Lessons from my first business failure - Lesson #4 - Ask for Help & Enjoy the Little Things
In 2003, at the age of 29, I left my high-tech job and bought a highly acclaimed restaurant with an old college friend. I learned four key lessons from that failure. Now, looking back at a tough time in my personal and professional life, I evolved in ways I never would have if I had taken the safe route.
Even though I had worked in many restaurants, I had never owned one. I struggled to learn how to market the business and become an expert in fine food and wine. I wasted a lot of time learning on my own things that an expert could have taught me.
My most vivid memory of this was when I met the man who owned the most famous restaurant in town. He was semi-retired after running the business for over 40 years. His place was “old-school”, but in a classy way that said, “we’ve done this before, trust us.” As we sat at his bar, I lamented the endless grind of the restaurant business wondering what I needed to do to get better.
I told him about a recent customer who purchased a $300 bottle of champagne, but I couldn’t get it cold in time. My customer was very upset and didn’t pay. Instead of offering sage words, he strolled into the back room and brought back a champagne bucket with ice and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Even though I sold Dom at my restaurant, I was too poor to ever try it. As we drank, I asked where it came from. He told me that the private party in the back had bought a lot of bottles and they didn’t finish them all. At that moment, I remembered my own party of 30 people from the week before. The host wanted to impress everyone with a Dom Perignon toast. I had three bottles. So, everyone toasted with a one-inch pour. I missed out on huge sale because I didn’t invest and prepare for the big win. You have to prepare for, and expect success.
The other thing the old man taught me was to enjoy the journey. If you own a fine dining restaurant with wonderful food and limitless beautiful wine, take it all in, otherwise you’ll have nothing to keep you going when the air-conditioner craps out mid dinner on a sweltering summer day.