Busy Work

I’ve been starting and stopping blog posts for the last month or so and I haven’t been able to finish anything. It’s mainly because I really don’t know what to say and my mind has been fully cluttered. We started two markets in early May and at the same time, lost some critical staff members. To say that I’ve been busy is an understatement. Fortunately, it’s the kind of busy that sees its returns (rather than the kind where it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel). We did better sales-wise than we have in the past for the same month, we added some changes to the product mix, everyone has stepped up to help fill in the gaps in staffing and I have been getting more than 8 hours of sleep several nights a week.

When people ask me about opening up their own business, there is no real clear cut answer on whether to do it or not. I think with the right partner and the right team, it can be a real joy. I don’t think I would be able to work 6-7 days a week for someone else and certainly not for as long as I’ve been doing it. It’s nice to wake up every day knowing exactly why I’m getting ready for work and what I hope to achieve that day. I do 45-50 hours a week in the kitchen and I can actually see the fruit of my labor and as the owner, I know exactly what happens to it.

There are downsides as well. Two fridges and a freezer all broke within the span of a week. It’s not like we can just stop whatever we’re doing to address the fridge problems so we have to call in our guy, order replacement parts, and make sure that we still do what needs to be done. The show must go on.

That’s the hard part about business ownership. You get a lot of ups and downs and both ends are pretty extreme. I think it’s both easy to want to quit as soon as things get hard and it’s easy to be so obsessed with just being a business owner that you ignore some big red flags. I have a lot of bad days where I spend several hours thinking about all the things going on and fortunately, I know what I’m doing in the kitchen so I can go on autopilot while I think. However, the thinking makes me restless and it makes it difficult to complete any task from start to finish. I get a lot of nice moments where we had a great sales day, everything ran smoothly, and I get to go home before 8 pm. The thing is, work doesn’t end because I went home. Some people have the ability to make a clear distinction between their personal lives and their work lives, but perhaps because work is so much of what brought Simon and me together, it’s an unmistakably large part of our personal lives as well.

Simon and I can be very impulsive people. We opened our business on a whim off the high of two people just falling in love and we somehow made it work. It’s bizarre that 10 years ago, I didn’t really like working and I didn’t like doing extracurricular activities, or even getting out of bed if I didn’t have to. I’ve been told that people change because of something big and drastic and I’m not sure something that crazy happened to me. I just started filling up my time with things to do and it became its own addiction. I get uncomfortable if I’m not doing anything for a long time. In college, I watched 10+ seasons of Law & Order SVU while doing homework. I felt so antsy about just watching TV like a normal person that I had to do something else on the side. As an employee, it made me either a really great one or a really bad one. If there was work to do, I got it done. If there wasn’t, I found something to do and it wasn’t always work related. Perhaps because of that discomfort, it makes it easier for me to run a business that has so many parts. There is actually always something to do and for the most part, it doesn’t have to be done in a linear order. It felt very natural to add more and more work on over time and so every day is a busy day.

When people ask me if it’s worth it, if they should do the same, I don’t have an answer. It makes sense for me. I was driving myself crazy in a desk job and I was either overworked in kitchens or too curious about things that weren’t my business. Simon loved his desk job, but when the economy tanked in 2009, that wasn’t an option for him anymore. Even my old boss told me that I really need a lot of latitude in order to work efficiently and he knew that business ownership was in my future. I think this is something Simon wanted to do, but since he was following his heart and not logic, he didn’t quite expect the amount of work involved to keep things going. He doesn’t complain though and he takes it all in stride. He jokes to his friends that he’s never worked this hard and this long for so little money.

We’re watching our friends outside of the food industry settle down and have children and in our minds, that’s not even an option in the near future for us. We think about everything in either the long term or the immediate short term, nothing in between. It covers signing 10 year leases and figuring out the long term prospects for our business and how to fix the fridge that broke 1 hour ago.

My parents have been working together for nearly 35 years. They managed to squeeze in four kids, take us to all of our piano lessons and make sure we did our homework. I remember riding with them in the car in the middle of the night when the security system for their store went off. I remember listening to them talk about how they found out the copper wires were stripped out of their AC unit and how cold the winter was the year they decided to do a massive renovation. It’s all part of business. We make our own job and we’re the ones responsible for our own job security. For two people who are restless, Macaron Parlour always keeps us on our feet and I don’t think we would trade this in for anything else in the world.

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