If you attended this year’s National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last week, your head is likely still swirling with possibilities. Four days of new people, new ideas, and new opportunities can be rewarding — and overwhelming — as you start thinking about how to bring it all back home to your business.
With an event as big as the NRA Show, no one can see it all. But Rewards Network was there the entire weekend to soak it all in, and sat down early Sunday morning with coffee in hand to hear what might have been the most energetic — and rewarding — talk of the day. Throughout the session “Tackling Challenges Entrepreneurs and Franchisees Face,” businesswoman and writer Nely Galàn spoke at length about the obstacles and opportunities that come with being self-made in America today, particularly as a small business operator.
Similar to many restaurateurs we work with — independent and franchisee — Galàn’s early experiences as an immigrant to America and self-made woman started her on the road to success in business. From the earliest age selling Avon products out of her Catholic school locker to pay her tuition, to her role as President of Telemundo broadcast television network, Galàn built her business and brand through hard work, dedication, and trial and error.
Well known for her appearance on Celebrity Apprentice alongside Gene Simmons, Piers Morgan, and Stephen Baldwin, today Nely Galàn has founded The Adelante Movement, an organization that advocates for Latina women in business and entrepreneurial endeavors. “If you’re not looking for Latinas in your company, you’re missing the boat.” Galàn maintains both from her session and in her new book — arriving in stores and online today.
“Self-Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way” shares her story, as well as practical advice for entrepreneurs, women and men, looking to build their business, make their name, and earn their success. Attendees at the NRA Show got a sneak peek at her philosophy and advice specific to restaurateurs on overcoming obstacles like cash flow, marketing, labor, and knowing how and when to grow your business. In the process, we got seven outstanding takeaways on restaurant entrepreneurship — and the joy of becoming self-made.
1. To be chosen, choose yourself first.
Women — and to a certain extent, all underdog entrepreneurs — consistently diminish their answer to the age-old question “What do you do?” Stop. Remind yourself who you are and don’t undersell it. The key to so much in business is convincing other people (be it investors or customers) that you are the hot ticket item they must want a part of. And don’t forget to remind yourself as well. It’s easy to get exhausted by the daily grind of a growing business, but the best success comes to those who can fall in love with what they do, over and over again.
2. You have to kill Prince Charming.
It’s universal. Everyone hopes someone is going to swing down from the rafters to “save us” or figure out how great you are without a lot of convincing. But the reality is: you’re it. Waiting around for someone else to recognize your value is just that – waiting around. It’s important to give people the material to make it impossible not to choose you and your restaurant. Never assume everyone already knows how great you are. Humbly, but confidently, let them know. That means consistently marketing your unique value proposition, both to the public and to financiers.
3. Make fear and failure your best friends.
Running a business is scary. For newer entrepreneurs, there’s more responsibility involved than they ever dreamed. Employees who depend on you for their livelihood, not to mention your family and yourself. But fear is not a fact. It’s just a feeling. That said, fear can lead you to what you need to do for yourself and your business, even if it means failing along the way. And if that happens, it’s important to forgive yourself, mourn failure, and get back on the horse. There’s no other way to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. That doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks, but it does mean believing in yourself and your vision without being overwhelmed by self-doubt.
4. Your pain is your brand.
Consider this: every entrepreneur’s business should be the answer to a question that bothers you, or a pain that you experience out in the world. It’s that nagging thought when you’re at someone else’s restaurant that “I could do this better, if only…” or when you are looking for something specific and it just doesn’t exist. Recognizing that missing link (and capitalizing on it) is what helps you connect to customers who no doubt experience the same pain. By solving it for yourself, you solve it for your customers. This is that unique value proposition that you bring to any business, job, or career. This is the essence of your brand.
5. Cultivate a side hustle.
No matter who you work for — whether for yourself or someone else — be entrepreneurial outside your business life as well, for at least one hour a week. What does that look like? If you own your own business, it could be a hobby or sport or a class at the local college. It keeps your mind sharp and allows for relieving stress that may get in the way of your daily business. And if you aren’t a business owner, creating something for yourself on the side gives you a huge leg up; it lets you think like an owner. Not only will it help you understand the needs of your employer better, but it lets you bring things to the table that are hugely valuable and unique to you.
6. Hire people who are smarter than you.
Yes, it’s very likely going to make you uncomfortable, but it’s important to hire people smarter than yourself for one very good reason: you can’t do it all. No entrepreneur can. Accountants, lawyers, HR professionals, plumbers, barbers — they all have specialized skills that you don’t have to try to duplicate. Which leaves you free to be the best at what you do. You may need to work on growing more secure and confident in your own skills and judgment. Part of that is knowing when to let go. Release that tight grip of absolute control — except when it comes to the money. Never let control of the money out of your sight. That’s your business, and yours alone.
7. Math doesn’t lie.
Every restaurateur wants their business to work, but you need to be realistic about how it all works. Are you making money or not? This is never the place to fool yourself or try to convince yourself things are better than they are. Nor is it where you should be glossing over details. A thorough understanding of exactly how much money is coming into — and going out of — your restaurant can make the difference between lifelong security and having the rug pulled out from under you when you least expect it.
Keep focus on the mission and the money. One way to do that is to think about your goals for the end of your life and work your way backwards into a plan. At 80, I want to be doing this, and at 70, this. Ultimately, every entrepreneur wants to be able to make money while they sleep — to have a business so successful, that it provides a rich life for you, even when you’re not tending it directly.
So, what does it mean to have a rich life?
- to be out of “survival” mode.
- to work because you want to, not because you have to.
- to be able to reward yourself.
- to be self-reliant.
That’s the value of being an entrepreneur. That’s the ultimate reward for being self-made.
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