Proper Planning. And some random thoughts.

Thankfully, I was able to find a job.  Unfortunately, that’s forced me to slow down quite a bit with the business plan and research.  That’s quite alright though.

So what has The Dorky Pig been pondering all this time?  Waaaaay too many things to really list on here.  But I’ll cover a few of the more pertinent ideas, thoughts and fears.  I believe in very seriously covering all the details before any sort of major life change.  There are so many things that can go wrong with something like starting a business, so I want to make sure that I do all the thinking and research possible.  And this brings me to my first thought….

With my new job, I’m not making as much as I had been.  This is certainly not helping my lack of capital.  While it may not seem like it, this is kind of a blessing.  It’s helping me to make sure I take the time to plan things out very thoroughly.  There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else for a while longer than you’d like, especially if it helps you make sure that you really want to do something as crazy as open up a BBQ joint.  This time away from working on the plan has made me really think about a lot of the little things.  Fortunately, the company I’m working for is quite small and the owner is around much of the time.  I’ve been lucky enough to have some time to chat with him about owning a business, the good, bad and the ugly.  He’s helped to reinforce that this really is a crazy idea, especially in a struggling economy.  He’s also let me in on some of the “employee headaches” that I mentioned in the last blog entry.  Just trying to get people to work can be hard enough, but getting them to do a great job can be even more of a challenge.

Ok, so having slowed down a bit hasn’t been bad, as you can see.  It’s also given me the ability to think about suppliers.  Here’s something you may not have thought of when doing the calculator work for the break-even analysis.  What is it going to actually cost to keep you stocked on the supplies and inventory that you need.  Remember, it’s not just the cost of the goods but also the delivery.  Some suppliers have minimum purchase requirements before they’ll ship.  Some tack on fees that you may not have thought of.  Some suppliers may be great for some things like the take out containers, utensils, etc while not having the best produce, meats or seasonings.  That means you will probably need to have multiple sources for all of your goods, which means shopping around and asking lots of questions.  Sales reps will be happy to answer your questions if they believe that you’ll become a customer.  It’s also important to make sure that you’re good to these folks.  They’re in business to make money, just like anybody else.  Most of them will extend you a line of credit if you’ve been a good customer.  This may come in very handy in case you have some hard times.  It’s always a great idea to keep the lines of communication open with anybody you owe money to, they’ll be more willing to work with you.

Next up, you’ve probably thought of all the wonderful shiny new kitchen equipment that you want to give a home to.  Is it really feasible to always buy new?  Is it necessary? It may be.  Things like refrigeration should be bought new so you know it’s in good shape and has the factory warranty covering it.  But some things can definitely be had for much less money.  There are auctions, restaurants going out of business, and all sorts of other ways to buy second hand equipment.  How about leasing equipment or even better, rent to own.  It may be a little more difficult to find places that rent to own commercial restaurant equipment, but it could certainly be advantageous.  Think about it, you can have that piece of equipment at a much lower initial cost, which reduces your start up cost.  Now the down side is that long term you pay more, but it’s an option.  Make sure before you buy, lease, or rent any equipment that you look over the fine print and read it multiple times.  Ask the sales folks questions and make sure you understand everything.  Are there penalties for early payment, what are the late fees, warranty info, service info, etc. 

Last up for this post, my biggest fear.  Absolute failure.  What if I get this business up and running and it just doesn’t go anywhere?  I could lose my house, truck and have severe issues with my personal finances.  Not to mention the shame and humiliation of having to admit defeat.  Certainly not an easy thing to face.  To be perfectly honest, that fear gets stronger and stronger as I delve further into this business idea.  Nobody likes to fail, but what happens when you fail when everything you have is on the line?  Most banks will require a personal guarantee to secure a loan, so even if your business is set up as an LLC, you’d still be held personally responsible for paying back the loan they gave you.  Now on the flip side, this fear is part of what’s been driving me to really look at my idea from every angle.  And then tear it apart and recheck  everything.  And then put it all back together and reevaluate it all.  And just for giggles, tear it apart again and put it back together with some different ideas and variables and weigh all of my options every single way possible.  It’s forcing me to be very, VERY serious about the planning.  And as I hinted about above, the planning is absolutely crucial to the success of your business.  Perhaps I’m overthinking things, but I’d rather do that then not plan for something that could cause major problems for the restaurant and perhaps even cause the doors to close permanently.

For the moment, I have plenty of time to think things through and look at every aspect of the idea and business plan for my BBQ restaurant.  Certainly not something to take too lightly.  There’s a saying in business, “Proper planning prevents poor performance”. It’s so true.  Think and research.  Think and research.  As much as you might want to make your dream come true RIGHT NOW, it may be best to sit back, relax and think.  Watch how the economy is forcing your potential competition to change and adapt.  Maybe they’re raising prices or not having special offers and promotions.  Think and research.  Proper planning prevents poor performance. 

Good day, God bless, and happy eating.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Been rather busy lately…

I haven’t given up on this idea yet.  I’ve gone and spoken with my local S.C.O.R.E. office and I must say that I was quite pleased with the experience.  I VERY highly recommend speaking with them or the SBA about your idea.  They can certainly get you pointed in the right direction.  They also asked me some questions that I hadn’t really thought of and even told me about a couple of funding options. 

After that, I did several interviews as part of my job search, so I haven’t been terribly active working on the business plan.  I have also spoken to my pastor, this morning in fact, and he’s quite thrilled and impressed with the idea and how much time, thought and planning that I’ve put into the whole project.  I kind of needed to know if I was doing the right thing or if I was just doing what I wanted.  Glad I spoke with him.

Even though I haven’t been actively working on the plan, I have done a bit of research here and there as far as some equipment, prep and holding ideas, marketing ideas, etc.  It doesn’t hurt to sit down for 20 minutes to just see what some other folks do and think is important.  You don’t really need to absorb everything, adding things to your “favorites” bar is a big help lol.  Basically, even though I haven’t done a whole lot to the paper portion of my plan, I’m still working on things to help make my plan a little neater and more detailed.  The better to go after funding.

Some things to think about…

1. How are you going to work out staffing? Maybe you want to do a sit down BBQ joint instead.  Have you thought about still doing counter service and just having a bus person to clear tables?  It would certainly cut back on payroll expenses.

2. How are you going to prep, cook, and hold food? What equipment are you REALLY going to need? Smoker, range, holding cabinets, refrigeration, etc. What things go along with that equipment, i.e. 220V 3 phase power, serious venting, automatic fire supression, etc. How do you justify which equipment (brand/model/style) to get? It’s mind boggling.

3. What happens when stuff just goes wrong?  A load of meat is ruined, power goes out over night, run out of supplies the day before delivery, problem employees and customers, POS system goes down…..

4. What do you do to get people in the door? Free food a couple days before Grand Opening? Advertising in local papers, facebook, etc? How about signs? How many, how big, where can you put up signs other than your property? Frequent customer programs? Giveaways, discounts and other freebies and awesome deals? 

5. Finally, what about your personal life?  What’s it actually going to be like? Can you, your spouse, your children, handle you not being there? Can you really handle loooong hours, no days off, no vacations, and all that other fun stuff for who knows how long? Can you handle the pressure of dealing with employees? They’re not a whole lot of fun and generally cause all sorts of drama and headaches.  Can you be a babysitter, an accountant, a problem solver, cook, businessman, and so on and so forth?

Just some of the not so fun stuff to really ponder and research.  There are always cons to go with any idea, no idea is ever so perfect that it’s going to be smooth sailing.  Now that’s not to say that’s how it will be forever, but can you persevere through all the hard times?  It’s not all fun and games.  But if you’re in it for the right reasons and you go into it knowing that there are all kinds of pitfalls and headaches to be prepared for, you can probably outlast them and get to a point where it becomes more enjoyable.  Hopefully I’ll be able to endure through all of that and keep doing something that I love.  Good day, God Bless, and happy eating!

Posted in Business Plan | 1 Comment

Important Questions Before You Start

Ok, so you have an idea of what you want to do.  Now it’s time to really think some stuff through.  You don’t really need to have super detailed answers here, but you really want to answer them the best that you can.  I’ve been using How to Write a Business Plan by Mike Mckeever so far and I absolutely love it.  These are some of the questions from that book.  Ask friends or folks in the business to help you come up with some more stuff.

Business Description

General Questions

1. What problem do I solve for  my customers?
I will offer something other than the ordinary, plain and tiresome fast food.  I will provide an atmosphere of family and friendship and also ensure that my company strives to assist those in need in the community through fund raisers, donations to good organizations and donations of food to those in dire need. 
2. Who is my typical customer?
Average, mid-west hardworking citizen.  Lower and middle class primarily.  Farmers, factory workers truck drivers, etc.
3. How will I communicate with my target customer?
Through friendly, knowledgeable face-to-face service each and everyday, each and everyway.  Listening to what my customers needs are is very important.
4. What products will I provide?
Good old southern BBQ. Pulled pork, half and quarter chicken, smoked chicken, shredded beef, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, a dessert of the moment.  Eventually adding some other items like stuffed jalapenos, stuffed fatties, pig candy, etc.
5. Where will my business be located?
Currently I am looking into several “prime” locations in Bluffton, IN.  My target location is directly across from WalMart, in the Lowes parking lot.  It sits right on a major highway with ample room for tractor trailer drivers to be able to pull up and park.  It’s a highly visible location located in a busy section of town.  A possible secondary location is in the downtown area.  Not as highly trafficked, but not hidden from customers either.
6. Where will I buy the products I need?
I will source as much of the food as possible locally.  There are several local meat suppliers and slaughterhouses, farms, etc.  I am currently looking into working out arrangements to make this happen.  Things I can’t source locally, or in enough abundance, I will purchase through major food industry suppliers with a reputation for quality products, fair prices and customer service.
7. What hours will I operate?
We will be open for lunch and dinner, exact hours are to be determined.
8. Who will work for me and how will they be paid?
Friendly folks who love great food, interacting with people and who possess a fun and positive attitude.  They will receive a very fair, competitive pay with the possibility of receiving performance based bonuses and raises.
9. Who will handle critical tasks?
Currently I will be handling all of the various administrative tasks as well as managing the kitchen and advertising.  I will hire an accountant to handle the finances to ensure that I am in full compliance with all tax and employment compensation laws.
10. How will I advertise and promote my business?
Word of mouth is a very powerful and cheap advertising tool  By serving excellent food and making my customers more than satisfied, I will encourage that type of advertising and bring in repeat business.  I will also utilize flyers posted in various businesses throughout town, newspaper ads, a local circular call The Advertiser and by doing fundraisers for different community groups.
11. What are the competitions strengths and weaknesses?
The fast food competition here is primarily very large and backed by corporations/franchises.  The sit down restaurants have been around for some years and have been able to develop a reputation throughout the community.  The fast food comp. is very good at undercutting the competition and have huge advertising campaigns, but that undercutting can’t last forever as prices are sure to increase in the near future.  They also don’t get to know their customers, it’s get in, get your food, and get out. 
12. How am I different from the competition as seen through the eyes of the customer?
I am friendly and fair.  I may not have the cheapest BBQ sandwiches in town, but I’ll learn each and every customers name and recognize them fairly easily.  I make the customer feel as though they really are important and not just because they give me money.  I also serve some really wonderful food that won’t break the bank.

Specific Questions

1. How will I keep abreast of taste in my field?
BBQ is one of those things that doesn’t really change a whole lot.  However, I will listen to my customers to see what I serve that they enjoy and what can use an improvement. I will also participate in various BBQ and restaurant owner forums to keep abreast of what the popular trends are in the industry.
2. Does my location have enough drive-by or walk-by traffic to support my business or must I rely heavily on advertising to draw customers?
The primary location that I am looking at is on a major highway and directly across from one major retailer and in the parking lot of another major retailer.  I feel that it is a highly visible location and wouldn’t need to rely heavily on advertising once word of mouth begins to spread.
3. Is it better to be in a shopping center with higher rents and operating costs or in a separate location with less drive-by or walk-by traffic?
Ideally there would be a balance between visibility and operating costs.  However I think that being visible allows more customers to find you.  Especially after just driving through town and thinking about a meal, on the way back home there’s a handy BBQ restaurant with a drive through window.
4. How much inventory will I buy in relation to my expected sales?
Initially, I would keep between 10 and 15% over my expected sales.  After several months, I would be able to more accurately track the inventory to sales ratio and better prepare to maintain the needed inventory without having more money than necessary tied up into it.

So there’s what I’ve been working on over the weekend.  I’m sure there’s quite a few more questions that I can find to answer, but for now this is a good start.  Good day, God bless and happy eating!

Posted in Business Plan | 1 Comment

Am I CRAZY?!?!?!

Well, since this is my first blog EVER, let me introduce myself.  My name’s Joe and I’m a native south Floridian transplanted in Indiana.  I have a beautiful loving wife and an insane 5 year old step midget.  I’m also recently unemployed.  Grrr.  I love to cook and I mean I REALLY love to cook.  Anything on a grill is amazing.  I’ve also become very passionate about BBQ.

With that said, the purpose of this blog is to let folks know about my recent brilliant idea and watch it unfold.  So what is this brilliant and crazy idea?  I want to open a restaurant, more specifically a take and go kind of BBQ joint.  Why is that crazy, you ask.  Quite simply, the failure rate for restaurants is insanely high.  And let’s not forget about what’s happening in this country at the moment….a major economic recession.  Still not convinced that it’s crazy? Well then you’re as crazy as me.

I don’t know exactly why I ended up getting so serious about this.  However, I do believe that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.  So far there’ve been a bunch of “signs” pointing me this way and I have to admit that I’m quite interested to see if I really have what it takes to go through all of the preliminary stuff just to be able to open the restaurant and then struggle to keep it open.  It certainly won’t be an easy task at all.  But I have some awesome people around me who are quite loving and supportive, so I believe that even if things don’t end up the way I’d like, that I’ll find out who I am and realize who my true friends and family are.

Ok enough of that stuff.  Here’s a quick overview of what I’m looking at doing.  The working title (although the wife is trying to talk me out of it) is Dorky Pig BBQ.  I’m a dork, so it seems to fit.  It will be a business built on several major ideas:

1. Christian ethics.  No, I’m not going to go around and tell everybody “You’d better accept Jesus.”  However, I do plan on using what I think is one of the most important Christian principals.  Be good to others and help those in need.  How does this pertain to a business? Well, what happens with leftovers? Or how about seeing someone come in that you know could use some help of some kind? I believe that being a good person and trying to do the best you can for people is the cornerstone of any business.  It’s also a valuable lesson of religion.

2. Exceedingly high customer service.   What is BBQ? It’s more than just food.  It’s about community and friends.  It’s about making your customers a part of your extended family and making everyone who walks in that door feel truly welcome and at home.  No, you can’t make everybody happy, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a darn good job of making most folks very happy.

3. Making sure employees know how important they are.  I’ve gotten to work for people who didn’t give a rat’s backside about me or how hard I would work for the customers.  Nothing I ever did was right and no matter how much I did, it was never enough.  From my experiences, the best employees are the ones who feel important.  The employees who feel appreciated.  Letting people know they’re doing a great job, encouraging them to further themselves and being positive and appreciative of all the hard work makes a huge difference.  An employee who genuinely loves their job will do everything they can to make the customer exceedingly happy and it will be quite clear to everyone who walks in the door that it’s not just a job, it’s something enjoyable.

I think that’s long enough for now.  I’ll keep this as updated as I can, although I don’t know how often I can blog.  For now, good day, God bless and happy eating!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments