Sustain. Sustainable. Sustainability. All buzz words of the current generation that get tossed around with such ease and abandon like chips on a craps table. But what does it actually mean to sustain.
The last three months of business have been a daily encounter with change and growth unlike what I’ve had in the first three years of operation. In this short period I have added two full time salaried employees, a new menu, some new equipment, an interior facelift, along with a new service attitude. Sales continue to be going in the right direction and I have more time now to concern myself with these types of matters.
But something still doesn’t feel right.
What I grapple with now is that I am actually in the kitchen less than ever. Not because I don’t want to be, but instead because I don’t need to be there as often. I have good quality folk on which to rely. I don’t have to be butcher, baker and candlestick maker any longer. I can now focus on that part of the work that only I can do. Others can cook, bake and manage. Only a few can incubate a vision.
My personal quest is to grow a sustainable business while living a sustainable life, and in the process, pass on written words that parse what I’ve discovered in the hope that it will encourage others to do likewise. This is a difficult path, as I find few in this profession to which I can get close enough to see and learn from either their wisdom or mistakes. But this is no excuse to stop watching the inner compass and staying aimed at true north.
One enemy of sustainability is in having nothing set aside, and living as if our current supply will always be adequate. But if we deplete our supply without thought of what might happen to it if a disaster strikes, we run the risk of having nothing to get us through such crisis. My buddy Dave lost fifty chickens in the sweltering heat this month. That’s a lot of income for him, and a good product for me, but our menu is diverse enough that we can adjust it by utilizing less poultry and leaning more on other proteins. But if we only sold chicken, to borrow a phrase from the kids, “we’d be screwed.” As it is, we have a reserve and thus can carry on.
This idea works internally as well. This week has been very difficult on me personally, on one hand watching Karen struggle with her cancer treatment, and on the other, preparing for my son to go off to college. The supply side has taken a hit and I find myself feeling depleted more often than not. If I don’t stop to address what’s left in the tank and, how to keep a small cache in store, I won’t be able to sustain what needs to be done.
It should be intuitive. We eat when we are hungry. We stop when we are full. So where along the way do we lose sight of the source and its importance? If consumption is of high concern, what will be left once we’ve had our fill?