What experience brings

I was sitting in an IT conference last year, and one of the providers was talking about how they had been in the industry much longer than any of their competitors.  The presenter finished off his presentation by saying: You can’t shortcut experience.

It’s stuck with me since as it’s right on the money – while you may be taught something in theory, in practice, it might be far from what works. Experience in the industry is gold.

Tuihana Café has now been around six years (birthday was yesterday).  I still remember the crazy amount of work we had to get through to bring it all to fruition.

Our agreement to purchase settled on the 7th February 2011.  We closed for a full week, with our first day open being Monday 14th February.

During that week, my wife and various friends and family took the whole café apart and cleaned it from top to bottom.  We had to devise menus, hire new staff, organise suppliers and setup credit accounts.  There was so much we needed to do, that I’m still amazed we had most of it done in the week.

I could write a book about running a café, but the three top things that come to mind are:

  1. Take your time and hire the right people.  It’s very tempting to rush when an existing staff member has handed in their notice, but you need to take the time to hire the right people who will fit in with the existing team.  Hospitality is also a very transient industry, don’t take it personally when someone leaves – be happy that they’ve stayed as long as they have.
  2. They will let you down, they will deliver late when you have a super urgent order, and they will change pricing on you with no notice. You need to keep an eye on them, and on what they are charging.  Your margins are super thin, you can’t afford to pay more than you really need to.
  3. Most will be brilliant, but you will get the odd bad egg. They are your business so you need to look after them.  I’m not sure if it’s all café customers, but ours aren’t the best at giving us feedback.  You need to really push them for feedback on what’s good, bad, and ugly.

It’s been the most challenging business I’ve been involved with to date, but also the most fun. It will be interesting to see how the café evolves over the next few years.