Hindsight is 20/20 vision. It is easy to look back and be able to give yourself all the answers, however, it doesn’t take me to long to remember how confused and helpless I felt at the time.
I am going to write down the 5 things I wish I had known and done before I set up Crafty Pies.
Now before you read this I think it is important to put it into context. Quite often I hear the phrase “if people really knew how tough it was they would never take the first step” so your blind ignorance, for a short while can be your advantage and give you that fuel to keep going when others might give up or not even venture. So it is okay not to know everything but that being said, looking back I still think there are so many things I could have done that would have made my business much more successful much faster.
So here are the five things that if I had my time again I would have done differently;
I wish I got out of my head and straight to getting my hands dirty. I spent so long over thinking and worrying. I could have overcome that by picking up the phone and getting experience. Before I sold my first pie I had no idea what to expect on a market stall, how the set up works, how the day flows. I even remember one day I turned up at a market at 9am to watch people unpack and set up, at one point I worked up the courage to go speak to one trader, and I didn’t even tell them what I was thinking about doing. What I should have done is walked up to a trader and said I wanted to work for them to see what it is like. They would have given me a job, they might of even paid me for it! If someone came up to me now and asked me same thing I would give them a job in a second. If I had done that I would have known everything I needed to know about street food and what to expect. I would have saved myself so much time, worry and money by getting off my bum. Experience is invaluable, especially in a food business.
Accept perfect doesn’t exist
One of the biggest things that killed my progress at the start was the idea of perfection. Nothing could just be okay — it had to be perfect. Why? I felt that if one person tried my product and thought it was rubbish, they would tweet about it and tell the world and my business would be over before it got started. That is not true and it is the story I told myself to avoid actually selling. So what happened is I spent too much time developing and zero time selling. What I wish I had done was set myself a time limit to get the product to a certain standard and when that deadline came, get out from the kitchen and go out and sell it. I needed to get over that fear that people may not love it straight away because when you start the goal isn’t to have something perfect, the idea is to have something you can get feedback on and improve. This is covered well in The Lean Startup. This doesn’t mean you can get away with creating something bad. What I mean is I wish I had not wasted so much time perfecting to some idea or concept of what I thought people wanted and actually got the product to customers to actually find out what they wanted. Accept it is not going to be perfect, find your customers and let them tell you what they think.
The goal isn’t to have something perfect, the idea is to have something you can get feedback on and improve.
Read 3 books
My first experience with a mentor was when a friend of a friend introduced me to one. In my first email I was full of clueless desperation asking for guidance and direction. His reply, “Read this book and then speak to me”. So blunt but yet it was the perfect response. Reading that book changed my life because it was my first taste of getting some education about how to operate a business but also the value of books to learn. I know right? Books, those things no one picks up because they’re boring and the internet has all the answers. Reading I put down to one of the single most important things I have started doing. So I won’t summarise each book for you, it takes less than a minute to google it and find out for yourself. These books had the biggest impact on me when I started:
These books are not definitive guides for how to build a successful business, there are much more qualified people to give book recommendations for that. I would recommend Tim Ferris. I am giving these book recommendations for someone who has medium to no experience in business and needs that awakening to understand business and the mindset needed. The key with books is to not read aimlessly, it is to use them as a tool, read them and put them in to practice straight away. Turn your life in to the experiment.
Ask for help
When I started Crafty Pies I had to explain to a few people who I really cared about and who really cared about me that I was giving up a secure career that would have probably ended up quite lucrative to sell pies. That is a hard sell not only for you to them, but to yourself too. Once you’ve made that choice and people might challenge you on it, as anyone who cares about you has the right to, and you can begin to feel like you are on your own. In my experience this was completely fictitious, but I felt that I had to do everything on my own because after ‘betraying’ people by giving up my career I couldn’t dare go ask for some help. I know that if I had put the feelers out to see if anyone would have helped me at the start then there would have been queues of people willing to. Instead I had this pride that I had to do it all on my own. The truth is you don’t and you have nothing to gain by doing it on your own. The struggle is guaranteed, success isn’t. Stack the chips as best as you can in your corner by asking anyone and everyone who can help you and I promise you will be amazed how many people want to.
Show your work. This is a scary thought. Especially if you haven’t even sold one pie yet. I couldn’t even imagine myself 3 years ago taking pictures and videos and posting about every stage of setting up Crafty Pies. Looking back now, I cannot tell you how much I would love to watch that now, you have the memories but to actually see the cold calling, the 7 days a week on 5 hours total sleep would be cool! I know at least 10 people who have approached me in the past asking for advice about what starting out was like who would have loved to of seen it. So If I could go back I would have documented every second. Things take time and effort, some people don’t even turn up so don’t be scared to put what you’re doing out there. If you’re still unsure, it is essential you stop reading this and go read “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. Read it and then make your decision. I have felt ashamed to show my work for 3 years, even when I still get people asking me for advice. I’ve moved past that now because I know it might not be valuable to everyone, but it will be of value to someone. If you want great advice on documenting your work read Austin’s book, he will give you the tools and direction on how to do it much better than I could ever dream of doing.
This was one of my biggest problems for years. I was ashamed and embarrassed that I left my job to set up Crafty Pies. That seems so bizarre given it was my choice, it is not rational, however many people I speak to tell me they have felt the same embarrassment. I wish I could go back and shout to everyone I knew that I was doing Crafty Pies and ask them if they could help me out. When you’re in the shadows no one can offer you help because no one knows you exist, however when you step forward so many people want to help because they want to see you succeed. This was probably my biggest failing for so long, even now I get a little knot in my stomach when people ask me about business but it’s something I have had to get over. If I had told people I am sure about a few things; my anxiety would have been dramatically reduced. Secondly I would have met people sooner, built contacts faster and sped the whole process up. Keeping things a secret has little upside but a large potential downside when setting up a business.
This all comes down to a central theme; Stop over thinking and start doing. That is what I wish had been doing. Get out of your head and get to work. One of my favourite things I’ve seen is on a police detectives desk from the TV show “Bosch” it says “Get off your arse and go knock on doors” and that for me summarises what I should have been doing in those months prior. I was amazed how fast things moved by just getting my product out there and meeting customers. The learning curve increased dramatically.
Stop thinking, start doing.