Coffee Shop Business Plan – Chapter 1 : The Big Mistake (Part 1)

Rather than just present a plan for success, I wanted to warn you of the mistakes that new owners commonly make to start. I typically give this advice to everyone who asks me about starting their own business, no matter the venture. You’ll see me repeat it throughout the book. “Never let the perfect become the enemy of the best.” (That’s a derivation from Voltaire) What do I mean? We aspire to the ideal of perfection. Whether we want to acknowledge that is irrelevant. How many new proprietors have been held captive by this kind of thinking on opening day of their café? They want everything to be perfect. The chairs must be perfectly comfortable. The coffee must be perfectly brewed. The pastries and snacks must be perfectly delicious. Even though their openings are great success, they fail to achieve their idealistic vision. Nothing will ever be perfect. The only thing that is perfect on opening day were their expectations. They were perfectly out of line with reality. Let’s stay reality-based together. I want you to shoot for your best not for what you believe would be perfect at this moment. Attaining your best factors in all the things outside your span of control. That makes it a realistic endeavor and not a never-ending quest for something always just a little out of reach. When new business owners want things to be perfect, they seek to avoid any perceived failure at all costs. With any business, a certain amount of imperfection or failure can and should be tolerated. That might seem like unusual advice, but it is undeniably true. To succeed in any venture, but especially in owning a coffee shop, the first lesson you must internalize is that you are allowed to fail. Most people cling to that old movie line, “Failure is not an option.” While none of us want to fail, sometimes a mistake is just what we need to propel our business to greater success. Failure isn’t the end of the world. In fact, I subscribe to the theory that failure is really just a lesson in how to succeed. How well you learn from your initial missteps will determine the likelihood of your long term success. When people fear mistakes, they exert additional effort to make sure everything is exactly perfect. The problem that they refuse to accept is that nothing is perfect. In striving for perfection we fail to understand how to truly succeed. This business is one where failure occurs daily. Consider your display case filled with delectable treats that accompany the coffee. Most every night you’ll discard the large quantities of product. Our instinctual response is to look at that waste as a sign of failure. The next day a new owner will be tempted to put less in the case fearful another full bag of wasted pastries. Many owners will also keep product a little longer hoping someone will buy it. While that makes plenty of objective sense, a sparsely populated display case tells customers that the coffee shop is skimping, which creates the perception of poor quality. As does the first bite of product past its prime window of consumption. Instead of reducing waste, the owner has instead alienated customers. Trying to prevent failure only led to more of it. The successful coffee shop owner won’t fixate on minimizing waste. I know of
one owner who set up a partnership with a local dairy to trade leftovers from the display case for a lower rate on milk and cream.

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