Here is an excerpt from one of my newest books soon to be published: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
My wife, Lisa, and I made a mistake. We should have involved her in the business from the beginning instead of allowing her to spend more time with the kids. That’s a difficult thing to say out loud because how could we possibly say that she should have seen the kids less and worked in the business. The reason for this crazy opinion that we share is that our two personalities balance each other out. I am a spender. I love life, and I love anything that I believe will enrich my life. A $65 Barolo wine even when we had lots of credit card debt? Sure. Two hundred dollars worth of Jewish music books? Sure- I’m a Cantor…I need them. I like the fine things available in life. Lisa, on the other hand, is much more cautious than I am and correctly budgets everything to make sure that we can enjoy it without financial pain. I am spontaneous and I’ve spent money on business items that I believed would grow Chazzano Coffee Roasters. It would be incorrect to categorize us as spendthrift and miser. We move in and out of those roles depending on what is happening in our lives.
Lisa and I agree that as we spent all of our life savings in the business, we should have had more discussions on payroll, marketing, and coffee purchasing budgets. When the business was growing at an incredibly fast rate, (we grew from 3 to 200 wholesale accounts in 4 years), and we were worried about having enough cash flow to keep up the momentum, Lisa’s involvement grew exponentially. Suddenly, she was delivering coffee for over 10-15 hours in a single day to all of our wholesale and retail customers. Lisa would be opening the cafe at 7am every morning and staying for 5 hours daily and then delivering for several hours later. She was exhausted, angry, and upset that she was becoming stuck in the business as a worker instead of an owner of a coffee roasterie. At the same time, I was successfully pulling myself out of the business and living the life of a visionary. My personal goals were becoming a reality. I had time to write books, communicate with customers through social media, and go on sales calls or just have great conversations in my makeshift office in the back of the cafe. I was transitioning to the life of an owner- I even have an assistant coffee roaster roasting coffee under my direction. I was living my dreams.
But Lisa made herself temporarily indispensable- It reminded me of that Michael Corleone scene in Godfather III when he lamented that no matter what he does, he can’t get out of the mafia life- “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” She saved the business money with deliveries, and helped tame the growing list of wholesale and coffee club lists. And yes, we began to pay ourselves regularly and our financial dreams began to get closer to realization. But she was miserable. She loved the days where she went on road trips with the kids and just spent the day being with them. She loves the coffee business that we created together, but when you’re in your late 40s you just don’t want to wake up every single morning to brew coffee for customers.
Therefore, we created a goal for our family to solve this question: How do we afford losing Lisa and hiring additional employees to assist with her responsibilities?
We needed to increase revenue and cash flow. In a commodities business, one way of increasing cash flow is to find the products that you are capable of selling quickly at a great margin. There are always some products that you need to carry in your business that may be upsell items. Or they are part of a bulk purchase that saves you money in the long run. However, cash flow will suffer if you have too much stock on hand and too much inventory that takes a month to sell. We chose to buy certain single origin coffees that we knew would be sold within the week. We tightened up many of our regular purchases and found bargains. A local cable company wanted to gift us coffee cup sleeves to promote their company? That’s great. It saved us hundreds of dollars. We also insisted that all of our wholesale accounts pay on time, and most of them now pay C.O.D. In addition, we kept our prices at the same level that you expect from a boutique coffee roasterie because it enabled us to stay in business, thrive, and pay our employees well. Our prices helped us to buy new, exciting coffees that it’s impossible to find anywhere else. That created greater value to the customer experience and customers bought those new coffee offerings quickly because they were worried that it would be sold out before they had the chance to purchase them. That mindset created the cash flow because if my customers quickly purchase the coffee, it sells quickly, and those who didn’t get a chance to sample it, will make sure that they buy the next exclusive coffee.
We limited employee hours to ensure no costly overtime. We placed one of our full-time employees on salary to ensure that there was a limit to payroll. We often said no, temporarily, to specialty markets that wanted us to demo our products in their stores because it would increase our payroll. As our business grew, and a packed cafe became the norm, we then began the next step of releasing Lisa from the bondage of the, ahem, daily grind.
We began to hire a few new employees with the intent of teaching them how to replace Lisa. As of this writing, we’ve arrived. Lisa is no longer be opening the cafe at all. She will continue delivering coffee to all of our customers, but that is also temporary. Allowing Lisa to wake up at the same time with the kids and spend much of the day with them, helps our family. One of the purposes of this book is to remind you that it’s impossible to have great success in your business and fail as a husband or father and remain happy. You need to include family, personal, and business in the same sentence with every goal or dream to which you aspire. You just created a great company, but are you coming home to a happy family life? Your family is thankfully happy and healthy, but are you? Are you working all day long and eating poorly and forgetting to exercise? If you’re not happy and healthy, your family life will soon suffer. You’ll definitely bring home your unhappiness to your family and then your health will suffer. And what happens when your health and happiness deteriorate? Your business will suffer. It’s really a house of cards.
Our goals included: Allowing Lisa to spend more time with the kids, paying ourselves a good salary so that we can happily support our family, and creating a business that would operate and grow without our daily assistance. Allowing Lisa to spend more time with the kids was a Personal goal of Lisa, but it was our business goal, too. If we can allow Lisa to work less, the business is becoming more successful. Spending more time with the kids benefited our family because the kids now had two happier parents and having a happy wife with hope for a better future definitely sustains a healthy marriage. This goal was born when Lisa first started working for the business a few years ago. It was on the proverbial table whenever we discussed the business. I’m the dreamer and she’s the realist. I believed in the dream and spent my time preaching about how to do that- I plotted and I planned. We created tactics, small executable moments that would add up to our eventual objective.
When you open up a new business, your goals and dreams for your personal, business, and family life should be part of your every action. What do you want your family to look like or sound like after 3 years in business? How do you want to improve your marriage? If you create a habit of feeding all three sections of your life, when you need to feed one section more than the other, none of them will suffer.
A huge deal comes your way or you’ve just reached the tipping point in your business. Your lovely life with more family time and dates with your wife may be temporarily coming to an end because you’re needed in the business more. Guess who will complain? No one except for you. Everyone will understand- your children and your spouse. They now understand that you will come back when the dust settles. You will fight your way back to a healthier family life and marriage. You’ve built up credibility, so this is just a temporary setback or even a way to strengthen your family. Instead of a local 4 hour work week, maybe this new business will help you travel to Hawaii for the dream vacation you’ve been discussing for years.
As a member of the clergy, I have known many fellow clergy members who live unhappy lives. Or, they’re happy and fulfilled, but their family is unhealthy because their father, the clergy person, is hardly every home. Many authors have written about how we should write our own obituary. If you write about what you really want people to say about you, those words will seep into your life and you’ll work hard to create that life. I have been present at many clergy retirement celebrations where the congregation talks about how well the clergy person served the community- “He visited my mother every day for 3 months before she passed away” “He called me on my birthday every year for 10 years” “She was present at every event that the Sisterhood, Mens Club, Ritual Committee, Religious School, and Adult Ed Committee sponsored.” Time travel and cloning has not been perfected, yet. I know as Jewish clergy that his family will remain silent about how mom couldn’t be there for the kids’ recital because she was speaking at a synagogue event. Or, they will be silent about how he didn’t see his children every day until bedtime, because he was teaching, counseling, and representing the congregation. The clergy person probably filled her professional goals of being successful. Her kids may be happy and healthy despite her absence, but you know that she is saddened by the lack of time with her family and spouse. Whether you are a businessperson or clergyperson or a homemaker, you must wrestle with the three vision statements of personal, professional, and family.
The wise rabbis of Jewish tradition ask, “Who is wise? One who learns from his fellow man. Who is rich? One who is content with his portion.” I ask, “Who is successful? One who has lived a balanced life that enables her business to help grow and strengthen her ties with her family and friends. The successful one is happy personally, professionally, and family wise.