Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So You Want to Own a Business?

Luke throwing the zzza's at Pie-Fection
This is a rumination on the challenges of owning and/or opening your own business, staying sane, and perhaps surviving (if you're lucky). It's possible to open a business and fail and stay sane. It's possible to open a business and survive and stay sane. It's also possible to open a business, survive, and go insane. There are no doubt other possible outcomes stemming from these variables. The point is, opening a business anytime is a crap shoot and doing so in the 21st century is anything but predictable and never a guarantee of success.

I've worked in retail most of my adult life and I've opened or managed more than a dozen different bookstores during my career. I've taken multiple concepts from planning to construction documents, to construction, to grand openings. I've also had to close multiple stores due to changing economic climates or changing financial environments affecting my companies. None of these projects happened without hiccups and all of them required enormous amounts of energy and long hours, hours way beyond anything that was ever budgeted. However, I never had to provide the capital to get these projects completed or lose the capital if any of these projects failed. In other words, everything that I did, I did with other people's money, not mine.

I've raised a lot of money in my time, money to fund organizations, money to fund ongoing programs, and money to fund one-time efforts. It's been gratifying to be able to help grow the financial resources of non-profits and other philanthropic enterprises. If you have it, share it is my mantra. But I've never had to put my personal funds or funds that I've raised based on my personal integrity at risk in a business venture. That is a huge difference of experience. I personally have been sheltered from risk and liability in the business sector.

Jon pouring some nice white wine
This week I had the distinct pleasure of dining at a restaurant founded and run by my wife's nephew, Luke Fernbach, and his business partner, Jonathan Diaz. I've previously shared in their adventure vicariously through email and Facebook, but it's a decidedly visceral experience to actually walk through the door, order a meal, sit down and consume it. What a trip! The product I received was exactly the one I ordered and so was the one ordered by my table mate.

I ordered a Pie-Fection custom  9" pizza and a couple of sides and they were delivered on time as promised. Mine was a white crust with pesto, chorizo sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella cheese, two kinds of olives, and a drizzle of oil and garlic prior to firing. Mmmmm! Besides good eatin', it was also fun  to witness the diverse group of young people who gathered to commune and dine in a fun social environment that they had clearly visited before and returned to many times. Observing this interaction gave me a lot hope for the future of our society.

These guys work 14 hour days, 7 days a week and they've been doing that since they opened ???? months ago. They've got a great staff and all of them work well together, but the burden of success is on four shoulders, Luke's and Jon's. I salute them and wish them the best outcomes they can achieve. They're doing something I never even attempted and I hope it all works out for them. I know that they would appreciate the support of anyone living in the Orlando area or traveling there anytime soon.

Luke Fernbach and Jon Diaz, proprietors
Pie-Fection: Pizza Salads Pasta

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