Nothing brings me closer to anger than to have a customer try to tell me how to run my business. I’m not talking about how they want their steak cooked or what colors they want or what time to start, I’m talking about fundamental core changes in my contracts, services, my employee rules and regulations, how much food to bring, how to handle a logistical sanitation problem or how I should staff their party. It’s a recipe for disaster when a customer tries to fundamentally change the way you do business; there is no good outcome. You don’t need their money that badly.
Following are a few other mistakes you don’t want to make:
Being afraid to enforce accountability on employees. Being a boss is kind of like being a parent. Some parents today think they should give their kids whatever they want just so they can be friends. But that’s no way to be a good parent (and yes, I have two children and even more grandchildren I would die for). I see too many owners who are trying to be their employees’ friends, especially in the small to medium markets.
Until recently, this was one of my biggest mistakes as well. When I focused on friendship and preferential treatment instead of accountability, it not only backfired on me and my company, it also hurt the employee involved by not allowing him to grow in his catering experience and knowledge. My weakness cost us both.
Love your employees and supply what you need to do their jobs well and to grow in them, but remember that you are still the boss.
“Don’t think that because you have been doing this for so long and doing it so well, you have nothing to learn from anyone else. The saddest byproduct of your pride is that you may never see how others do it and ultimately find something new that will be great for your company.”
Having too much pride. For many caterers, it’s their way or the highway. Now I get that on rules and policies I have an SOP on everything in my business. I have an SOP on each step my employees take, starting 15 minutes before they sign in until the second they sign out. It’s called my Arrives and Departs SOP. But it is still important to be open to learning new things from clients and employees. Some of my clients have been my best teachers.
If you are too hard-nosed, you can become simply a cookie-cutter caterer. Everything is the same, all of the time. In some markets, being a cookie-cutter caterer is a great thing. In fact, I have a division of my company that thrives on providing cookie-cutter catering.
Don’t think that because you have been doing this for so long and doing it so well, you have nothing to learn from anyone else. The saddest byproduct of your pride is that you may never see how others do it and ultimately find something new that will be great for your company. Once you stop looking for new ideas, you stop growing—and that means you start dying. Or…your business does.
Doing business without a signed contract. I don’t have much more to say about this, do I? I see too many people doing business without a signed contract—and getting stuck because of it. I would not fix breakfast for the Pope without a contract, Period.
Not evaluating what you do. If you don’t evaluate everything your company does, it will always be what it’s always been. Take time to learn from your mistakes and from your successes. That’s how you plan for the future. Do you complete an Action Report on each event? Do you have weekly meetings to talk about what the company has done and what is coming up? I know, everyone just wants to head home after they’re cleaned up and packed the equipment, but that’s the exact moment to go over what turned out well and what could have been better.
Interested in learning more? This article is an excerpt from Caterer2Caterer, available here. Bill Pannhoff is the senior event planner for B&B Catering & Event Planning, head ambassador for Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, and just presented his 100th session at Catersource 2017.