Do you ever feel like you are treading water, just barely keeping your head from going under? Yeah? That's where I'm at right now. It's officially MAY. May is a scary month because it is only a few short weeks away from JUNE, and June means we are opening two brand-spanking new concepts. Two in one month. Two. One month. Scout's Pub will be opening in the first couple weeks of June and it looks like it will be our first restaurant to actually be delivered on time (this is our 7th restaurant to open). And then Hattie Jane's Creamery will be the first of hopefully several ice cream stores where we will be making full-flavored ice cream in small batches inside the store. It will also opening most likely in, you guessed it, the first couple weeks of June. (psst I'm looking for a dessert chef, if you know anyone please send them my way!)
It still hasn't sunk in because my brain is doing that deflection thing that it does to keep my body from spontaneously combusting. You know what I'm talking about.
Over the next few posts, I want to talk to you about what we do as we flesh out a new concept and then prepare for a grand opening. But today, I want to focus on keeping your cool and your head above water.
Here are my 6 rules for not losing it when it's crunch time.
1. Use a calendar.
This is a no-brainer, right? I know some of you out there don't use a calendar or planner. Shame! You were probably also the kind of server that prided yourself on not writing down your orders. That's impressive and all, until you get it wrong. I know, I used to do the same thing. But now I'm older and a mom and I run multiple units so the ol' brain just doesn't work the same way. Or rather, it's just got a lot more stuff in there to worry about. I live and die by my Google Calendar. I'm an Apple user through and through, but Google Calendar works better for me than iCal. I love that if I plug in the address of where I need to be, it let's me know "hey you need to leave by 2:15 to get to your next appointment on time." And I'm so glad that it knows that I need a 5 minute buffer to get out the door. I do also love a paper planner, but since my office looks like this...
...I try to reduce the amount of stuff I'm lugging around. Plus that whole notification thing.
2. Set reminders and alarms.
I unashamedly use reminders for everything. I use the to remind me to email/text/call someone, to write thank you notes, to change my contacts monthly. Yes, I'm being serious. I use my iPhone's reminder app and have folders for various things, and I use it to take brief notes as well. I have repeat reminders set up like "Turn in CC receipts" on the first of every month.
Even though my calendar will let me know when to leave, I will still often set an alarm for when I need to leave from point A to get to point B. This is handy when I'm meeting with someone that is long-winded. I can just blame my phone, end the meeting and get out of there. Sometimes I even do this when I don't actually have another meeting. Shh.. don't tell.
3. Only take essential meetings.
When you own and/or operate a business, especially one that is active in the community, it seems like everyone wants a piece of you every day. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's a partnership, your business, your advice, a job. A lot of these conversations are great relationship builders and you never know where a connection may lead you. But then if we're being honest, some of them can simply be a time suck. I am generally all for meeting new people and seeing how we can help each other. But when it's crunch time and I'm about to open a restaurant, the answer is No, not at this time. If it doesn't have to do with opening the restaurant, isn't essential to one of our existing businesses, and isn't something that I have personally committed to (like chairing a non-profit board meeting), then I say No.
I'll be honest about it -- "We are just weeks away from opening our new restaurant Scout's Pub as well as our ice cream concept Hattie Jane's Creamery, so unfortunately my schedule is currently consumed with those two things. Please feel free to circle back with me in July." It sounds ridiculous to book a meeting two months away, but hey, that's just the way it is. I will also sometimes offer to do a phone meeting instead of a coffee or lunch meeting.
4. Take care of yourself.
Being busy is NOT an excuse to eat whatever you want and stop exercising. This is when your team needs you at the top of your game. Whether you like it or not, what you consume has a direct impact on your mental and physical health. I'm not telling you to go vegan or anything, but eat a healthy breakfast, a lean lunch, and a moderate dinner. Have a drink or two, but go easy. Find some kind of exercise that you enjoy and that you can squeeze in more than 3 days a week. If you love to work out, that's great. But it can also be as simple as a walk in the park, starting your day with 20 minutes of Youtube yoga or workouts (I recommend PopSugar or Yoga with Adriene). And for heaven's sake, get some sleep.
5. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
There is no way that anyone can open a restaurant by themselves. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and trust them with tasks for opening. Hire your kitchen manager and make her/him in charge of overseeing equipment deliveries, ordering smallwares, and interviewing potential staff. It will be their team. Get your General Manager in place and put them in charge of organizing a job fair, coordinating service installations like TV, phones, etc. If the General Manager is YOU, then hire your assistant manager as soon as possible and enlist their help in getting you organized. Always follow up that tasks are being completed so that you're not caught with your pants down, but don't micromanage everything. Give yourself and them a break.
6. Put your phone to sleep at night.
It's really essential that you get good sleep when you have time for it. I'm not going to sit here and tell you to get a full 8 hours of sleep every night, because then I'd be a hypocrite. We all know that's good for us, but we wouldn't be in this business if we valued sleep, right? I'm a horribly light sleeper. Every little ding and beep my phone makes wakes me up. About a year ago, I started putting my phone on sleep mode about 30 minutes before I go to bed, and I don't turn it off sleep mode until I've gotten up, showered, and ready. On the iPhone, like most phones, I can edit the sleep mode settings so that all my CALLS still ring through. Instruct your team that if they really need something late at night or early in the morning, that they need to call rather than text. If they are good leaders and critical thinkers, they will think twice about what's an emergency and what isn't. If they call you nightly for little things, then you may have a confidence or training problem. And don't worry, your alarm still goes off even in sleep mode.
Good luck, my friends!