Site Visit: Miss D’s Café

In our experience, one of the best ways we can help combat the tension between the day-to-day and big picture tasks is to provide structure and accountability around making time to think, review and write down that plan.  We’ve made ourselves available for one-on-one time with each team in the class.  We’re doing this because we are at the end of the sessions on overall planning (see Session #2 & Session #3 for some context) and heading into the sessions where you take a specific topic and apply it to YOUR business, like marketing or bookkeeping.  We want to make sure that each person in the class found a way to create a plan for their business – some people will like numbers, some will like a calendar, some will like a narrative.  Which kind doesn’t matter; it matters that you work through the process and have a plan that you can attach the next round of ideas.

TODAY, we met with Miss D. 

When we arrived, we were greeted by one of Miss D’s pop-up chefs.  He was expecting us, and let us know that she was on her way.  It’s always fun to do a site visit when the owner isn’t there yet.  You get to see Does someone know I’m coming?  How do they treat me?  What do they tell me in terms of what the owner might have said to them about me and what I’m coming to do.

We learned some things about how Miss D’s Café started.  She needed a kitchen to do catering.  When she found this spot on RD Abernathy in Westview, she saw an opportunity to help her community by expanding the operation to include:

  • a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch,
  • pop-up space for other chefs to help them get started, and
  • hiring local residents that might be difficult to employ - ex-offenders, kids, etc.

What We Saw

On a site visit, Yvonne and I want to see how the business functions.  We both love design and creating places; so we are looking at color and light and the menus and how the space is arranged.  It’s also great to see how the employees act.  Are they happily working away or standing around waiting for someone to direct them.  At the end of a workday, you want to see people who look satisfied.  And finally, what is the owner like in the place?  One time won’t tell you if someone is on it or distracted, but you can start to see who they are in their role as the boss.

How the Session Went

What we did while we were there?  This was an interview process for our class.  We are helping to put numbers and strategy down on paper for the students.  These are things they know about their business, but can't take the time or settle their mind enough to do it.  It's a really hard thing.  So, we are taking this in hand to get them started.  The difficult thing from our perspective is to make sure through the process that the business owner comes to own the information.  So, it has to be focused on them, how they think and what they are trying to accomplish.

Miss D has an epiphany between when I met with her Friday and Tuesday when Yvonne and I came back to walk through the Session #3 work.  She was thinking about what was different and special in her cafe.  A lot of people compare her to Thumbs Up Diner.  So she looked at their menu and eliminated all the things that they both do. . . this isn’t what makes her special.  (Genius!)  This small action created a very clear and actionable insight.  She made a note.  Then, she looked at her YELP! Page and saw that they get a lot of compliments on their brisket.  She made note of this.  She asked several customers what they like most.  It’s a little more complicated, but she got feedback that they love the brisket, but most people didn’t know they have it every day.

So, they have decided to feature it.  It’s unique.  They do it well.  The customers love it.  It has a good price point.   By the time I saw her Tuesday, she had already come up with items for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and the price points that items needed to hit.  She initially had the very common problem of too low on pricing for a new item.  A little conversation about it and a shift in thinking led to a good result.

So Miss D had her own experience of this session.  She likely thought it was a somewhat wandering conversation.  It was a make-up session for a class that she had missed and this meant she didn’t know the material already.  In reality, it was a pretty in-depth look into how she currently makes money and what pieces can be leveraged to make more money with less hassle, time, or cash outlay.  There were some significant insights she had; especially because there were a couple of days between the two conversations.  The biggest, most exciting thing for me was that she mentioned key points from each session of the class, including our Introduction.  She’s on it.

So. . .

It doesn't always work.  The crucial piece for success here is that the business owner has to take ownership of this work.  They have to be comfortable talking about what is and isn’t working and leading the conversation.  Over the course of a few meetings like this, you can see someone change how they greet you, open the meeting and even how organized they are about what they want to accomplish.  In the beginning, you are telling them what we are doing.  In the end, they are showing you where things are going.    

What about it almost always works?  This is a way for us to help a business owner find time and energy to work on the business, instead of in it.  Why is it so much easier when you know you have to sit down with someone?  Because they provide physical accountability.  The other person can also help you to focus because they bring conversation and a point of visual focus.  We also bring some structure to the conversation because we have a process that we are sorting the conversation to fit into.  This means that we latch on to the things that matter and move on from things that don’t.   We also bring a buffer or a fence around the owner, even if they are sitting in their own business their employees are less likely to interrupt the conversation than they would be do disturb someone thinking or processing invoices.

How Do We Do This?

We behave as the women that we are.  Yvonne and I have taken a lot of time to create a strong collaborative energy between the two of us.  We bring this to our meetings and conversations with other people.  Each of us is passionate about helping people create a business and a life they love.  We are nurturing and caring.  We really want you to succeed and believe that you can.  We treat you that way too.  We sometimes disagree with an owner and will speak up.  We use logic, persuasion and all the examples we can think of to help people learn.

We listen more than we talk.  We ask a lot of questions, but only after letting the business owner start it off.  We guide, but we don't decide.