I’ve put everything I have into this business. Financially, I put nearly everything in, but I’m referring to my actual self. When people visit Bay Coffee they are essentially experiencing a piece of me. I’ve put all I have to give, personally and professionally. I’m nearly six months in and my efforts finally got the best of me. From day one I worked 120-hour weeks, and every two weeks or so I was able to shave off 20 hours–100-hour weeks, 80-hour, 60, and finally 40 or even less. But the 40 or 50-hour weeks were no better, as I was still working 16-hour days and recovering in between.
The toll was also emotional, as I continuously gave myself to the business. I gave to customers, to staff, to vendors. I tried to give to my family. I gave little to myself. And it caught up with me, so I’m taking it easy for a couple weeks, shutting down my to-do list by building but not acting upon it.
There is a motto in the Peace Corps–”the toughest job you’ll ever love”. The Peace Corps was tough, I loved it, and certainly contemplated quitting on several occasions. But in the Peace Corps I was mentally at ease. As a small business owner I am routinely stressed. Customers, vendors, and employees, as groups and individually, have unique needs and stories and must all be cared for uniquely. Or perhaps I just feel the need to provide such individual care.
My expectations are also very high, as I’m trying to recreate the cafe to match my vision. But with this comes endless responsibilities, some of which have very little to do with my “dream”.
Are all my permits up to date? Is the store clean? Are we serving consistent product with quality service? Are staff happy and trained and am I communicating to them properly? Do they have sufficient hours that fit the other scheduling needs of their lives? Are the shelves stocked? Are customers satisfied? Are their complaints being resolved and solutions found to prevent repeat errors? Are all vendors paid? Are they giving us decent market prices? Are our prices fair? Too high? Too low? Why doesn’t the coffee taste right? Why is the grinder making that noise? And why did the towel vendor fail to deliver fresh towels?
I am also very giving, perhaps a little too much. When I listen to customers and staff, I really try to listen. And while they share the good in their lives, they often share problems. As I take this respite before getting back to my to-do list, I’m focused most on separating myself from the emotional aspects (the people) of the business. I don’t mean to sound cold–I just sincerely think that if I am to work sustainably, I have to respect certain barriers in order to prevent myself from disappearing into those around me.
So as my to-do list grows, I shut down my urges to act upon it. I step back from customers, staff, and vendors. I step back and focus on myself so that in the long run I can better my business.