A good friend of ours owns a local Italian restaurant and they are known in Grand Rapids, Michigan for their pizzas. Their pizzas are topped thick with yummy cheese and fresh ingredients like fresh mushrooms, cooked bacon and so on, but the real reason they are exceptional, is all in the sauce. You can’t ask how they make their sauce, first if they tell you they might have to kill you and that would be a shame because you wouldn’t be able to enjoy their pizza. The sauce is a family recipe and it has been passed down generations and it is not written down anywhere. What? You are not following an exact plan, measuring every ingredient; you are winging it, judging by taste, sight, smell?
Over my 17 years of owning my own business I have been caught winging it, not having a written recipe and not measuring every ingredient so to speak. What I learned from experience that this was not always a smart and profitable way to go. Don’t judge me, I was young, excited and caught up in the moment of being an entrepreneur. If I could start over and flash back 17 years I would: (eat better, work out more, worry less) and:
- Get a mentor: I was the first person in my family to become an entrepreneur this was new to me. My background was sales and marketing and I measured my success by my sales, after all in the corporate world that was how I was rewarded. As a young entrepreneur I was so excited to get customers that at times gave it away. Looking back were all those sales profitable? An experienced mentor would have helped me become more profitable earlier on, and showed me that sometimes you have to let a sale go to save dough (no pizza pun here) and learned that not every customer is going to value what you are worth.Local resources for mentors: http://score-michigan.com/ or contact a local chamber for resources such as http://grandjen.com/
- Create a budget: Seriously, I was a softie for salespeople (my previous job came to haunt me as a business owner). It is amazing to me how all the salespeople selling coupon books, direct mailers, website advertising, and so on and so on knew exactly when I was working in the shoppe. They would come in and pitch me these great programs that were going to help me grow my business, and while, yes, I did say “No” to some, I found myself feeling sorry for the person or wanting to try their product and would say “Yes” and hope the increased sales would pay for it later. If I had a working budget that was not only created but updated and reviewed often then I wouldn’t wing it and say “add more basil” I would have a serious plan and know it wasn’t in my budget at this time. If it is such a great idea then I can either add it in my budget for a later time or figure out a way to move money from one category into my advertising category to pay for out. The point is no impulse decision, but “I will have to get back to you” decision.For a list of 12 best tools for budgeting http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/09/12-best-tools-for-budgeting.html
- Plan your time: As a small business owner we wear so many hats and so many days I would let the day dictate my time and what I accomplished. Many days I would leave feeling tired and worn out and wondering what the heck did I accomplish today. To change this winging it mentality and work ethic, I took some time and wrote down exactly what I did in a day and did this daily for a week. After reviewing, I then decided what tasks I could delegate (hard to give up control when it is your business I know, but you got to do it) and made it a priority to focus on 2-3 things a day to make our business more money. . Of course, life throws you tomatoes from time to time (an employee calls in sick, a large unexpected order came in, etc.) overall as a result I am able to focus on growing our business, following the recipe and less winging it. Good for pizza sauce not so much for running a business.
- Empower your staff: The current owner making the pizza sauce relied on family members of generations past to teach him and help him get the sauce right. Why as the small business owner do we feel like we have to know it all? I have my gifts and my staff does as well. Empower your staff to give their ideas, implement their ideas and learn from your staff. Not only have I found this has helped us grow, it has helped our staff retention because everyone, whether you are making pizza sauce, cupcakes or cookies, wants to be a part of the recipe.
“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan”, – Norman Vincent Peale
I realize that we, at times, have to adapt, adjust, change the plan, but at least starting out with a plan will make your business that much more successful. It took me a while to learn this, by the grace of God, I am still in business and have learned from my mistakes. So to my 17-year-younger self, be excited, hit the ground running but do it with your recipe in hand. Give it all you got and approaching business this way will help you not be left with pizza sauce all over your face.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in “Training Your Employees to Make More Retail Sales”.