Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Small Business Dilemma...

For some time now, I've been wondering what to write about as I haven't had too many updates to give about the progress of my Diner...which is sad news.  I've thought of some things now and then, but nothing really sounded good.  However, on my way home from picking up my daughter from work, I think I found the right topic - the small business dilemma...or at least that is the title I'm giving this.

What is the small business dilemma?  Well, there really could be many dilemmas, but I think one that most small businesses can agree on is FUNDING.  Now, I'm not a proponent of the 'Occupy...' stuff that's been going on around our country...I mean, give me a break.  Too many people are using this occupy movement and blaming the "1%" for their inability to get any gain in this world - someone call the wambulance (name the movie...).  I can't argue that there are those that are ultra rich and they really don't do much by way of 'work' to stay ultra rich.  However, there are many who actually 'worked' for their money, and worked hard.  If they made it to the 1%, then good for them.  That's what this country was founded on - good hard work and perseverance...NOT on standing around and complaining.

Anyway, before I get way off topic...

So, funding - that's a real problem with small businesses.  For many, funding is a hindrance that causes many to not even start a small business and for many others, funding is...or rather 'lack' of funding is what causes many small businesses to close.  For me? - I'm in that first category...funding is a hindrance that is standing in the way of me opening my doors or not.  Small businesses is what made this country great...it is on the backs of small businesses that larger corporations grew and it is still on the backs of small businesses that will get people to work and will give us a chance to get this economy back to where it should be.

Funding - how to get funding.  Well, if I knew how to do that, I think I'd be a very rich man.  The fact is, I'm not sure how to get funding because I'm still working on it...unfortunately.  See, I had the project planned out and funding arranged until part of it didn't come through.  So for the past several months, I've been working on getting the funding that I need in order to open...which brings me to this blog.

I don't care about the 1% - the ultra rich are who they are...I imagine some of them are good and decent people and are willing to help out where needed...others are, well, it's their money and they tend to keep it that way.  No, I'm looking at the 99%, or to what the 'occupy' movement will classify as 'the average person'.  Again, I have to say I am not a fan of the occupy movement...in part, some of what I've already stated above, but also, it's those in the 99% that I'm, and many other like me, are trying to get funding from - the average person.

I personally know several people that have money...I mean, really have money.  They aren't part of the 1%, but seriously, they really do have money.  Some of these people are actually investors - actually, 'Angel Investors'.  Hah - what a crappy name I think.  I know - that's my own personal opinion but really...some of these 'Angel Investors' have money and they 'do' invest in other companies/businesses...but not the 'small' businesses - they are looking for the 'big score'.  Most Angel Investors are looking only at Tech type companies because they say they give the most returns.  Ok, I get it - a tech company does have the potential to pay off in the millions of dollars.  What's the risk though...hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars from the investors.  But, if the payout happens, what a sweet day for them!!

What a bunch of crock...I've worked for a few tech companies - there has been no 'sweet' payout and millions upon millions have been lost (literally - I used to work for a company that went through millions and millions).

I've been in the restaurant business off and on for 15+ years...I have proven that I can run a restaurant and make it profitable...I've done it time and time again.  My business plan is solid as are my financials...I am showing a profit from year one...a substantial profit...not enough to get me into the 1%, but enough to make it worth the work and effort.  I've approached a number of people, that have money, that are unwilling to help me out.  I know I'm not alone in this - there are many thousands like me out there that are in the same boat...they have gone to people they know that 'have money' but they aren't willing to help out.  Yet, those same people that aren't willing to help...aren't they in the 99%?  So maybe it's just not the 1% that we ought to be complaining about.

My point?? - good question.  My point is this - it has been a tough haul and it is still a tough haul to get the funding I need.  Will I get it? - another very good question.  Let me answer it this way...I'm still working on it and have not given up.  Again, I am not alone in this...many others...too many others, are in the same situation that I am in.  Think of it - if all of those that are seeking to start up their own business got the funding that they needed, how many people would be put to work, how many paychecks would be cashed, how many lives would be affected for the better.  Sure, some of those new business will fail...it's the laws of nature...many would survive though.  Will any of those business owners ever get to be part of the 1%?? - maybe, but probably not.  However, I can bet there would be a lot more smiles and a lot more content people around...maybe enough so that there wouldn't be any people 'standing around' and complaining about the 1%.

The Small Business Dilemma...funding.  There is no magic bullet, there are no magic words, and sometimes, there just isn't any magic at all.  However, there is a lot of Heart, Faith, Struggle, and Sweat...you know...those same character traits that made this country what it used to be.  For me...I'm still working on it.  I'm sure I'll find the right person(s) that are looking for people with those traits.  If not...well, life goes on and we continue to work and do our best.

To all of you that have dreams...keep working towards them with Heart, Faith, Struggle, and Sweat.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In A Perfect World…

In a perfect world, we’d have no crime, we’d have no poverty, we’d always have enough for our needs, and we’d always enjoy what we do.  The weather would be perfect (I know, I shouldn’t use the same word to describe the word I’m talking about…), we wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of things like gas, housing, utilities, and such…computers would always work, cell phone calls would never drop, and…well, we would all be able to live a comfortable life.  However, while that does sound enticing and I’m sure we’ll get to that point sometime, I’m not sure that a perfect world would help us grow strong and give us the fortitude to carry on – a perfect world could make us a bit complacent.  Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to live in a perfect world because if we did, I’d have my Diner open by now.

No, I’m not open yet, and I do find that a bit discouraging.  My ‘first’ thoughts on when I wanted to be open was by Thanksgiving…of 2010.  Well, notice today’s date – we are in September of 2011 (actually, Sep. 11, 2011 so a side note of a moment of silence to all those that lost their lives on that day…………………………………………………………..and a heart-felt thank-you to all those that tried to do what they could to help those in need that day and to those who continue to do so today).

Anyway, my open dates that I wanted were, as noted earlier, by Thanksgiving of 2010, then by early March, then by April 21 (BYU Graduation), then May, then by July 4, then August, September…. Why haven’t I opened yet? – I could say because we don’t live in a perfect world but that may be taking the easy way out.  There is some truth to that though – we ‘don’t’ live in a perfect world and because of that, there are some struggles, maybe some missed opportunities, maybe some bad luck or bad timing…I know one thing…I don’t have all the answers.  That reminds me of a line from a movie when ‘Rudy’ was trying to seek for answers “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him” – by the way, that’s a great movie.

So, I’ve missed all the dates so far that I’ve wanted to be open…I could conclude then that we in-fact do not live in a perfect world.  There have been some setbacks along the way as I’m still fighting through one of the last major hurdles.  I will finish the race though…I’m too far along to not finish.  How far along?  Well, we won’t talk about the money aspect of it as I’m already very well committed to a number of loans and such.  As for the Diner itself, the construction is just about complete.  I’ll be laying the VCT (Vinyl Tile) and the Epoxy floor this week – I hope to be done with that by this time next week, my booths should be completed and in place by the end of this week or next, my cabinets will be in place…just about everything will be in  place to be able to open…except for the equipment – that is the major hurdle in trying to secure an equipment lease (mind you, it is an $80,000 equipment package).  I had one lender tell me that my lease deal would have been completed in a hear-beat two years ago – I guess I should have decided to do this project two years ago then. 

Well, we really don’t live in a perfect world – however, I kind of like the world that we live in.  Yes, there are changes that would be good, yes, it would be great if some things were done differently, but aren’t all these things for our experience?  We experience opposition every day and that can be a very good thing – it can make us stronger and can give us the determination to keep going.  I know people can be defeated by opposition as well – we see and hear about that every day in the news or in lives of those that we know.

A perfect world…no, I’m not open yet and am working hard at getting things in place so I can open as soon as I can (maybe early October??), yes, I’ve hit some roadblocks and setbacks during construction – BUT, I have my health, I’ve been blessed with abilities that have allowed me to do a lot of work that has literally saved me thousands of dollars, I have a roof over my head, and I have friends and family that continue to support me in all that I do.  No, it may not be a ‘perfect’ world, but I don’t think I would trade my life or experiences for anything.  I’ll get the Diner open – I know I will…which brings me to another great quote from a movie…well, I forget the actual quote, but the context is: “As they often sailed to get to their destinations in the Tongan islands, he would pray for a good tail wind.  But someone else taught him that such a prayer, if granted, would actually be detrimental to someone else sailing the opposite direction.  Instead, he should pray for a good wind.”  So, I will get the Diner open…all in due time…though I wouldn’t mind sooner rather than later.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Where has the time gone...

Well, today is Aug. 5, 2011...that means it's been 3 months, 11 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 14 seconds since I last updated my blog here...well, ok, I really don't know the hours and minutes - I just got on a roll there.  It has been over 3 months though as my last update was back in April - wow...where has the time gone.

A lot has happened since April - the biggest change is that my build-out is well on the way to being completed.  What a pain of a journey to get to where I am right now.  Now, I will say in advance that not all the people I have worked with have been a pain...some of them, a lot of them, have been very good to work with - it's just the entire process that has been a pain.  First, because my lease space is larger than 3,000/SF, the city (Provo City) requires architectual drawings - bummer.  If I had only the 3,000/SF, my drawings would have been sufficient - instead, I had to pay big bucks (really) to get a full set of plans drawn up...so that involved a draftsman, architect, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and plumbing engineer.  Yeah - whenever you see those two words - 'architect' and 'engineer', the money I thought was mine is no longer mine.  I'll have to give some additional stories about the 'plans' later...for now, I just want to give a quick and decent update.

So, plans were done and submitted - the city was very quick to approve and after more big bucks, I had the building permit inhand!!  However, as the bids came in, everything came to be...well, not just 'over' budget but INSANELY over budget - for me anyway.  It was really to the point if we couldn't get the bids down, the project would have died...and I would have been on the hook for a 7-year lease.  Fortunately, after meetings and a re-design by me (since the entire design is my own), we got everything down to where it was acceptable - whew!

We finally pulled the trigger on the build-out on Jun. 27 with the framing of the interior walls and then the other subs came in 3 days later (electrical, plumbing, HVAC).  Actually, the electrical subs didn't come in...another story there as we had to go with a different electrical sub.

Fast forward to today.......we completed (mostly) the painting mid-week this week, the suspended ceiling has been started, the fire sprinkler system is being adjusted, new front doors are going in according to my floor plan - I'll be starting the bathroom tile next week, lights will be going in next week and things are moving along.

In short, sorry for the passage of time without any updates.  That time frame was...not stressful but just disappointing because I'm a hands-on type of guy and I wanted to get things going (to the point that I just wanted to do everything on my own).  However, since this is a commercial building...  In any case, I'm shooting for a Sept. 8 opening - pending equipment arrival.  I know I need to start interviewing and hiring soon...along with many other things that I need to get done.  These past few weeks since the actual start of the build-out have been busy ones for me - up at around 5/6:00 am, to bed around 12/1/2 am - nothing like a good hard day's work (well, as hard as one can work while on a computer for my current job).

I'll try to keep this blog more current though I do have a lot on my plate...doing the painting, installing tile, installing all the flooring, making my own cabinets and maybe my own tables...a lot to do to keep me busy.  Pictures? - yes, I have them...I need to sort through them and post them - should be coming soon!  Until then, I'm still alive and kicking and moving towards an open date!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Road Less Traveled...

The Road Less Traveled

It’s at times like these that I’m remembering a poem written by Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken”.  Here is a portion of that poem…basically, the last stanza:

The Road Not Taken
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

Why do I feel this way at times? – well, let me tell you…

As you know, I’m in the process of starting up my own restaurant and when I say ‘starting’, it’s from the ground up…including concept.  Well, ok, not ‘literally’ the ground up, but close enough.  I’m located in the brand new Zion’s Bank Financial Center building, so the actual building itself is there and in place.  The space that I’m occupying is, for the most part, just a shell.  I’ve got four walls, a floor and ceiling – what more could a guy ask for.  I also have HVAC, Power, Gas, Water, and Sewage connections.  Now when you think about it, that’s actually quite a bit and helps out tremendously cost wise (vs. brand new construction from the dirt up).

However…and this is where the ‘road less traveled’ comes in to play.  What I have listed above on what my space currently is, it means that I must build EVERYTHING…as in booths, kitchen, interior walls, bathrooms, dishroom…everything, everything, everything.  So as I got to thinking about it, and then thinking about restaurants in general and the perceived “high” failure rate of restaurants, my belief is that most ‘independent’ restaurant owners tend to go into some type of ‘existing’ space.

Now, let me back up just a bit…’perceived high failure rate of restaurants’.  I kind of say that sarcastically but then again, there is a bit of truth to that statement.  Here is ‘more’ of the truth of the matter…yes, many restaurants do fail – no doubt about it.  However, it isn’t quite as high as the ‘90%’ rate that many would have you believe.  In truth, it’s more like 65%-75%.  Is that still high? – unfortunately, yes.  Why is it so high though – here’s my theory…who wants to open a hardware store, or a retail store, or a used car lot (or brand new dealership), or a grocery store, or a……well, we could state a lot of other types of stores.  There are more people that open a restaurant than almost any other type of store.  Many of those people don’t have any experience in the industry at all – they just want to open and own a restaurant.  Being a good cook at home or enjoying going to restaurants does not translate into being a successful restaurant owner.  Now, when people go into existing locations…locations where other restaurants have been before and didn’t make it…well, because another restaurant had been in that location and failed, the incoming restaurant already has everything in place that they need.  So other than some remodeling and such, costs for them are not as nearly expensive as a new construction startup.

So, back to ‘my’ topic – the road less traveled.  I don’t think that there are too many ‘independent’ restaurants that are going into ‘brand new spaces’ such as mine.  Most independent restaurants are going into existing structures, where they have more than just the four walls, a floor, a ceiling, HVAC, Water, and everything else I mentioned.  What they have that I don’t have are hoods, some equipment, lights, bathrooms…basically, with very little effort (well, ok, more than just a ‘little’) they can open their doors for business.  Me? – did I mention already that I need to build ‘everything’?  Also, not only do I need to build ‘everything’, but ‘everything’ needs to be built according to code…codes that are in place ‘today’ and not codes of 2 years, 5 years, 10 years ago.

The road less traveled…I find myself wondering at times if I should have looked for an existing location.  It may have made my life a bit easier (maybe) and it certainly would have been a little better on my pocketbook.  Still, as Robert Frost put it in his poem, “…And that has made all the difference.” – Taking the road less traveled can be a great thing…difficult yes, but a great thing.  I’ve got great support, I have what I believe is a great concept, I have the skills and experience to take on this project…it’s just a lot of work to get where I want to be.  Will it be worth it?  I agree with Robert Frost – “…And that has made all the difference.”.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

How did I get here...really.

I do wonder that sometimes...how did I get here.  No, not 'that' "How did I get here...Where did I come from...", but really - how did I get to where I'm at...today...at this point in time.  Sometimes I look at this project of mine and begin to realize that hey, this is a pretty big project...a pretty big undertaking here (you do know that I'm talking about my restaurant...right?).

You know, when I first thought about running my own restaurant, I can't remember if I really had any set plans on how big/small it would be...I just knew that I wanted to create and run my own place and that I would be successful at it.  I also seriously didn't think that I would be doing this right now, I mean, I didn't lay plans down years ago saying that I'll have my own place in the year 2011.  Don't get me wrong...this isn't something that I'm just trying to throw together hoping that it'll work - I've been working on plans and details for over a year now, but still...how did I get here.

When I was young and growing up, I can tell you that my dreams were not to grow up and be a cook.  I didn't want to be a Dr. or Lawyer either, maybe a cowboy...  Actually, what I really wanted to be was a baseball player.  I loved baseball...and was pretty good at it too.  Well, the baseball route obviously didn't work out...but good things happened along the way.

One of those good things was meeting my wife LuAnn!  Had I made the baseball team at Ricks (now BYU-Idaho), or had I decided to go to BYU (Provo) in the first place, I don't think I would have ever met LuAnn...that would have been a mistake.  I can't imagine my life without her...she's my friend, my biggest supporter, my example...my everything!  No, we haven't had the 'perfect' lives as we've had our share of ups and downs with layoffs, moving around a lot, different jobs and such, but through it all, it has been a GREAT life!!

Still, how does that get me to where I'm at today?? - simple - it's with the Love and Support that I receive from LuAnn and the rest of my family!!  Early last year, 2010, LuAnn really did not want me to get to serious about starting up my own restaurant...now, she's asking me how come it's taking so long to get open (I know..others of you are asking the same question).  So again, the answer is simple.  With the Love and Support that I have from LuAnn and the kids, and with the knowledge set that we have through our life's experiences, we're not looking at this venture as a 'challenge', instead, this is really just another day for us.  Yes, going through all the construction and building process is new to us, but the closer we get to opening our doors, that's when we are in our comfort zone...that's when we can role up our sleeves and dig into the work!

So with Faith, Knowledge, Love, and Support, I continue to move forward.  Everyday is a new experience in this process...how do I want my floor to look, what kind of lights should I have, what color booths do I want, what kind of kitchen equipment should I have, what kind of bacon do I want to serve...and the list goes on and on and on.  How did I get here? - actually, I'm still getting there but I'm enjoying not only the ride, but the company too!! - 143 Honey!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

As Time Goes On...and on...and on...

Well, it's been a bit since I've updated you on anything.  Not that I haven't had anything to say or show, but I've just been soooo busy.  I try to be at work early and am at work all day long.  Then, since March starts up High School Softball, I've been umping games in the afternoon/evening.  Once I get home, I'm working out various details for my restaurant...changes in floor plans, changes in my bathrooms to meet occupancy and ADA requirements, looking at various bids for my equipment, working on funding and financing...time has just marched right on by without my permission.

So, I signed my lease at the end of Feb (Feb 28) - THAT WAS A GREAT DAY!!!  I mean, I was really going to do this - no backing out now.  I wasn't thinking about backing out at all - I wanted to keep moving forward!!  I ordered a 'coming soon' sign - it took me a week or so to do that...I was initially thinking that I would go through my Coca Cola rep to get a banner (I could have gotten one for free through them) but decided that I wanted to use the banner just for me and not to take part of it up with a Coke logo.

So banner ordered...we were so excited and couldn't wait to put it up!!!  Well, it still isn't up...I know I know.  Actually, we do have a fairly good reason, and a strange one at that.  In order to put the banner up, we'll need to actually attach it to the building...screw it into the stucco on the front of the building.  Well, with the Zion's Bank Building being a Brand New multi-million dollar building, I don't want to be the one that just screwed up their building so I started the process of getting bids for my logo.  So here's the strange part of the issue - I put out three different bids and not one of them responded in over 1 1/2 weeks.  I would have thought that with the economy, any potential lead for a sale would be welcomed! - I had no responses.  Anyway, I finally contacted someone else and they had a bid back to me the next day - way to go!!  So now, I know where I will be putting my outdoor signage so I can finally put my banner up...pending all this crazy weather we are having.

I've also had to go through my plans again and again...and I think we finally have it nailed down:

Pretty exciting stuff - huh?...well, I think it is.  However, we still don't have everything needed to submit all the plans to the city.  We still need Mechanical (Heating and Air) plans, Electrical plans, Plumbing plans, and Hood plans.  So really, the phase that I've been in during this last month has been one of 'hurry up and wait'. 

So, not much has 'visibly' gone on over this past month, but plenty 'behind-the-scenes' work has been taking place.  To me, all of this stuff is new - I'm not a builder or planner.  My specialty is running the restaurant and cooking and meeting my customers and such.  That's the part I can really sink my teeth into.  I understand all this other stuff (to a point) and realize why it needs to be done - in fact, I had fun doing the actual floor plan as the plan above really is my design (with varying input and mandates like ADA requirements).  But in the end, let's just get my doors open so I can do what I wanted to for some time...let me get into that kitchen and start cooking!

The good news? - I think we'll see some good movement on a lot of things this month of April.  In fact, I'll go as far to say that by the end of this month, things will be looking good and I'll be well on my way to opening my doors...and I'm still hopeful for the end of May.  I have more pictures to post so I'll try and keep this more current from this point on.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Empty Space...needs filling!!

Well, it's been some time since I've written - my bad.  It seems that for the moment, I'm working three different jobs...and I thought working two was bad enough.  I'm still working my normal full-time job - I work for a software company and do, well, a little bit of everything and it keeps my busy throughout the day...and then some.  My second job - umping High School Fastpitch Softball.  It's fun and I enjoy it but it does take up some time.  My third job? - that's getting my restaurant going.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there's a lot to do - more than what I had initially thought.  It's not anything too overwhelming, but there is a lot to be done.  In fact, I just met today with an interior designer about color scheme and such.  Floor plan, colors, decor, equipment, menu...the list goes on and on and on.  Right now, the most pressing item is finalizing the floor plans and getting them to the city for approval. 

Now, it would seem that finalizing plans wouldn't be too big of a problem...only it's more than 'just' a floor plan.  If that's all it was, I'd have had that turned into the city for approval and we'd have started building already.  However, since my square footage is over 3,000 SF, I have to have the floor plans done up by an architect along with mechanical plans, plumbing, electrical, and hoods.  I'm hoping that we'll get that completed sometime this week and turned into the city.

As for the space? - that's all it is at the moment - just empty space.

I'm hoping that we'll start filling this space as soon as possible - I'll take pictures along the way so you can see the progression.

This is the front of my location.  If you take the first set of windows directly in front of the parked van on the right, my space is from that set of windows and over four more sets (to the left) for a total of five sets of windows.  Though the doors are shown in the 2nd and 3rd set (going from right to left), we're moving the doors to the 4th and 5th set (with the 4th being the main entrance to the restaurant itself and the 5th being the entrance to the bakery).

Anyway, it's taking a bit to get all the plans ready to submit to the city, but as I've always told my kids..."patience is a virtue".