I haven’t written a blog in a while. The reason? The usual. Time, creativity (lacking) but mostly I felt like I didn’t have much to say. Content is king but there is no use putting things out just to make white noise. July was such a crazy busy month for us on every front that there wasn’t any time to write anything let alone space for any creative juices to flow. By the end of the month, I was out of the habit. However, the last few weeks I have had the inspiration to write and there have been some new and exciting things happening that I wanted to share.
What’s new with Little Birdy Cakes?
The most exciting thing is that I have a new employee!! Trust me, this is the most exciting thing to happen in a long while, which makes me do a happy dance each time I think about it. Jo is just the right fit for what the business needs at this stage. She is calm, steady and willing to learn. It has thrown some challenges my way, some I was expecting and some that were unexpected. It has thrown some light into an area of the business I have long been dying to test. We are starting slow which is the right way to do it. I believe in the saying “hire slow, fire fast”. Getting the right people is so important and with such a small team it is imperative.
It has been 6 years this December since I have lead a team. In some ways, it is like riding a bike. I have spent more years of my employment being a manager than not. It is something that comes naturally to me. However, it does make me think about all the things I did in the past as a manager that on reflection I was not happy with. I don’t want to be the same manager I was before, I want to be better and offer more. A micro manager, I am not, and I firmly believe in sink or swim. I will never let you drown but I do need people who can hold their own. They may not have the answers but they do know how, and where, to get them.
This is the most exciting thing to happen in a long while, which makes me do a happy dance each time I think about it
First challenge, I talk to myself. I know, so ridiculous. It is a family trait. My Dad talks to himself as does my brother, James. James is a chef and has helped me in the kitchen from time to time (like the time that I hurt my right arm and I couldn’t lift anything and he worked in the kitchen until midnight and then got up at 4am to go to his regular job. LEGEND!).
He is the most awesome person to work alongside as he is such a calming presence. I don’t flap around too much, I tend to just get on with things. No point worrying about things that are outside of your control. But I do get a bit anxious when I am stressed so he is great to have with me to calm me down. His downfall, he talks to himself. I’ll be working along and he will mutter to himself and I will think he is talking to me. So I ask him to repeat himself as I didn’t hear and he says it’s nothing, just muttering. Rinse and repeat.
It seems I have gotten worse with my talking to myself. I am now the “James” in the situation. I have spent many hours in the kitchen by myself and the talking has gotten worse. Now I have to try and reign it in so it doesn’t disturb Jo. Such a silly thing that I didn’t even realise would be a problem. I have warned Jo, so hopefully I can keep it in check.
There is much work to be done
Second challenge, procedures!! The holy grail in any well run business. Little Birdy Cakes success hinges on being able to launch new cakes with little fuss and staff being able to pick up the changes and run with them. The first shift with Jo proved that the procedures I had created (and been working on for the better part of 2 years) were not adequate. Too much text and too much room for interpretation. There can be no wriggle room in what we do. While we do not aim for perfection, there has to be uniformity between cakes. Especially if different people are making the cakes on different days.
The holy grail in any well run business
Back to the drawing board for me and a new template for the procedures. Shift two and things were a whole lot better. The best thing about Jo? She is willing to dig in and isn’t scared of trying new things. The new procedures were picture based and were a hit. By shift three, with a new cake to tackle, Jo pretty much ran by herself with just a little guidance. You have no idea how much of a relief it was to see something work and to see in your mind how the future will play out.
Let me tell you, this is one part of about 1000 things that need to be tested and corrected. The great thing about getting this part right is that it has made me look at the process differently. I was writing the procedures for someone like me, a supervisor or manager. Someone who has experience and understands the process, the language and how each component of the process works. But it will be sometime before I have that person in the kitchen. The procedures need to be written as if the person reading it knows how to fill a piping bag and use it. That is it!
Third challenge, speed. That is something that will come with time and confidence. My only reference is how many cakes I can bake, decorate and get out the door. And my motivations are completely different to someone else’s and my standards are different. For now I am happy to wait, watch and coach. I have adjusted my expectations and already started to crunch numbers based on what can be produced in a certain period. It’s just a numbers game after all.
It is an exciting time that has been a long time coming. I hope Jo is the first of many permanent employees. There is a lot of work to be done to make sure the business moves forward in the right way. Having someone else in the kitchen regularly has highlighted so many gaps and things that need work. But I see all the challenges as problems just waiting to be solved. One step at a time and before I know it, it will be unrecognisable. In a totally fabulous and exciting way. Watch this space!