Over the past year our life has taken a significant change in direction. I left pastoral ministry after 15 years and Kathy left 25 years in retail to pursue a new opportunity. May 1, we became small business owners as we opened Em’s Cafe.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned as I transitioned from pastor to small business owner:
You can accomplish a lot with the help of a loving group of friends
One of the reasons the cafe is so meaningful to us is that virtually every part has a personal touch from someone we know and love. From paint colours, to furniture, artwork, and lighting, someone close to us had a part. Our community of friends and family have been so supportive and a real part of the success of the cafe. It wouldn’t be a reality without the help of so many. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredibly loving community.
Wise counsel is priceless.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” Prov 15:22
From the very moment we began to entertain the idea of running a cafe, we sought input from others. This was one of the most important decisions we made. We talked with business owners, close friends and family, inviting their feedback because we trusted them. Were we crazy? Is this a realistic plan? Are there things we’re not seeing? Everything was on the table and their input was invaluable.
Helping someone realize their dream is awesome
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
What started as a casual conversation about 15 years ago eventually became a reality this year. I think I like the idea of a cafe because I have spent so much time in them over the years. But with Kathy’s passion for food & chocolate and her love for people the cafe has been a perfect fit for her. Ultimately this is her dream and one that I get to be a part of. I have loved being part of the researching, planning, organizing and the day-to-day operations. Seeing Kathy thrive in her new environment is very satisfying.
Receiving help is humbling.
It seemed that at every turn someone was offering to help and to be honest, it’s not easy to ask or receive help. Maybe you’re the same way. It may be a struggle to be on the receiving end of someone’s help but it sure means so much. If you do struggle with this, remember…how do you feel when you help someone else? You don’t think twice about it, you do it and feel good about it right? Then allow others to experience the same thing. Sometimes you will be on the receiving end of generosity…be grateful for it.
Food is an effective way to connect with people.
The vision for Em’s Cafe is to have a positive impact on every customer and the community. People are awesome…some visit and you know their life story before you pour their coffee. Others have a wait and see approach. But either way, food and coffee have a way of making strangers, friends.
The hours don’t matter when what you’re doing matters.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to open and run a new business and when I look back to those first few weeks I’m not sure how we got through some of those long days. It was crazy! But I have no regrets only gratitude. Perhaps we wouldn’t follow through on new ideas if we knew in advance what it would take to accomplish them. A little ignorance can be a gift I guess.
Ministry happens wherever you are.
I know that some people questioned my decision to leave pastoral ministry to open a cafe. I get it and I totally understand. But the truth is I connect with more people as a small business owner than I did as a pastor. This is not a statement about pastoral ministry as much as it is a reality of operating a community based business. We have seen thousands of people come through our door in the past 5 months. No, not every customer becomes a friend (although Kathy does her best to make that happen). But the cafe does provide plenty of opportunities to connect with people in a meaningful way.
Saying “Yes” to something , means saying “No” to something else.
This has never been more true for me than this year. It’s easy to add things to our calendar without removing something else and before long we have little or no margin in our lives. Launching a small business has meant being very intentional about what we would be doing and what we would have to say no to. We would have to be all-in to have any success at all. Working 7 days a week, and some very long hours, meant that we would be saying no to other things; some good things too. Here are just a few examples:
- Time with friends would be limited.
- Church attendance would be interrupted (we’re thrilled to be back regularly now).
- Pool parties were non-existent (this one really hurt)
- No late night movies or TV including sports…I know crazy right?
- Fewer family dinners; in fact finding food at home would be a challenge some days.
Whether you own a business or not, you have to say no to something when you want to say yes to something else.
Loving your neighbour is hard work
We have incredible customers, we really do. But we don’t just take their order and their money. We have made it a priority to engage them with a smile and conversation, even if it’s simply, “How’s your day going? Where are you from? Where are you going from here? We get to know our customers (Kathy has an incredible way of remembering details and remembering them on their next visit) and I think many are surprised by the level of engagement we provide. But this is hard work…if you’re an introvert like me, it’s exhausting work but so worth the effort.
Having a great team is essential.
The cafe was a family decision which meant that our kids were not only on board with the idea of a cafe, they would be working with us as well. And they have been terrific. Yes there have been bumps along the way…working with family is a new and unique experience for all of us.
Hiring the right staff has also been a critical piece to the success of the cafe. Early on we learned from others that it’s critical to be thoughtful in the hiring process. We have been so fortunate to have wonderful people working with us. They bring their unique personalities to the cafe and make it better. They are awesome and we love them.
Boiling it down to a few takeaways:
- Focusing on others well-being brings meaning & purpose to your life.
- When making significant decisions, seeking wisdom & insights from others is critical
- You can accomplish more by surrounding yourself with people you trust and love.
Question: How can you implement one or more of these in your life starting today?
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