Don’t try to do it all yourself


business meeting

The opening of a second location for the Noe Valley Bakery has been speeding along. Last month I shared a bit about securing funding and the process of getting a loan. But now that the money is in the bank, we’re starting to ask ourselves “What have we gotten ourselves into?” and “How are we physically going to do everything that needs to get done to get this bakery opened?”



The answer is that we aren’t going to be all of it. In fact, our team is going to be doing most of it.



You can’t do it all yourself. Nor should you.


The first step in building a team in order to scale is to address a very common, yet deeply entrenched belief that most food business owners and entrepreneurs have. It starts with the thought: “Well, I can do that!” This belief centers on the mindset that being profitable means you must do all the work in order to protect your hard earned cash and keep it in your bank account.



I understand, being a small business owner myself I get how hard it can be to part with cash, especially to do something we know how to do. But I also know that most of the time when I start a sentence with “Well, I could probably do that myself…” it ends up consuming much much more time than I expected. It can take half a day to meet with a contractor, pick paint colors, or send an email newsletter.



As a food business owners, you should not be focused on doing the smaller parts of the job, you should be focused on launching the business, leading the team, or casting the vision. Your money is your time, and if you don’t have the cash flow available now, we need to look at creating a budget that is going to protect your time. So stop inhibiting your own growth by signing up to do tasks that feel “free” because they cost time instead of money.



Find Where Help Will Create the Biggest Impact

The second part of building a team in order to scale is to find the tasks, jobs, or roles that are going to make the biggest impact in your business. Going along with the notion that “time is money,” we looked for parts of the process that will present the largest time suck. For the opening of our second location at the Noe Valley Bakery, there have been several places we’ve hired. Two of those roles have been a Chef Consultant and an Interior Designer.



I chose these two examples because they illustrate two ways you can get impact. The first is with the interior designer, Design Renegades. I may have an eye for decor, but I have no idea how to build out a new bakery. Hiring the Designer is a place where we have no competence. This is a hire that will make the process simpler, we can rely on her expertise, and we don’t have to navigate the learning curve associated with designing a new bakery space.



The second example is our Chef Consultant, Volochef. This is an example of a place where we’re hiring in a place of lots of competence. We’re food people, and we have no problem putting together a menu. But we also know that this is a time suck. We know how much is involved with putting together a menu that isn’t only delicious, but makes the most of our kitchen and storage space, and is functional and profitable. Plus when we realized that our Chef Consultant will help us from everything to menu optimization to choosing plates to helping us through the first few weeks of running the new bakery cafe — this is a lot of time I’m getting back. So even though this was the least likely thing we could have outsourced, we did.



When hiring, look for roles that will create impact by giving you back time, not places that you simply don’t understand how to do.



Hire Profitably with a Solid Plan.

The scariest part for most folks is making sure that they will be able to pay everyone and still have money leftover to pay themselves. This is so key! You cannot just hire and hope it works out. This is where a good budget comes into place.



If you’re planning a project, then you need to build in the cash to hire help. Talk to other restaurant owners and get a feel for the amounts you’ll need to accrue for build outs, key line items, or hiring support. Once you have ballparks, you can get your loan in the right amount, or raise the right amount of funding.


If you’re looking to scale the business you already have, practice paying that new person by taking some of your money every month and tucking it into savings. That way you start feeling what it’s like to not have the cash in your bank account while giving yourself a cushion for the new hire.



We should never go it alone — and as business owners, the more we get out of the weeds and step into the role of leader, the more we give our businesses a chance to thrive. It might feel counter intuitive at first, but it is the best way to grow a healthy, profitable business.