What you don’t learn at cooking school (part 2)

(07 /04 /2013)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series reflecting on my personal experience and the lessons that one learns not at cooking school but from the hands on operation of running your own business.  In part 1 I looked at the dream and vision I had for running my own business.  In part 2 I discuss what was actually happening.

Part 2: The Reality

As the we headed towards winter and the wedding season was approaching its end, the realization hit me that the happy times were also coming to an end.

The invoices were starting to grow, the bank balance was starting to thin, and that happy bank manager was no longer around. The phone fell silent for the first time as winter fast approached.  We were closing during on week nights as no one was venturing out in the cold.

Where had all our customers gone? We were so busy so what had gone wrong?

The Monday morning calls from the bank started.  They were asking if we are banking any money as there was not enough to cover cheques that had been written.  The most frustrating thing was that it was typically after I had just come back from the bank where I had deposited a fair amount of the takings from the weekend trade.

Suppliers too started to get anxious about not being paid and as a result they were only leaving orders once a guantee was made from the bank that the cheque would be honored. We had a massive rent to cover and other out-goings including staff wages.

We had an apprentice at the time who we still had to keep busy, interested and also paid. Prep still had to be done, even though it was being thrown out because we weren’t using the food. It was a though I was standing next to the bin, opening my wallet and throwing the contents away.

Where was the money to come from to keep us afloat?

The answer came from our once happy bank manager in the form of an overdraft.  Using the existing security we put up when we acquired the venue. With the pressure off we continued on our merry way thinking time was on our side to turnaround the slide.

The function bookings started to come in and it looked like a great year for weddings.  It seemed that we were turning the corner. But the bills still mounted and the overdraft was increasing, much to the happiness of the bank manager. Still oblivious to what was happening the steady decline to financial ruin continued.

My business and finances were not the only part of my life to suffer.  The stress and emotional turmoil one goes through as you see your life turning inside out is incredible. I can remember on Monday mornings the phone always rang at 9.00am sharp and I would know it was the bank.  Every time I would see my family, especially my Father, and you could see that the stress was hard on everyone.  My Father worked hard all his life for the family home and now I was on track to lose it.  Personally it was soul destroying to see all our hard work, long hours and many sacrifices leading to nothing but failure.

It was time to find out what we were doing wrong.  But who should I turn too?  I approached our accountant who helped us acquire the venue and set it up.  His only advice was to drop the standard of the venue and cut costs such as table cloths and other luxury items. But this is what people were coming for.  The bank manager only kept wanting me to get further into debt.

So why were we not surviving?

Coming up in part 3 I will go through where I went wrong and what I could have done to save my dream business.

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