In my last post I told you about the time that I had to travel out of state to attend my son’s college graduation. Since I had never been absent from my catering business on a weekday, the week before I was scheduled to leave became quite a challenge. While we managed to get through a busy Friday without my on premise presence, the experience convinced me that I had to grow up as a manager and learn some delegation skills.
You Do It All
When you started your business you most likely did everything. You answered the phone, took customers’ orders, made lists, packed paper supplies, cooked and packaged food and maybe you even took deliveries. This kind of behavior can work for a while, but as your business grows, being the center of the universe is no longer an option for you.
I Was It
When I opened my first restaurant, I worked 10 to 12 hours per day, seven days a week for two years straight; that left me with enough time to go home, eat dinner and get eight hours of sleep before I started all over the next morning.
Each day, while manning the grill and cooking EVERY order, I spoke to food sales people, accountants, lawyers, linen companies, health inspectors, and a vast array of others who for some reason had a product to sell to me or a reason to talk to me. I also interacted with the customers—many who knew my first name. For two years I was the absolute center of attention; everything that happened in my restaurant was connected to me.
The Smack Down
One day I got a phone call from someone who wanted to do a deal with me to expand my business. I made an afternoon appointment to meet with their lawyers and accountants. As soon as I sat down at the meeting—held on someone else’s turf—I realized that I suddenly no longer garnered the same respect and attention that was lavished upon me daily at my own restaurant.
These guys wanted financial statements, projections, tax returns, bank statements, payroll records and business plans. They treated me like an insignificant small business person who they thought might be of some fleeting interest. The real world, I quickly realized, was a lot different than my insulated personal restaurant cave.
What I Should Have Learned Then
My uncomfortable meeting should have taught me right there that I wasn’t the only person who could open and drive a restaurant to success. I did eventually learn the lesson, but it took years for me to pass the final exam. Next week we’ll talk about how being unable and unwilling to delegate affects every move you make, how your customers can sense this, and the effect this situation has on your business.
The Corporate Caterer is a unique place where you can interact with those who share the same issues you face. All businesses are challenging, but the catering industry boasts a unique blend of circumstances, so we hope that you get in contact with us directly if you have any questions; or just want to talk about your experiences in the industry.