The Difference As An Owner

I am a store owner now.  For the first few months, I thought nothing of working 90 hours a week.  I didn't mind working 7 days a week and being there from 9 am to 2 am.  However, no matter how much time I put in, it just felt like there was more work to be done.  Simon tried kicking me out a few times to go home and get some rest, but I would always find something else to do.  I could prepare stuff for the next day!  I could make a small batch of macarons so we could have 21 flavors the next day instead of 20!  In my mind, there were plenty of things I could do and even though I was physically tired, mentally, there were a million things going on.

I complained about a lot of things.  Most of them were complaints about the results of good problems.  I whined about getting a last minute order for 500 pieces the next day and how we would have to stay past 2 am to fulfill it.  Since we were so broke from all the delays related to our opening, we needed the money and it had to be done.  We were buying breakfast, lunch, and dinner for our employees b/c we were working so much.  I was gaining weight from not leaving the store.  Simon never slept.  Our home became a mess and we never saw our friends or family.  There were plenty of things that a lot of people would complain about.

But my complaints were only superficial because they weren't really gripes.  The truth is that I complained just to complain, but I could do it because so many things were going well.  I wasn't complaining about a lack of sales or a fear that the business wasn't going to work out.  I was complaining about things employees complain about.  They can complain about the long hours and the loss of their personal life, but none of ours did. We tried what we can to try to minimize these sorts of issues on our staff because even the best employee is nowhere near as tied to this business as we were. 

I went through an opening before, as an employee.  I was very committed to the work for the first few months and I worked crazy hours to fulfill all the demand.  I was very proud of what I was accomplishing, but I burned out.  That didn't happen when it was my place.  Even when I felt burnt out, there was an internal well that I could tap into and suddenly, it wouldn't be as bad.  But even though I didn't burn out this time around, I knew that no one else, besides Simon, had that same internal well.  So we were careful with our staff and asked them if they could just do us a favor by working some overtime because it's Christmas, or it's someone's birthday so they requested a day off, etc.  We made the environment fun so even when they got tired, they understood that it's not our intention to run them down. 

Simon and I have our lives invested in Macaron Parlour.  Even when we were tired, it was do or die for us.  We had to do it, first because we were in the business of doing well, and because if we didn't do it, how could we ask someone else to help us?  Our future success depended on working through the difficult issues for the first few months and so we were willing to go through it.  As owners, we had to be the first to do the dirty work and we had to guide our staff to help us.
When we first opened, we had a very lean staff because we didn't have a large budget for payroll.  I am so thankful for the people we did have who helped us get through such a tough time.  We made it through Sandy, we made it through the holidays, we made it through a lot and no one really complained about being tired or miserable.  We hired well and everyone understood that we were going through the bumps of opening.

Yet there's still so many bumps in the road.  I guess it's never-ending.  It's funny that even when I couldn't pull myself away from the store, there were still so many things that went undone.  We had a black pole in our store that I used as a measure of how overwhelmed we were.  Our store is mostly white, but for some reason, we had this pole that was 1/4 black only at the top and I hated that it was unfinished.  No one noticed it, but I stared at it every day.  It was one of those things where I said that I would tackle the pole one night after all the customers left.  This didn't happen until about 5 months in and it was only because I was in the alone store one night after Simon went out to dinner with some friends.  If I didn't have 2 hours to kill, and only 1 hour of work to do, the pole would still be unpainted today.  Now that the pole is done, I planted a peach tree in our backyard, and I bought a new flour bin, and etc etc.  There's only going to be more and more things to tackle.  I guess since it's my place, I stare at it a lot and wonder about how to make it better.  I like to think that I'm not so overwhelmed anymore because I tackled that pole.

I had never felt this way before, not in any jobs I had.  I liked the fact that I could leave to go home and specifically not think about work.  Unpainted poles weren't my problem.  I cared about my jobs, but I didn't lie at night thinking about whether our neighbor chained his bike to our railing again or if I ordered enough ingredients for the next few days.  My heart goes out to all the small business owners out there, who've been through a lot of difficult days and nights, wondering if they've really made the right decisions.  It's really tough when you've got your entire life invested in something and you have no promises that it's going to work.

So, 8 months in, Simon and I had our first day off.  We didn't go into the store for an entire day.  It felt really strange, yet it felt so good.  It almost felt like we had grown up.  I'd still work 7 days a week, 14 hours a day to help the business work out, but being able to step back and say, "I don't have to be there all the time," feels incredibly good.  It took longer than we thought it would, but I'm proud we finally did it.  

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