It has been an INCREDIBLY long time since my last proper blog post and things with Maize Blaze have changed INCREDIBLY. From my one small ad hoc stall in Camden Lock Market a Street Food business has grown and spread into Central, East and West London. I now employ some great people who add a lot of value to what I do and I have even started paying myself a salary that I can actually live on realistically!
Well, that’s the Good News.
The Bad News, (which always follows Good News around like a lost puppy), is that it takes every last breath in me from dusk ’till dawn to keep things running. As you can imagine, this has had a huge impact on my lifestyle and ability to socialise with friends and take time for other interests. Now don’t get me wrong: I am not complaining. It was my decision to get into this business and a conscious one to throw myself full-pelt into it to make it work. A decision which has so far paid off. All I am saying is that I don’t have much spare time and there are some weeks where I feel so exhausted from the long hours and early starts that I feel like I am not going to manage to fulfill all my commitments. It is this level of exhaustion that turns a dream-turned-reality job into a nightmare slog.
It is this topic which has been at the forefront of my general ponderings while driving my van around our fair city.
On the one hand it is necessary to put a lot of work into growing the business (if I want to appease my impatience for progress!) However, on the other hand this was meant to be the perfect job. A job that would make me happy and let me be creative and give me the freedom to choose my own career path as I saw fit. It was not meant to kill me or even drive me to the brink of death by sleep deprivation and anxiety – was it?
No. My general conclusion is that it is just as important to keep some semblance of balance between the passionate drive and ambition for your business to succeed and giving yourself enough time to reflect on your progress by giving your brain a rest. I have found myself so wound up and exasperated by everything on my plate sometimes that I actually become less productive as I am just too anxious. In times like these the only thing that gets me back into a balanced and focused space is time off. A morning or afternoon off to see a friend and laugh and relax and talk about things outside the small realm of Maize Blaze is not just a nice pastime – it is an essential and non-negotiable part of keeping things running smoothly.
I know this too be true now. When I first started receiving job opportunities I had the feeling that I needed to accept everything, indiscriminately, because it could lead to more business even if it was not directly successful. I think this was probably a good move initially as you can learn quickly from your successes and failures and also figure out how much workload you really can cope with and still maintain a good level of service and quality to the customers. This is extremely important because at the end of the day there is no point running around frantically keeping things up in the air if the quality suffers. Firstly, it will affect sales in the short and long term, but secondly it will reduce your pride in what you are doing and I know that I have to love what I am offering in order to sell it. I can’t sell something I don’t believe in.
After some time, however, you learn to be more selective as it is easier to predict what will work and what probably won’t. Certain demographic features of locations in London, trading times, holiday seasons, equipment considerations and staffing all paint an educated guess of the likelihood of a job opportunity being fruitful and provide some insight into how to prioritise jobs and politely decline those which probably will not work for you.
It is still an awful feeling to say no to a job. I think the Fear Of Missing Out will always be strong in me and there will always be a great job opportunity that come up when you are already fully booked and committed to something else. That will always happen in business as it does in normal life. BUT…. at least now I don’t also have the unbearable guilt of feeling like I’m not working hard enough to add to it.
When you are working at your physical and mental optimum efficiency – this is your full capacity. It is fine to push that capacity a bit here and there to get things done but repeatedly working beyond your capacity will un-do all your hard work in the end. There will be more jobs on the horizon. There will always be more work, more markets, festivals, pop-ups and catering opportunities so if you are in the same boat as me just remember that it is OK to say no to new business if you don’t think it’s right for you or you simply cannot imagine how you would fit it in.
Ok, so now I just have to take my own advice.