‘Let’s open a coffee shop together!’. My friend Todd and I were sharing a pint with friends at a pub in Westbourne Grove in around 2005. Due to his office being conveniently located on Regents Street, Todd was immersed in the so-called ‘third Wave’ of coffee shops dotted around Soho with their, shock horror, great coffee! Roasted by artisans! You could even taste it!
We were both over from New Zealand, a year or two into our stay in the UK. Everything was new, gritty and exciting in the capital, but one thing was definitely lacking. No flat whites and, shock horror, a distinct lack of friendly local cafes serving eggs benedict! Todd’s idea had merit.
Six years later Todd was back living in Auckland, but I couldn’t shake the dream of opening my own cafe. Like many readers, my entrepreneurial journey started with just an idea. I’d long craved the freedom and autonomy that owning my own business would bring, but I hadn’t decided what that business could be. Now, armed with an idea, I could imagine it into life.
Building Tried & True, my New Zealand-inspired neighbourhood café in Putney, from it’s inception in a West London gastro pub up until opening the doors to the public, turned out to be the easy part of the journey. Sure, it took years of saving, researching, searching for sites, designing, branding, project managing and hiring, but nothing prepared me for the daily challenge of owning my own business.
Ask any successful businessperson the secret of starting a business from scratch and they’ll invariably say ‘hard work’. Owning your own business can provide an incredibly fulfilling career and unlock many opportunities – but the flip side is that it can also feel incredibly lonely and requires sacrifices you wouldn’t have imagined. Luckily the sense of achievement you will gain from building a successful business yourself can never be taken away.
Over the coming months I’ll be sharing with you some lessons I have learnt along the way, strategies and tools to improve your business and discussions around trends and policies that are impacting small, independently owned hospitality businesses in the UK today.
Responsibility is the price of freedom (Elbert Hubbard)
One of the earliest lessons I learned upon opening Tried & True was there was no one to blame for anything that happened in the business apart from myself. It’s a heady mix of fear and empowerment that only the entrepreneur can experience.
Toilets not cleaned by staff – your fault. Wait times on food tickets too long – your fault. Not enough customers – your fault. Too many (insert product) ordered and thrown in the bin – your fault. Duped and locked into an unfair contract with your PDQ provider – you guessed it.
In order to run a successful business you must be crystal clear on every minute detail. You need a system and rules for everything. Any time a new member of staff joins the team they’ll ask their new colleagues ‘what’s the programme around here?’ If you don’t have one they’ll implement their own. And guess what? It’s unlikely that it will line up with your idea of how you want your business to operate or to be presented to your guests.
So take responsibility today. Grab a pen and a pad and walk through all the little details that make up your business. If there are problems, create systems and solutions and document them. Involve your staff in implementing your programme and take responsibility for making them happen.