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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What any entrepreneur can learn from successful restaurant owners (re-post)

I posted this 3.5 years ago. These quotes are timeless...


"You have to think long term when you choose your investors. It’s like marrying into a family. They have to trust you explicitly. And vice versa."

"If you are going to raise money, start your pitches with your worst prospects. By the time you get to your best prospects, you are going to have a much better presentation, and a much better deal."

"You have to have that attitude of saying that failure is not even close to being an option. It’s amazing how your body and your mind will respond if you think that way."

"Try to avoid starting out leveraged. It puts a financial stress on you when you dip through a slow period, and that takes its toll on you."

"Be great at a few things, not average at a lot of things."

"Keep your business simple if you want to expand."

"The biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow."

"If you’ve worked in corporate America, unlearn your corporate mindset. Most of what works there won’t work in your small business."

"Take your ego out of the equation. At the end of the day, it’s a business. If you approach it through your ego, you’ll fail."

"Don’t expand too quickly or you could destroy your entire business."

"Learning to delegate is critical to growth."

"No matter how well you know your potential business partner personally, make sure you know what he/she is like on the heat of battle."

"Be transparent with your staff and you’ll earn their loyalty and trust."

If you like these quotes, check out our our book, as well as our our podcast and our video series, all featuring advice and wisdom from successful independent restaurant owners.


Friday, October 23, 2015

To stay trendy, you might have to stay small

I recall an episode of Shark Tank where the entrepreneur had a company that was doing quite well and had a bunch of loyal fans and a trendy product - but were definitely an unknown underground kind of company. I don’t remember the exact revenue numbers this guy shared - but I think they were around $2M a year at that time and were looking to grow much bigger. I remember this guy telling the sharks that their main competitive advantage was the trendiness of their product and the rabid loyal fans they were creating. He had a number of famous people loving his products - which helped create a really strong word of mouth buzz with non-famous people that his products were unique and different and up and coming.

Mark Cuban gave him some really good advice - but advice that’s sad (to me) at the same time. He told this guy that if he wanted to stay trendy and keep that word of mouth growth - he had to stay small. If we wanted to go from a $2M company to a $20M company - he would have to sell/market to the masses and ultimately lose his trendy under the radar edge. So basically - sell out for the money. Trade in the whole reason that he started the business that created really perfect fans - for more money and I guess - more, less perfect, fans? I guess companies like GoPro and Apple are exceptions to that theory - but I do wonder how much fun it is to work at those companies.

It’s just interesting to me because it’s kind of true. A company starts off with a great story. They create something that people love and those people feel some emotional connection to that company and love to be part of their story. The customers talk about the company (on their own) and they are proud to own/use what that company makes. The company starts having success and the founders and employees are having a blast! They are having a blast because they have found a sweet spot where they all love what they do and enjoy working every day and the customers love what they make and are excited to be customers - so the money is coming in. Everyone is happy. They have created a really special company...

Well, at some point, investors somehow get involved and offer to help them scale to a whole new level of growth - where they can expand and hire and market to a much larger group of people. And I guess to many - that sounds even better! Wow - we can possibly grow from a $2M business to a $20M business - which must mean we will have 10x the fun and people will love what we do 10x more and we will be 10x as trendy - all while eliminating the threats and risks that come with staying small.

I doubt it. I think Mark Cuban was probably right. Because I think you’d quickly outrun that manageable sweet spot and end up trading a really special company (that people talk about) for a company that makes 10x more money. But instead of having 10x the fun - you’d probably end up with a company that is 10x less enjoyable to run that ultimately sends customers searching for a company that they love again.

So that's the challenge - how can you keep growing and not lose your fans? I don't know. But I think growing too fast might ruin it.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Caring about who you serve

Seems like every week I get at least one email from someone trying to sell us something that Schedulefly would use - software usually. In most cases - it’s a sales pitch that sounds as if it were sent to 10,000 other businesses too - they just inserted my name at the beginning. I ignore every single one of them. Do they even care what kind of business we are or what we do? Does that matter for any reason at all? Am I weird for thinking that matters?

Today I was thinking about our business and our focus and the benefits of actually caring about who you serve. We don’t send emails to anyone at all - but if we did - I’d want us to send a warm personal email that clearly showed that we had done a minute or two of research on that restaurant and had a real reason for wanting to do business with them. I mean - for us - not all restaurants are right. Seems an email blast - even if filtered down to independent restaurants would still be a crapshoot right? But that’s me and based on the reaction I get to our sales and marketing approach in general - I am a fool.

If you are somehow fortunate enough to be able to figure out who is perfect for your business and then single out those kinds of businesses - there are so many great things that happen. Your product and your marketing and your message can stay very simple and clear and confident. You can speak to the right kinds of customers in a smarter way - since you understand what they are up against and how they run their business. You’ll also find that you, personally, will be so much confident when pitching or talking about your company. Basically - the right and wrong kinds of customers are really easy to see and to describe….and you’ll waste zero time on the wrong ones.

It’s that way for us. I can describe our perfect customer and the kinds of people who work there. I’m not saying that all of our customers are the same - but even the ones that seem very different - share some very similar qualities. And we know what they are.

With our focus - it’s almost as if we are creating our own little sub culture of customers (and prospects) who think the same way, treat people the same way, hire the same way and operate the same way. Because of that - our pitch and message to them is so much more genuine.


Monday, September 28, 2015

"We believe in people more than we do in things"

Meherwan Irani got an MBA and spent 15 years in corporate America, working for other people. He was not unhappy, but never jumped out of bed in the morning excited to head to work. So in 2009 as the economy was collapsing, he and his wife Molly took a leap of faith and decided to start a restaurant. Meherwan was a self-taught chef with a dream, a thoroughly-researched, 150-page business plan and need for $70,000 to get started. All the banks turned the Iranis down for a loan, as did the SBA. But they raised the money, convinced the landlord of a prime location in downtown Asheville, NC to lease them his space, and opened Chai Pani on day one with customers lined up around the block while having spent $0 on advertising and having only $250 in the cash register (and $0 in the bank), knowing they needed to sell a lot of food in the first three days or they'd have nothing left. They were so busy the first day they had to close at 2pm because they ran out of food. Just five years later (2014), Meherwan was nominated for a James Beard award for best chef in Southeast, and today he and Molly own five successful restaurants with another opening soon. This is a very inspiring, educational story about trusting the people that work for you, having passion and faith in yourself, using scarcity to your advantage, and not relying on conventional wisdom. Enjoy...

If you are reading this on your phone or in an email, you won't see the podcast player. Click here to listen on iTunes. 

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Monday, September 21, 2015

"It takes discipline to stay simple"

Cris Eddings co-owns Chuck's Fish (two locations) and 5 Bar (five locations). His restaurants are very popular and very highly rated. He and his team follow their own compasses and don't pay attention to conventional wisdom when it doesn't align with what they believe. So they do things like raising the minimum wage for non-tipped employees to $10.25/hour well before the idea became a national topic, opening a highly focused concept (5 Bar) with only five of each category on the menu (five entrees, five appetizers, etc.), and replacing the expense of advertising with initiatives such as investing into funding their non-profit organization, which sends food trucks out several days per week to feed underprivileged people for free. This is a very refreshing and inspiring interview. Enjoy...

If you are reading this on your phone or in an email, you won't see the podcast player. Click here to listen on iTunes. 

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