"Always Do Things Right...

This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain

**************

I want to share a dilemma with you today. I'm not sure if this is of immediately obvious concern to anyone who hasn't tried to start their own shebang, but maybe it is... I'm so deep down into this whole process that it was often difficult to remember what life looked before!

In a nutshell, the dilemma is: How do I get what I consider to be of adequate quality, while satisfying legal requirements and keeping inside my budget?

The 'what' in the sentence above refers to a great may things - from equipment (New of everything! Best brands! Top of the line!) to systems (Checklists for all! Accept no mistakes!Throw out everything that doesn't taste like a 10!)

There have been many places where this dilemma has taken the limelight - but perhaps first and foremost was during the time I described in my last post... when I was getting into Floortown (with a slight layover in Drainageburg). 

I sketched out a little picture for myself during that period... And here it is in all its doodle-glory. 

IMG_4206_2

Perhaps stupidly, I have a line below which I will not go, quality-wise, even if it meets standards and fits the budget - but just how high can I go before I fall out of spec with one or the other of the other conditions?!

As if I couldn't get the grasp of it when I made my first doodle - I made another. I guess I thought it might be easier to understand as a Venn diagram? Sheesh. 

IMG_4208_2

Anyway.

Essentially - there is a magic, holy grail (yup - that's the cup pictured in the center!) where my personal quality standards compromise to meet both legal and budgetary requirements. And yet, as I am basically crazy - and anyone who is trying to start a business has no business being otherwise - I STILL cannot accept middle of the road. I simply must be better than average (the word 'best' is a frequent visitor to my lips), so I inevitably spent more money than most trying to get to Floortown (and will again to eventually to retire in Cureroomopolis with summers by Lake Gonnarunsosmoothly). 

These are dangerous places to visit or stay in with a disposition like mine - because I can easily get talked into spending much more than my budget can handle under the unassailable logic of "It'll cost more to fix/re-do/maintain if I cheap out on this now!" also known as the Savings-in-The-Long-Run argument.  

Reasonable logic, but the Dilemma then argues that if I agree to too many of those, I will find myself skimping on items that I need right now. Or...even.. worse... (the true horror for any new entrepreneur)... I could completely run out of liquid cash. Imagine those last few days before payday where you're trying to make ends meet and you're completely strapped? Now imagine that in order for payday to actually arrive, you need to keep spending money... That's the horror of running out of cash as a business owner. 

I wish that I could say that I have come up with a satisfactory conclusion. 

I will say that my tendency to let myself be swayed only by quality has been on the decline... Basically, as a function of obscenely high-priced purchases at the beginning of this journey ("Sure! £700,000.00* for drains sounds about right. Where do I sign?"), I am now scrounging around in the bins of my neighbourhood for anything I can jury-rig, DIY, into a functioning piece of equipment... But always falling above my personal limits of course! 

IMG_4486

Next up - The Hilarious Acronym All Cooks Promote... Anyone who knows what I am talking about gets three points. Anyone who doesn't will have to tune in next time!

 

*Prices changed to protect my wallet. 

 


"I am Fond of Pigs...

Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." - Winston S. Churchill

In early November I set out, as promised, to visit several of my proposed pig purveyors (try saying that ten times fast!)

So, one morning, absurdly early, I headed to the train station:

Liverpool Station

where I hopped on a train to visit an Essex-based Gloucester Old Spot and Sandy Black farmer...

 

 Along with about 15 other Restauranteurs and Butchers as it turned out!

Meta.

How many cooks does it take to watch one man butcher a goose?! Amirite?

Apparently, every year, this particular farmer invites all of his customers (or in my case, potential customers) up to visit, in order to see first hand how fabulous a life his animals enjoy before the inevitable. Or perhaps it was to see what a fabulous life he enjoyed, as besides visiting with his free-range geese, turkeys and piggies, 

With an oink, oink here...

we also drank beer, 

Drinking Beer

hung out in his deer 'hide'*

IMG_3932

and munched on sausage roll!

Num.
Hey... Didn't I just meet your cousin in the forest? 

All in all, it was pretty exhilerating. Not just the activities, mind you... But frankly, the difference beteween dreaming of a farmer who shared your ethics and actually getting to confirm first hand that they exist is pretty wide. The difference between a kettle of fish and hmm... a kettle of pigs?  

Soooeeeeee!
Can't wait to see you at my arch! 

On to the next adventure! Where our heroine rescues an orphaned cure-box and designs a logo... 

 

*Also called a "Blind" where I hail from. Essentially, where you hang about trying to aim at wild deer. 


"Hide not your talents. They for use were made...

What Use is A Sundial in the Shade?" - Benjamin Franklin

Working hard on my business plan - trying to tie the loose ends together - while I wait for my chosen analysts to return with feedback on my vision! 

I can see why the books all stress the importants of 'tieing out'. There are so many elements involved in this discussion (sales volume, costs, expected customer base), and so many places where I've answered the same questions (vision, written plan, financial plan), it is really easy to make a mistake or overlook something and not have them all add up. Seems to me those are the kind of errors that cost you funding... Not good. 

While I was scavanging for feedback, I did receive an intriguing piece of advice that has been bouncing aorund the 'ol noggin recently. 

The advice was not to ignore my place in the business plan.. Highlight and sell myself (and the reasons why I'm the right person to put this project together) as often and as much as I try to sell the baseline idea of the business. 

I'm not exactly that great at selling myself... actually... it doesn't take that much to throw me into a self-worth-less spiral. Thankfully, I can buoy back up almost as easily - especially if I've got a list of my awesome qualifications laid out to read when I get down! Plus, I can source this list each time I think my business plan needs a little 'Addie love'. 

So, here it goes:

1. 13+ years in the food industry

2. 2+ years apprenticed to Master Salumiere

3. 2+ years spent managing kitchens (buying, inventory, hiring, team-building and leading)

4. 3+ years spent in recipe development (The New Orleans Cheese Shop, The Organic CoOp)

5. Previously established relationships with English-specific purveyors (Heritage pig farmers/butchers, Heirloom Apple Orchards, Cheesemakers who raise pigs on the side). 

6. Strong relationship with one of the leaders in the English Heritage Food Movement (The Cheese Shop), a customer almost practically guaranteed if my end product passes muster. 

7. Graduated with honours from prestigious Culinary School

8. Certified in Food Handling Safety in two different countries. 

 

Hmmm... anyone think of anything else I've got going for me that I've left out? 

 

Personally, I've noticed a couple of holes that I want to try and patch up before I launch. 

I've labelled them alphabetically to distinguish them as 'wanted' over 'accomplished'. 

 

A. 'Apprenticeship'/Time spent with reputable sausage makers (The Iowaian, The Utahian*). 

B. Business/Financial knowledge (I've learned much of this in the past, but in no real formal way)

C. Haccp Training (Again, learned in bits and pieces previously, but nothing I can formally report)

D. Mechanical Training  (So much of this work involves small motors; refrigerators, mixers, etc. I've always thought the ability to fix them myself would be a great sell). 

 

A is in the works... Now to brainstorm ways to accomplish the final three. 

 

*You guessed it - names changed to protect the innocent butchers.


"The most difficult thing is the decision to act...

The rest is merely tenacity."  - Amelia Earhart

 

FINALLY. Some time to myself. 

 

Although technically of course, not really to myself. I spend most of all my quote-unquote FREE time on either the business or wedding planning*.  So what I am really applauding here is that I have finally had some time to work on those two things, as opposed to devoting my time to my day job, monitoring my family's finances or running errands. 

 

First up then, is a bit of recap-alitis. 

I've just come back from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I had the immense pleasure of attending a seminar led by the exemplary Ari Weinzweig. I was orginially handed the first in his series of business books back when I lived in England and worked for the Cheese Shop. Unfortunately, it was a borrowed copy and had to go back to its owner when I moved back to the US. When it came time to start being serious about putting together Crown&Queue**, I bought myself a new copy and have been working through it steadily.

Reading Ari Weinzweig
Highlighter and Pen at the ready!

Although Ari's books are mostly about can-do than about how-to, I knew somehow that this was the right place to start building my vision. 

 

I shared much of what I was learning on here (as well as on facebook and twitter) and managed to capture the attention of an old friend who also happens to work at Zingerman's. In addition to sending me another one of Ari's books, 'Calvin' invited me to join this year's Cheese Summit.

Basically, every year, the Cheese Shop organizes a private Zingtrain seminar called 'Fun, Flavorful Finance' and invites some cheesy friends and family to learn the Ari-way along with them. It's an overview of Open Book Management, Open Book Finance, Visioning and etcetera. All the elements that I've been studying, and which seem to make Zingerman's so successful, presented by the man himself. 

Calvin suggested that if I could get myself to Ann Arbor (in 5 DAYS TIME!) there could be a spot for me at the seminar - and, to really light the fire under my butt, Calvin told me that he'd happily find accomodation for me and even pick me up from the airport!

I'm not sure when I've ever managed to pull something together on the fly like this so quickly before. 

Got the 'go-ahead' from the co-op, scheduled flights, rented cars, organized my life and basically immediately took off. And it was worth every second of stress and exhaustion and possibly insulting my family. Seriously. And not just because they had masseuses there for quick back-rubs during the breaks. 

I've never felt so inspired, motivated, passionate, and supported in my life. 

Beneath Zingerman's Deli
Even their boxes are inspiring!

 

I actually started writing that vision I've been putting off while at the airport waiting for my flight home!

Since one of the cardinal rules of OBM is to publish, publicize and otherwise shout your vision out to the world at large, I'll be posting my finished vision here in the next few days. 

I'd also like to write a bit about some of the awe-inspiring people I had the pleasure of meeting while I was there, but all that awe would overwhelm this particular post, so you can expect a total download on that in its own post soon too. 

 

Paint me giddy!

 

*Not trying to confuse you exactly  - I'm just being deliberately obsfucating to keep my privacy for the time being. But yeah, they're a big party in August!

**Pretty sure this is my finalized title... Thoughts?!


"Tempted to type meaningless twaddle all the time on Twitter...

with alliteration, no less!" - E.A. Bucchianeri

Wow. So I have been neglectful of late. But it is actually because so many delightfully professional things have been happening. It's been a whirling maelstrom. So many good things, in fact, that it has made it difficult to find the time to record them all!

Sadly, now is not the time either. But a quick catch-up out of respect, I feel, is direly needed.

I'm currently cuddled up in a super comfy downy bed in ARI WEINZWEIG'S house. Yeah. You might remember him from about a 1000 posts I've written about developing my vision for this project.

Right, so "Calvin" the hero from my last post added another item to his list of angelic qualifications by scoring me a spot in a Zingtrain seminar as well as securing these delightful digs and even offering to pick me up from the airport. Wowza is right. I deserve some props too, as the lead time to take advantage of these kindly offers was about 5 days all of which were originally due the Organic Co-Op.

But I'm here! I'm of reasonably sound mind, which is resting on a pillow needle pointed with DETROIT. And in five and a half hours I'm going to tour the Zingerman's creamery!

Huzzah!

Side note - if this is what comes from speaking out passionately and positively on the Internet about your goals... Can I just take this moment to mention: Donald Trump, I respect you and I would really like a million dollars..... waits patiently


"The Test Of a Vocation...

Is the Love of the Drudgery it Involves" - Logan Pearsall Smith. 

Some people might wonder at the time I am taking to create my vision and mission statement. I recognise that it's easy to believe that these can be thown together in an evening, that I should be on to something else already. I get it. But I suppose I am looking at this like building a house. I've already pointed out that the vision and mission are the foundations. A house, even one built of stone like the one that kept that final piggy safe from the wolf, will blow away unless it is adequately and firmly shored. 

To that end, I am re-reading Ari Weinzweig's book on building a great business. The Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business, to be more specific. I'm going to draw a line in the sand here and admit that: I don't love Zingerman's approach without reservations. Sorry, don't get me wrong. I do LOVE them...I think they make amazing food, have amaze-balls service, really created something breathtaking with open-book management*, and can without question teach me a thing or two. What I'm coming out of the closet to say is that I'm not actually a fan of the bubble-writing, the down-homey 'zingy-ness' they embody. It's mostly just the vocabulary, because all of the ideas are more than sound, (maybe it's also because I'm more of a hipster than I thought 2014-02-06 14.16.03, I've never managed to shake my waspy ick-reaction to even the slightest hint of hokeyness). But whatever it is, it is. On the other hand, every time I read anything that the Zingerman's founder and owner, Ari, writes, I get goose-pimply with passion and excitement.**

Right now, I'm finishing the chapter on Contrast, Composition and Content.  The basic idea is, in order to build a successful business, you have to start at the bottom (with Content) and work your way back. The suggestion here is that people who begin by figuring out how to make their business stand out, instead of figuring out what their business will do, are going at it wrong.

First, Ari recommends, you come up with your content -  i.e. what are you trying to do, what makes it special and why and for whom are you doing it -  next, you come up with composition - i.e how will you organize yourself to sell your products/services and encourage returns  -  then, and only then, do you start coming up with the brand, marketing and what elements will draw people to experience your content and composition. 

I know you're bursting to hear my answers! *laughs. So I went ahead and decided to keept them for a different post (Hey! Some of them were really hard and deserve a little explanation!) so stay tuned  for the answers next time in... "A Red Letter Day or Drop Us A Lion"...

 

 

*If these items are sailing over your head (or the name Zingerman's is, for that matter), they are well and truly worth a look-up. This deli is probably the single most famous deli that's never had a franchise. At least in my industry! Everyone I know who's anyone in the food service industry knows of Ari and his partner Paul, and most of these are employing some or more the practices these two have pioneered. 

**Note: Ari even writes about how you ought to take his model with a grain of salt. He recognizes that the tongue-in-cheek, punny, high-sprited Zingerman style isn't for everyone, but asserts that his advice is. And I agree. 


"There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony...

There is time for work, there is time for love. That leaves no other time!" -Coco Chanel 

Alright. A lot of things have changed since I last posted here. But I've kept this blog up... I think because some part of me always planned to come back to it. 

Part of the plaguing problems of my blogging life have been

1 - starting one for the wrong reasons

2 - writing one for someone else

I definitely had trouble writing on a regular basis; I rebelled against a forced recording of my thoughts and feelings. But I've finally found a good reason to write and I realize I'm dying to do so. (And yeah, despite the 'literalness' of this blog, not literally).

 So here it is: I'm trying to start my own business. It is still in mostly daydream land and I need to keep myself on track. I figure, if I consistantly track my progress, detailing each step as I accomplish them, I will be able to motivate myself in periods that appear stagnant or endless. Like surprisingly noticeable weightloss in progress photos... I know I'll need that slightly trimmed shading to remind myself to keep going. 

I don't expect anyone to read this - but if you do, be positive and motivating and kind. I don't doubt you have difficult projects of your own you wished more-fulfilled-and-less-lingering. We all do.