Sunday, November 30, 2008

Have a Plan, Stick to Your Plan and Let Your Plan Ground You

Twice this week I was reminded of the importance and the reason you make a plan. First, I think it’s important to understand two things. #1, you make and write your business plan before you start the business. You’re approaching it from your intellect. Your emotions are easy to keep in check. You know what you should do and what will enable success. You write the plan with your head. #2, you execute on the plan after you open the business. Once the doors are open your passion and emotions can take over. There’s the excitement of opening. The fear, the anxiety, nerves, mistakes. You start to execute with your heart. The pace is much different after you open up. Things seem to move at light speed. This is where the plan is most valuable.

First event. Wednesday was a terrific day. Busy as we could handle. Our 5th day in business and things were looking good. We had just found out the day before that we are getting reviewed in one of the major dailies. Who could ask for more? Maybe we should stay open a little later to catch the dinner business. A friend emails and says they’ll be in for dinner on Saturday. I look at the schedule. We don’t have the help to cover all of those hours. On Friday, by 5 in the evening, we’re tired. If we’re going to serve dinner, then we need a second shift. It gets confusing. People want to come in and sit down for dinner. What to do? The answer is in the plan.

We are a take-out Shoppe. Not a restaurant. We sell great Tamales. Great Salsas. You can come in for a hot lunch. You can always sit at a table when we’re open. But at the end of the day, we’re a take-out Shoppe. Tamales are a food you take home, put in the frig and then heat them up when your ready for dinner. We also want to be the place to go not just for prepared Tamales, but for Tamale supplies. Want prepared Masa? Want some corn husks? Want a Tamale Steamer? We want to sell those things. We’re not yet, but we will be. Sure, there’s going to be some business we lose because we’re not open after 6. But we are what we are. We have to focus on the basics. Great Tamales. Great Salsas. Take-out. Hot Lunches.

Second event. Couple comes in Friday about 5:30. You could sense it wasn’t what they expected. They wanted a sit down dinner. So I thought. I explained the menu and how it works. It’s take-out. You heat it up when you get home. I felt they ordered a couple of Tamales just to be polite. I served them with happiness but after they left I had an empty feeling. They didn’t like how we were set up. They expected something different. I went home and was it weighed heavy on my mind. How do we take care of them? How do we meet their needs? The questions lingered until Saturday evening. They came back in at 5pm. He was so excited. He had the Tamales when he got home and absolutely loved them. He wanted more. He had to have more. They order 6 this time. I went home happy and remembered the plan.

What does the plan have to do with this event? Well, I clearly pointed out in the plan that when people were first presented with the concept their reception was lukewarm at best. It was only after they tried the Tamales did they do summersaults. So, I should have listened to my own words. When new customers come in, they may be a bit chilly to the offering, but get them a taste and watch out!

My lesson is this, I wrote the plan for a reason. To guide us as we build our business. You will get emotional, you can’t help it. Your heart is always alive when you have passion. What is heartless passion? It’s a dull dreary corporate existence. Owning and running your own business can’t only be an intellectual exercise. It has to start with passion. True passion leads to emotion times. Emotional times should bring you back to your plan. Stay grounded with your plan while your heart is in the clouds. And, Of course, change your plan when needed, but do it outside of the normal operation. Have a group of advisors. More about that in another post. Another time.

1 comment:

Laura Fitzgerald said...

Very wise.

Although, does this mean you won't make me a couple tamale pies for an event in a few weeks? I would like to be your first tamale-pie customer. I'd like for you to add it to your plan!