…but make sure it is for the right parts.
You have probably heard the phrase, “Make the business work for you, not the other way around.” That is a nice saying. What, with eleven words and all, a comma, and even a period. But the reality is, sometimes your passion means having to work incredibly hard with hours that are unbearable, pay that is next to nothing, and with a family at home you used to know. And that is why when I am asked for advice on starting up a business, or even buying a business, I need to hear certain things before I can sign off on it. Having owned a couple restaurants and bars plus having consulted with hundreds of small businesses in home-care, I have learned a great deal about when it is right to make the move into self-employment and an entrepreneurial world.
A short time ago, a friend asked me to meet for coffee. He wanted to discuss my thoughts on him buying a business or franchising one. I knew he had some specific loves of his life and was excited to hear what he wanted to do. After half a cup of the java it was clear he was thinking like most people do when it comes to this moment; poorly. I asked him what he had in his head and his response was, “Well, I really like this [coffee house] and was thinking of buying a franchise.”
“I just really love their coffee and their ambience and the whole concept.”
Anyone catch the error in his thinking?
I asked him for one more piece of information I needed. “Would you be working the place?”
“At first. But then I would hire out.”
“Ahh. And will you start with one store?”
There are two things going on here. First, he isn’t really talking about starting a business or even franchising one. He is talking about investing in one. And if you have the money to play with and don’t mind losing some, be my guest, although I wonder how many cups of coffee one shop would have to sell in a day to make the kind of ODP he was looking for. Secondly, he loves the coffee and the ambience, great, but that doesn’t mean that he should be changing his life and jumping into it. There is a good chance he will be sorry he did.
I asked him, “OK, but do you love getting up at 5 am and opening the store because your nineteen year old manager didn’t show up, and do you love mopping the floor of the bathroom because the toilet overflowed, and do you love running over to another coffee store to borrow five gallons of regular Columbian supreme because your maker is down?”
He looked at me with a strange look. I looked at him back with a strange look. It was a stalemate. No, it wasn’t. I had the upper-hand.
I went on. “Because you have to love meeting your customers and taking care of them in the morning with their needs and being happy for them because they are usually not –hence why they are buying their coffee on the run. Is that your passion?”
“No. Errr, I don’t know.”
“Well, I have known you for some time,” I said. “And I know that your passions are triathlons, cycling, sports equipment, and technology.”
“You have to love what you do,” I told him. “Not the coffee.” He smiled. “You have to be passionate about the thing you are bringing to the world. If it is the coffee, then grow your own beans and produce the best coffee in the world.”
We talked for a little longer and he came to understand what I was trying to say. He has terrific passions, and ones that could make him happy and rich, but he made the mistake so many do; he thought, Hey, I could do that. Instead of taking his passions and skills and seeing if he had something to offer the world, he went to what he thought would be the simplest and most sure-fire bet. There is no such thing.
Think about the conversations you have heard over the years from family and friends. How many restaurants/doggie day-cares/one-stop dry-cleaning and ice-cream shops/ drive-in movie theater and outdoor music venues / EBay selling stores/pet-sitters/ Jewelry makers/Clothes bedazzling shops have you heard about? Of course there are some who make a little money doing all those things and are happy. They were passionate about it- some make the jump and get lucky to accidentally fall into their passion. Business takes some tough skin, some will power and determination, and some serious fight. Would you be willing to feed your family only cereal for a few days because your pet-sitting company was struggling? Would you be willing to come home at 2 am and head right back in at 7:30 am to your restaurant for a marketing meeting? Would you be willing to mop up the vomit mixed with other things in the bathroom at your bar? These are serious questions. Passion drives people to win. Whether it is Usain Bolt, Katy Perry, or Bill Gates, they all had the passion for what they did. And so it is with the small-businesses of the world.
I love it when people take the risk and jump in to a business venture. But I hate seeing people trapped by their own doing, because they didn’t think it through. How many businesses do you know that just get by? It is already hard enough of a lifestyle, why would you want to make it one you don’t like too? Why make it hard and sad? Had my friend told me that he couldn’t wait to get up and greet people and to go around the community and bring his coffee to seniors and schools, I would have been there right with him. But instead, he only liked the coffee.