I love food-related television shows like those seen on the Food Network. Even though I don’t cook -- I have actually used ovens in the past for storage -- I love to torture myself by watching the endless parade of delicious food. Perhaps surprisingly, I also find a lot of business takeaways from their programming.
Here are three critical business lessons that you can learn from the Food Network and apply in your own entrepreneurial journey.
1. Doing one thing well is the way to go: In virtually every Food Network competition show, one of the chefs tries to show-off by preparing a food item two ways. Whether the main ingredient is rabbit, fish, duck liver or chicken, I cringe when I hear the contestant say that he or she is going to serve it two ways. That’s because by spreading your focus among two dishes, neither gets your full attention. And in every case, while one of the preparations turns out well, the other is a miss. Had the contestant focused all of his or her efforts on the one dish, the person would have helped versus hindered his or her chances to win.
You can take that lesson and apply it directly to your business. Trying to do too many things means that the quality of each of those things individually will suffer. Resist the temptation to add new products and services or to have each employee wear too many hats. Instead, focus on one blow-away effort. This proves a winning formula- on TV and in the business world- every time.
2. You can lose a battle and win a war: It’s emotionally challenging to be an entrepreneur. You have days when you lose clients or potential client engagements, find out that a potential investor is backing out or some other struggle that makes your business endeavors seem futile. But perseverance is critical from entrepreneurship and you can see that clearly when you watch the Food Network.
In many of the shows, you can fall down on a particular challenge, but still have an opportunity to be the winner. Losing an early round of America’s Best Cook sends you to the “pressure cooker round,” but doing well there puts you right back in contention to be named the overall winner.
Also, chefs that have appeared on others shows -- on the Food Network and elsewhere -- but didn’t win, often come back as revered judges on future programs. The element of having been there and done that gives the chef credibility and notoriety that the person can leverage, even if he or she wasn’t the winner.
Losing a battle doesn’t mean that you can’t win the war. Get back up and try again because being able to stay in the game is one of the main ingredients for success (pun entirely intended).
3. Embrace improvisation: A large percentage of the Food Network shows, from Chopped to Cutthroat Kitchen, involved twists thrown into the mix to make the challenge more difficult for the participants and simultaneously, more exciting for the viewer watch. Those who are able to maintain grace under pressure and innovate in the face of adversity are the competitors that come away as winners.
The same thing applies for entrepreneurs. No matter how well prepared you are, there will always be surprises along the way. New products will take longer to develop than you expect. You will miss budgets or have a cash flow issue. Your marketing promotion won’t produce the intended results or perhaps it will work too well and you will have a hard time keeping up with demand. Regardless of the issues, you need to be calm in the face of chaos and learn to improvise.
Don’t focus on the problems, focus on the potential solutions, fall back on your strengths and don’t fall to pieces. As the Food Network programs show you, the ones who can’t stand the heat fail in the kitchen.