur, I had a dream and a vision. I had a plan for the future. I would not let anyone get in the way of my dream of having the best Mexican food in the town – all my meals will be fresh and seasonal. I knew that I had to have other people to support this dream, but sometimes this was a challenge. I needed to remain the Hero. I was not really an entrepreneur! As a Manager, which was not a new role to me. I craved organisation and order. Everything in order.
So what is my point: Your business is not your life! Your business is something apart from you, rather than a part of you, with its own rules and its own purposes. Your business will live and die on how well it performs – to find and keep customers.
Your business is there to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it.
So what did I learn…
- Businesses are not built by extraordinary people, but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
- If you are going to have a business that works for you...you must take 100% responsibility for the results you do or don’t get.
- If you are going to be hands off, and delegate to others ensure that you have systems in place that can be easily tracked. The system becomes the tools that people use to increase their productivity.
- Build your team and ensure they know the vision you have for your business and include them in the process. Hold them accountable.
- Build trust and connect with your staff in your business, and be the role model you want others to follow. People bring the systems to life!
- Have a business plan – Why are you doing what you are doing? How are you going to do it? What is your vision? What is the financial outlay? Do you have a contingency plan? Do you have enough capital to survive in the ‘down time?’
- Sometimes you have to learn from other’s and not reinvent the wheel. Stand on the giants that came before you! Don’t think you know it all. Build your own skills – we all have strengths and weaknesses. Build on the weaknesses.
- Failure is only feedback, try something different. Being wrong is okay.
- Be resilient and bounce back when you are faced with challenges.
- Be open to change!
- Think about the skills your people have and the skills your business needs, if you want to have consistent results.
- The job of your business – develop tools and teach your people how to use them. Your people need to recommend improvements based on their experience with them.
- Leverage your ordinary people to where they can give the results, over and over again. Create innovative system solutions to the people problems.
- Business development is people development.
Lessons learnt in starting a small business