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How to create business systems

When chefs ask me how to become a personal chef or how to grow their private chef business, I show them how to create business systems to build profitability. Most chefs want to talk about food. But I don’t. That’s because I want to talk about more important things. I want to talk about creating business systems that will turn your private chef business into a profitable one. 

I have a distinct advantage in my personal chef business because I’m not caught up in thinking it’s my food that makes me successful. Over the last three decades I’ve focused on helping chefs become personal chefs and start private chef businesses. And if you want to know what creates the foundation for a great business, read on. If not, continue cooking and come back when you’re ready.

Failures are the foundation to creating successful business systems. 

In my previous Blog, The Importance of Business Systems: Lessons learned from Evel Knievel – He’s not just a Stunt Man, He’s a Businessman, I introduced you to my business hero, Evel Knievel and showcased one of his greatest failures. If you’re thinking “But I just want to cook, I’m no daredevil” think again. In business we’re all risk-takers, and thrill is part of the reason we do it. When you take risks, every now and again you will crash.

Failures build the foundation for creating solid business systems.

The trick is to learn from failure so your business can benefit as quickly as possible. Some of the people that have known me for a long time know I have a degree in risk management which is the backbone of my work as an entrepreneur. That’s why I’m morbidly fascinated by certain examples of failure and how those losses shaped our world.

These examples illustrate how failure creates positive change.

Business systems often result from catastrophic events.
Iroquois Theatre, 1903. Photographer unknown. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid-3374510

When 603 people died in a tragic 1903 fire because the exit doors of the Chicago theatre opened inward, push bars (commonly called panic hardware) were invented by Carl Prinzler and building codes were amended to require all doors open outward.t:

Business Systems will not leave you adrift.
Unbroken, 2014. Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson. Directed by Angelina Jolie

In 1943, no one had survived as long adrift at sea as Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini. His forty-seven day experience helped the military redesign and better supply life rafts. Survival rates have since increased four-fold.

Business systems can prevent accidents.
In-N-Out Burger

In 1993, a charter aircraft carrying family members and three executives of the legendary fast-food empire In-N-Out Burger followed a Boeing 757 in for landing but became caught in its wake turbulence and crashed, killing all on board. Air travel is safer because the crash led to FAA requirements for adequate distance between heavy and light aircraft.

Experience led to making changes in my business.

The dark side can be terribly instructive, but it remains largely ignored by proponents of positive thinking. And yes, I have my own “Evel Knievel story ” which left me bruised and wiser for my experience. That’s why I’m eager to share ways you can benefit from failure.

  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And failure helps.

If you don’t look away, it’s easy to spot before you crash. This is the story of In-N-Out Burger.

Becoming a profitable personal chef requires strong organization and business systems.

Maybe you noticed what I didn’t say. I didn’t say ‘To become a successful private chef you need to cook great food’. I used the word profitable. And I didn’t even say you had to cook great food to be profitable. Read it again, and don’t look away:

Becoming a profitable personal chef requires strong organization and business systems. And you need to start with these from the beginning. 

The great news is you don’t have to fail to learn from the failures of others. You just need to know what to look for.

Once you understand failure as the foundation of improvement and the root of organization and business systems, you can open your eyes and spot opportunities in many of your daily operations.

But I don’t know where to look, Holly!

Sure you do. I’ll show you.

Spot where you need a business system.

How do you determine you need to create business systems?

When you or your team utter words of frustration, you’re in need of business sytems. Look for phrases like these to streamline activities, control outcomes, and save money, time, and resources:

“I always forget/never remember to …”

“I never have enough time to…”

 “Every time we do this, [     ] happens.”

“I want to scream when I spend my time doing [     ].”

“I can’t believe [     ] turned out so badly.”

 “My employees/customers think/do [     ], instead of [what you want].”

How to determine where to create business systems?

To determine where you need to create a business system, ask “Why?” Ask why five times. Here’s an example:

Your Problem: Your last potential customer went to a competing bakery for their wedding cake.

  1. Why? They read a review about someone who had a bad experience with us.
  2. Why? The review said we failed to deliver their cake in time for sunset photos. 
  3. Why? The driver got lost and ran late on his deliveries.
  4. Why? The office girl didn’t give him the daily delivery report and map.
  5. Why? The office girl is new.

It’s too easy for business owners to spend time and money fixing things that are not real problems. In this example, if you fixed “the problem,” you’d mistakenly think your sales team was to blame. Likewise, applying a fix-it in response to the first “why” would waste valuable resources trying to boost reviews on social media. At the third “why,” you’d unduly discipline the driver, and at the fourth, you’d blame the new office girl. But she isn’t the problem, either. You are.

You failed to give the new employee appropriate training and supply her with quality daily checklists – quality business systems. It takes experience to identify where to point your attention in business.

Know how failure helps spot an opportunity for a business system, and learn where to plug it in.

Yes, chef, your food is important, but even more important is creating effective business systems.

Failure is real. It will happen. It rarely kills you. When spotted early it can actually reveal ways to strengthen and build your personal chef business. But remember, the problem that’s shouting isn’t necessarily the problem that needs fixing. It takes a keen eye to discern a symptom from the cause.

Get curious and ask “why” until you get to the source of the problem. And when you make a habit of fixing and streamlining operations and organization problems with business systems, your business will build more sustainable wealth AND you’ll get to spend more time doing what you love – cooking and making people happy with your food!