Dorothy and even Toto I suppose, in his canine sort of way, like so many of us, couldn't wait to cross to the other side. Having survived a storm of no less intensity than hers, I have touched down and am ready to tell you what I saw and learned spinning around in that vortex that was the first 6 months after opening BLU Boy Chocolate Cafe and Cakery.
Top 6 Secret Tips for Opening a New Business (Part 1)
6. While you can spend years imagining "What it's going to be like to have your own shop" the reality is in fact quite a different thing.
For whatever reason, in spite of everyone around me telling me the contrary, I somehow thought I would have more time just running a chocolaterie/patisserie than I did running the catering business full time and being a physician full time. Well I don't have more time. I replaced 2 jobs with 1 and somehow I am working twice as hard. All I know is that it's easy being a doctor. Don't laugh. I'm serious.
5. Find a mentor, grab on, and don't let her go.
I work very hard at what I do. It's one thing my father passed on to me. But it was due to wonderful luck and 1 person's remarkable act of kindness that I have a business mentor who has helped to keep me steady and true while navigating a most often unfamiliar and uncertain path. Everyone who ever thought you could do it all by yourself reconsider. One of the best pieces of advice I have received came to me late one night while I was a medical resident in pediatrics. Direct from a "made for T.V. movie" is my story of being on call, sitting at the nurses station in the middle of the night tending to a very sick child. As the medical resident in charge, the child's well being was my responsibility. Young, green, and feeling completely out of my element, a wise old nurse came, sat next to me (I'm not kidding here) and said, "NEVER worry alone."
4. Be true to yourself and all the people you encounter as part of your business.
Operating a small independent business frankly, is tough. For a whole lot of reasons every day is faced with one challenge or another. "David, it's too hot and the chickens aren't laying enough eggs." OK, I feel for the poor dears but now where am I going to get the eggs I needed today to make the cakes I said I would make for tomorrow? "I understand Mr. Fletcher that the thermostat on your REFRIGERATOR is broken and is too cold and everything in it is FREEZING but I can't provide you with service until next week." Alright, I understand that I am not the only one with a refrigerator but what am I supposed to do TODAY? "Hey Budd, I know you didn't order those 3 cases of salted butter but that's what they sent." But I don't want my butter cream to taste like a movie theater popcorn! You see, it would be pretty easy to start down the path of bitterness, cynicism, and chicanery. Sometimes it might actually help to get things accomplished BUT there is always a price. Sure, it would be a much easier response, when asked by a customer to make a 1/2 dozen cookies from her grandmother's favorite recipe, to say "let me get back to you on that" and then never return the phone call. But the greater value, I believe, comes in explaining that "no doubt this wonderful cookie deserves to be resurrected, I am going to have to charge you so much in labor and non-standard ingredients that maybe these 6 cookies are not really worth it." Be honest and sincere in every interaction because at the end of the day whatever tiny bit of rest you might get has to be peaceful.
3. The first chance you get begin working to achieve balance in your life.
Truth is I haven't fully figured this one out but every fiber of my being knows it to be true.
2. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are and don't feel threatened by them.
Some how, through no wizened or experienced action of my own, I have the pleasure of working with a great staff. They make coming to work fun and oddly enough make leaving work even remotely possible. Without them, this vision I have turned into reality would not be possible. And for those of you business owners who repeatedly say it's hard to find good help in a college town I say to you, "You are flat out wrong. It's you that is the problem. Re-evaluate who you are as an employer and open your eyes to the sea of wonderful, enthusiastic, young people around you who are willing to invest in creating something special".
1. Don't forget that you did this on purpose.
When you wake up in the middle amidst all the mess and stress (trust me you will) it's very easy to forget that you created the path you are traveling. Remind yourself that it's great to be your own boss. It's wonderful to make the decisions (for better or for worse). It's rewarding to treat you customers the way you would want to be treated and see that it makes a difference (not in sales but in your and their day). Remind yourself that not everyone gets to play with 40 pounds of chocolate every day!
There you go.
Finally, feeling as if my head is a bit above water, I will share with you that my goal is to post much more often than months past. But remember, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions....and chocolate." Really, really good chocolate.