...What is Invisible to Others." - Jonathan Swift
Hmmm.. Long week. Surprisingly fulfilling though!
In order to sneak away for that amazing Zinger-filled weekend - I've had to work a couple of 6 day weeks. I really didn't want to use the PTO I have saved up because I'll need as much of it as possible for the wedding in August so, in typical foodservice fashion, I just gave up having a weekend for a few weeks.
In some ways, it really suits me actually, because (you may have noticed!) I'm a bit of a workaholic and a bit of can't-let-go-er, so I loved being in the loop more than usual. On the other hand, I'm exhausted, stress-dreaming and not as far along on my business plan as I'd like to be.
That said, I did manage to cobble together a workable VISION. Huzzah!
I may have been a Doubting Thomas initially about the point of writing down a very, very specific picture of what your business - or life? - will be like at a fixed point in the future, but holla, I've changed my tune.
I am so ridiculously envious of the future I've painted, I practically want to kill future Addie so I can take her place in it! In much less violent terms, I would do practically anything to achieve the image I've painted. And I thought that I was inspired after hearing Ari the Guru go at us? Wow. I don't think I've ever felt so driven before... and as I pretty much define 'driven', that's saying something.
Although she's a real beaut, I'm pretty sure that this vision could still bear some tweaking, so feel free to pick at it. According to my sources, the key to an effective vision is that it be 1. Inspiring 2. Strategically Sound 3. Documented and 4. Communicated. I think I've pretty much nailed numero one, three and four. But #2 is a doozie, so have at it.
I picked one single day in my life, six years from now - six years because 2020 sounds a lot better than 2019! - Ideally, I think that I'd like to also write a vision for my overall year/life etc. for that time period as well. Specify exactly what I am doing with my time - what work, what travel, etc. but I think I might put that off until after my plan is finished...
CROWN &QUEUE VISION FOR 2020 - 3RD DRAFT
I’m 36 years old, Jamin and I are still very happy – he’s finally received that pay hike that he’s deserved since we’ve met and after a 2nd surgery, he’s finally no longer in daily pain. We’re still in our Canada Water two bedroom, but with a 2 year old Meatball and thoughts about another one – we’ve been thinking about moving on soon.
It’s delivery day. I wake up 7 am with Jamin – he’s started waking up early along with me so we can all have breakfast together as a family. The Meatball is up too, and giggly, but s/he’s so well-behaved, s/he still helps set the table. We eat, and at 7:30, Jamin kisses me goodbye and the Meatball and I clean up, pack up, and head out. The Meatball only goes to daycare 3 days out of the week, so s/he can socialize, but today s/he’s with me. I used to work six days a week when we first began operating, but in the last year I have forced myself to have a proper weekend with my family. Now I don't do more than just check-in on Saturdays and only work half Sundays.
We walk to the Arches in Bermondsey, playing games along the way, and I wave to my neighboring wholesalers at the Spa Terminus. Several of them have children too, and we split the duties of watching them. Sometimes we all pitch in for a babysitter if production gets away from us. Today it’s the Soap Maker’s turn – they’re going to make soap together – and then they’ll hit me up later for lunch. I leave the Meatball and let myself into my mid-size Arch (when I negotiated with the Landlord, I worried that I was taking a space much too large, but I'm amazed everyday at how we fill the space, and how lucky I am that we have enough!).
The Sales Manager is there already, double-checking the orders for the day, managing the website, social media and making calls. S/he’ll already have reviewed the phone-in orders, mail-orders and standing orders, and organized a clipboard of orders by due date and hung them on the wall for us. We try to offer as personal and as enthusiastic a shopping experience as possible. The Sales Manager usually spends half the day visiting customers and making sales calls.
The CFO will arrive after me, at 8:30am. S/he does double duty as our accountant and financial officer as well as our buyer. Although we often work together to organize the buying and non-pork inventories, I've been trying to set back and allow him/her more autonomy.
I noticed that the Sales Manager has done me the favour of checking all the temps already so I head straight into my processing cooler and start shifting things around to make space for today’s delivery. I finish up in time to hear the bell ring at 8:45. As I head out, I pass J.O.A.T on his/her way into the processed cooler and the curing room to take inventory. S/he’ll have been here first thing in the morning to pick up today’s orders and deliver them in our refridgerated van and has probably just returned.
I open the garage door to let Mr.Pig in with my twice-weekly whole carcass delivery. I check them in (The CFO keeps my non-pork deliveries on alternate days to allow me time to receive/check-in and process in the same day) and toss the confirmed invoices on the double desk the CFO and the Sales Manager share.
I hang the carcasses and start prepping my knives. I get 5-7 whole pigs in each week, which I occasional supplement with commodity shoulders, so I can produce enough to meet specific demand for certain recipes. Even so, I only work with suppliers who are as commited to extraordinary quality and impeccable animal husbandry as I am. I know the entire life history of all the animals I work with; I am commited to helping these animals lead good lives and committed to honouring their memory by taking as much care and respect with their bodies as possible. Because everyone in my supply chain (and right on to my customers) is so excited to be a part of keeping these classic traditions - butchery, charcuterie and handmade artisinal foodstuffs - alive, at every step we try to support and encourage each other. Even if this means sometimes being forgiving about accounts receivables.
My hanging carcass rack is on rollers, so I pull it up to my butchering table and proceed to break the bodies up into halves and primals. I keep the Arch very cold to allow me the space to work, but still, I don’t waste time to avoid the meat getting too warm. JOAT comes out with a completed inventory of the processed cooler, and time-lines on the cure room. S/he grabs up the upcoming order clip as s/he heads towards my workspace. Because I produce all my own products, and almost all of them require at least 3 weeks lead time, I have to be very careful about maintaining my pars. I also offer customers the option of customized or specialty meats, but these need to be requested a month in advance. For these reasons, I ask that my customers give me at least two week’s notice before they change their order. JOAT and I talk through where our levels are and what the priorities should be. We discuss which items ought to be highlighted at the Saturday market and s/he points out a specialty order due next month that I ought to make today or tomorrow. As we wrap up, I’m finishing my first pig – it takes me about an hour a pig, and this delivery of 3 carcasses means I’m wrapping up just as noon hits.
Meanwhile, JOAT starts assembling boxes and pulling meats to fill all the orders due tomorrow. Orders left overnight can be picked up directly from us by courier anytime from 11am till 5pm, while ‘next-day’ deliveries go out starting at 6am, six days a week. JOAT usually wraps up the deliveries by 9-10am, returns to the Arch, packs up the following day’s deliveries and then goes home.
My butchering timing is good as, having just finished putting all the bits back into the processing cooler, the whole tribe of children (as well as the Soap Maker) troop over for lunch.
The Meatball loves to be in the kitchen and heads straight over to remind me it is time to start cooking. Together we head into the processed cooler and pick out a few fresh sausages (I sell these at the Saturday market because the turn around on producing them is so quick). I also have stock of vegetables and cheeses that come from other Spa producers – we always try to support one another! The Soap maker needs some time to get her production in order, so s/he leaves after promising to come back and grab some leftovers later. The Beekeeper turns up at that moment (s/he’s got the afternoon shift).
Some of the older kids and the Beekeeper set the table while the Meatball and I cook. Fresh rolls for the sausages from one of the bakers, grilled veggies, a salad (the Meatball is great at making dressings) and a plate of cheese. Unpasteurized milk from one of the cheesemakers is the final touch. JOAT, the CFO and the Sales Manager (who’s just returned from a sales call) join us for lunch as well. Everyone who works for me is always well-fed, which, in my opinion isn't even a 'perk' as it should just be a given. Because we practice OBM/OBF, JOAT and the Sales Manager know that we are all working together to create a sustainable business, and although their wages may not be as high as other jobs, Crown&Queue works hard to give them a satisfying, comfortable and happy place to work. I only pay myself £600/wk, just a decent living wage really, and my employees make nearly as much, and they know it. Actually, this year, we are on track to post a profit for the second year in a row. It seems unbelievable, but after all costs and expenses, Crown&Queue will bring in £65,000 of pure profit this year. Parts of this, obviously, will go towards paying my shareholders who invested in me via Seedrs. But the rest I will roll back into the business as well as give my three employees thank-you bonuses this year. I recognize the fact that all three choose to work for me, and I respect that choice by being as accommodating, and respectful of my team as I can be. Each one of my team members has exceptional and unique qualities that they bring to the table. Although, like all families, we can argue, generally, Crown &Queue is a rollicking and happy home.
The Meatball and I play a rousing game of tag before s/he goes down for a nap. I keep a space for this in my arch (when s/he was younger, I kept the crib there and had the Meatball by all day long). The group tumbles off to learn how to tend bees and make honey. The Sales Manager cleans the dishes and resets the kitchen.
My team heads back to work. JOAT finishes up all the orders due for delivery tomorrow, sweeps and mops out both of the coolers and leaves at 1:30pm. I have 100 different restaurants and shops that I supply, not including The Cheese Shop, and a healthy website-driven mail order program of about 50 orders a week (about £1,000). Due to varying needs, we receive orders from about half of brick-and-mortars each week and a typical order is for about 30-40 pieces each (~£100 ea). The Cheese Shop is still probably my largest single account as they supply all three of their shops with my meats and have a £2,000 to £3,000 order each week. Thankfully, they organize their own deliveries from around the corner, which does take some of the pressure of my small team. Just about all of the restaurants and shops I serve have menus/inventories devoted to showcasing the best of local production. My meats really fit into a special niche not just because they are made in London, but also because the recipes feature English Heritage Pork Breeds and only English-grown (or traditionally English) spices and seasonings. As such, we don't focus on any export or mail-order outside of the UK.
Every single one of my customers acknowledges the exceptionally high-quality of meat and service they receive from Crown&Queue. We are the highest and best ranked of the handful of people producing cured meat in London and still the only wholesale option. The flavour profiles we create are unique in England and, indeed the world, and I am committed to standing behind each and every one. If any of my customers has the slightest qualm about one of their purchases, I will do everything I can to make it right. Both JOAT, the CFO and the Sales Manager, indeed anyone who works with me – I hire extra people for markets and around Christmas – buys into our mission of an authentic, caring provision of service. Even though we've grown our business by at least 10% each year since our inception, we still treat every customer as though we need them. I believe, and my team buys into the idea, that this attitude is key to consistantly and constantly providing great service. We’ve been recognized several times by the industry (British Food Awards) and the media (Cuture, Saveur, The Times) as a spectacular model of food service, food quality and out-of-the-box products.
The Sales Manager tells me we’re on track to hit our forecast of sales, new orders, and production this week as s/he heads to fill in those lines on our whiteboard. Our huddle is tomorrow. Generally this is the last thing s/he does before s/he leaves at 2pm. The CFO filled out our costs, accounts receivables/payables lines a little later and usually leaves at 3pm - s/he only works 6.5 hour days, but works six days a week. 5 office days and one market day, that way s/he still has a solid sense of what how our products look, feel and taste. The Meatball wakes up from her nap and gets a cuddle and a juice box. The CFO offers to escort her to the Beekeeper’s and we both accept.
I have the next two hours alone to continue grinding meat, separating it as I go into different weighted piles based on my production needs. I salt and season all of the whole muscle cures, prepare MEP for all of the various sausages I will make tomorrow and by 5pm all of the meat is sorted, either ground or seasoned and hung. Sometimes I have time to make one batch of sausage on a delivery day, but I don’t push it, because I know that the more time I take today to sort myself, the more productive I will be tomorrow. I can usually push through 800-1000 sausages in a day when I’m properly set up. Generally, with two receiving days, this means I produce about 2800 - 3000 sausages a week. Sales currently are around 2000-2500 pc/week, which means I am consistantly building my stock. If sales continue as they are, I will hire myself an assistant during the latter part of this year or the next to help keep production where it ought to be. I'd prefer to bring in a culinary student or the like, someone who is eager to learn sausage-making for its own sake, rather than just as a joe-job, and teach them just as I once learned myself.
I clean the butcher table, sweep, scrub and squeegee the floors. Hit the lights, alarms and locks, and head towards the Beekeeper to pick up my squealing Meatball. We laugh our way back to the condo and start to put together dinner just as Jamin comes home at 6pm. We play together as a family for a while after dinner, and the Meatball goes to bed at 7:30pm. Jamin and I enjoy our adult time together – he’s still my favourite resource for ideas and perspective. Finally, we both head to bed at 10pm and I fall asleep knowing deep down that I am excited to start it all over again tomorrow.