If I’m honest, I didn’t really enjoy creating an exciting new business
The fact I didn’t enjoy starting a business may not be a complete surprise to some who have read my blog; but it wasn’t just the outcome of our business which was difficult, it was almost the entire process that I grew to disdain.
I started thinking about this after hearing Ron Shaich speak about his experience of starting Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain in America. These are two huge bakery coffee shops, with Panera Bread generating a net revenue of $2.6 billion in 2015. Ron spoke about his early days when he first set up a cookie shop and he would spend hours and hours making cookies. For me, this type of production work would have been horrendous, though Ron explained how he loved every minute of it. Ron went on to talk about the importance of enjoying your work and not focusing on the short-term rewards; which for many start-up entrepreneurs often takes the form of being bought out by a larger company.
These remarks by Ron Shaich made me reminisce about all the things we did when starting Lashbrook Lassis, and how much I disliked doing them. This included:
Before we bought a label machine, Jo and I used to print the labels ourselves, cut them out and stick them on the bottles with Pritt Stick. This was a job I absolutely hated and all I could think of when doing it was what a great story it will make when we were finally a success (which obviously we weren’t).
As mentioned, I didn’t enjoy the production work of making our lassis: it was repetitive and the machinery often malfunctioned. I was in charge of capping while Jo was stationed at the machine which filled the bottles. The capping machine though constantly slipped, so most of the time I just screwed the caps on by hand, which after a few hundred bottles left me with blisters and an increasing sense (or lack of) of carpal tunnel syndrome.
When we first started producing Lashbrook Lassis, we did so out of a rented room in a creamery. We had never manufactured drinks on a commercial scale and wanted to be extra vigilant. So we decided to do all our manufacturing in the refrigerator withi temperatures of 4 degrees and below. Jo and I would wrap up like eskimos before completing a 4-hour shift making our drinks – needless to say, it wasn’t fun.
When we moved our manufacturing out of the creamery and into larger commercial facilities, I was always nervous about the trial runs we had to carry out, which sometimes resulted in huge quantities of ingredients being thrown away because they didn’t taste any good. While I say “huge quantities”, it was a relatively a small amount, though when counting every penny as we were, it felt like a lot.
I didn’t enjoy the fear of our products going off and was continually checked the temperature of the fridge or our cool boxes. This in fact probably only served to warm the drinks up and made them more likely to spoil.
I hated driving round London trying to visit new shops to pitch our drinks. It would sometimes take an age to get from one shop to another, and the whole thing just felt like a waste of time.
Finally, I hated seeing our funds dwindle over the course of 4 years and constantly having to halt production while Jo and I did a stint of work to provide an injection of much needed cash.
There were of course some things I enjoyed about Lashbrook Lassis: working with Jo was great, I enjoyed the job of sterilising our bottles funnily enough, and creating our marketing material was fun as well, but ultimately these palled in comparison to everything else I didn’t like.
So the moral of the story is, try and start a business you actually enjoy, because you’ll spend so much time doing it that you’ll only regret it if it doesn’t work out the way you planned.