There is a lot of information out there for people looking to start their own business. So much so that it can be tough to chew through the lessons at hand and decide what you need to be learning, and from who.
Reading articles can open your eyes and ears to a world of advice on five-year plans and the legalities of partnerships. Attending seminars hosted by business experts can gear you up for a mindset that might maximise your potential.
But the best advice comes from those who have dreamed it and done it. Life lessons that you can apply to your plans, right now.
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When turning southern hospitality into a thriving industry, the US pitmasters featured in our Meet the Master episodes have proved their passion and dedication to their art.
They’ve also stockpiled a stack of knowledge about how to grow small start-ups into successful, long-lasting business, and they’re more than happy to share.
Jason Harr, manager of Extra Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery.
A Richmond, Virginia institution, this family-owned business is more than just a workplace for manager Jason Harr.
When it comes to a family business, the key is compromise. Often you may have different visions but “to go in the right direction, we all have to have the same vision,” says Harr. “If we don’t have that, we hold off.”
Be the difference
In a sea of competitors, Harr knows his longevity counts on the keeping the restaurant’s offering unique. After witnessing the Californian craft beer boom of the 90s, Harr was inspired to bring it back to Richmond when Extra Billy’s opened a new venue. “Part of the confidence of starting a new location is bringing something new to the game,” he adds.
When it comes to growing a business, Harr believes it’s important to take things slowly. “Step back and think about where you’re going, and not throw yourself in the fire all the time,” he explains.
If you’re not “in the rungs of the business all the time’’, as Harr describes it, you can make smarter decisions. By delegating the everyday tasks, you give yourself more room for clarity and more time to look at the long-term vision of your company.
Be a risk taker
By inching out of your comfort zone, you test what works best while giving your business the chance to develop in new ways. “You need to stick with what you know and what [your customers] want, but you can’t be afraid to take chances as well,” Harr says.
Tuffy ‘The Professor’ Stone, award-winning pitmaster and catering entrepreneur.
The five-time BBQ world champion is a household name amongst his peers, counting TV appearances and a chain of successful Q Barbecue restaurants in Virginia among his many achievements.
Stone knows one thing for sure: “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. After over a decade in the BBQ business, the successful entrepreneur owes a lot to sticking with it. “I put so much into [his catering company] Sharper Palate with the hope that someone would call us” – and they did, he says.
When it comes to the success of the catering company Stone launched in 1991, he reflects on the payoff of unwavering dedication and hard work. “I believe if I came to your house, cooked good food, charged you a reasonable price, gave you good service and left your kitchen cleaner then when I got there, we would stay in business,” he says.
Having won almost every major BBQ competition, Stone owes as much to his diligence and organisation as he does his inherent skills. Famous for documenting every detail, his competition team counts on their ‘save your ass’ boxes – kits packed with “ziplocks, sternos, lighters and disposable gloves”. There’s no room for error. “One person loads it and another checks it. There’s nothing worse than forgetting something,” he adds.
Winning and keeping catering clients since 1991, Stone says it’s all about “asking the right questions and getting the right information so that we can give them [the client] an accurate proposal really swiftly. There’s not enough hours in the day” to be unorganised.
From the beginning, Stone worked hard to “keep overheads low”, allowing him to build a profitable business in less time.
Buz Grossberg, award-winning BBQ chef and restaurant owner
Dedicated three decades to the art of perfecting the pit. An award-winning BBQ chef and co-owner of the Buz and Ned’s restaurant chain, his skill and expertise has seen him feature on TV shows Amazing Eats and Man vs Food.
When it comes to running a successful restaurant, Grossberg thrives on “quality, consistency and how quickly you can get the food out to your customers”. If you have a handle on this mighty trio, you’re on the right track.
Grossberg attributes his success to “many years of gathering information and practicing, and just being a stubborn dumb guy who didn’t give it up when he probably should have.” There’s something to be said for being steadfast in your belief.
When it comes to launching a small business, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality. Grossberg says: “Nothing ever happens perfectly when you’re starting a business,” so be ready to roll with the punches.
Skill is an essential factor in any small business journey, but without passion you’ll be going nowhere fast. “If you have that passion, it’s going to carry you through a long way,” agrees Grossberg. He goes on to say: “people who get in this business for the money and the glory – and you’re not necessarily going to find either – are in for a big surprise.”