When I started my food business, there were so many things I wished I had known. The learning curve for food business owners is steep, and it can often be overwhelming. At the same time, in the beginning hiring outside help felt daunting because we wanted to make sure that we would have a consistent stream of money coming in the door.
If I could go back and do it again, here are two things that I wished I had known when starting my food business:
1. Hire an Expert
I really could have hired a food business consultant to help me with my business plan and increasing profits. I felt like I knew what I was doing, and I had a strong vision for where you were going. Between Michael and myself, I thought we had all of the strategic management expertise that we needed. Looking back, I wish I had some strategic advisers to help me determine some key decisions around our product lines, real estate options, or growth planning. In the beginning, we didn’t really think through strategic directions that we wanted to focus on business growth. We thought that we would get in there and make great bread. We thought we were making right decisions the time, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know — so we made mistakes.
I know now that investing in experts is often the decision that has allowed my business to grow the most. Every time I have brought in an expert to strategically look at a certain portion of my business, we’ve reaped the rewards exponentially.
2. Set up Great Human Resources Practices
A second thing that I wished I had understood is how important great human resources practices are to my business plan. There are a few HR practices I wish I would have taken some time to define or create:
- Defining what “the right fit” was when hiring people
- Defining the role for them (clear expectations)
- Create a plan for how the roles across the company were expected to work together
- Create a review process of those employees to make sure they’re hitting expectations
I wish I had spent a little more time thinking through what the job of my managers were, and to make it really clear what they are responsible for and what they are not. I also wish I had made this more clear from how their roles are different from other people on the team. Now that we’re twenty years in, we’re being much more specific about communicating expectations to our team, and inviting them to pull their weight (which has resulted in bigger profits for my business).
So, when you are starting out, get some help in both business planning and human resources. There are many good, low costs ways to do this. Your payroll company has all sorts of ways they can help you set up your systems. Check with your local restaurant association also. They frequently have downloads and access to members that can help you get off to a good start. My local Golden Gate Restaurant Association is a fantastic resource to help with all of this, and I’m sure yours will be too.