Starting a Business

Everything I Learned About Business I Learned in the Kitchen

Everything I Learned About Business I Learned in the Kitchen
Image credit: foodnetwork.com

Cooking is in my blood. It started with my grandmother, an excellent chef, and the passion trickled down our family tree. I was raised in a family of people who simply loved everything about food -- cooking and eating it and even just talking about it.

In the Neumann kitchen, family secrets were shared and life lessons were learned over rouladen and spaetzle. 

As is the case for many people, some of my greatest lessons were learned in the throes of experience. While I don't deny that my education has played an instrumental role in my success as a business leader, the pieces of wisdom that I treasure the most have all come from the ordinariness of being human and hungry. 

Starting your own company is no different. You just have to know your way around the kitchen. 

Related: 5 Ways Creativity Leads to Productivity

1. Have a hunger.

Any potential investor or partner will see right through you if you lack passion for your business. Passion for not only the end result, but also the process, can motivate you to keep setting venture-capital meetings after hearing no after no or the harsh criticisms that arrive with starting and running a business.

You got into the industry for a reason. The fire might not always burn with the same ferocity, but the flame should never go out. Hiring and working with team members who share your vision and  desire can keep you motivated and hungry. 

2. Start with a recipe.

No matter what you're cooking up, someone else has already probably been through the same if not extremely similar scenario. Follow the trail blazed by others and add your own flavors and tweaks along the way.

Learning from those who have come before you can help you craft your recipe for success. Seek out friends, family, investors and partners who can provide insight and suggestions for challenges you're facing. No one ever said you must go this alone: Even the best chefs have sous chefs. 

3. Don't be afraid to spice things up.

Just because something looks great from the outside doesn't mean it can't be even better.

Don't rest on your laurels and be satisfied with the status quo.

Spice things up now and then. Try new things and see what sticks.

If you don't continue to push the envelope, competitors will find opportunities to do so.

You can always revert to past practices, but it's important to push yourself and the company to explore new directions and improvements. The results may surprise you. 

Related: The Company Kitchen as a Mirror of Corporate Culture

4. Whom are you cooking for?

In your eyes, the dinner you prepared might be the most delicious meal you have ever tasted.

But if your dinner party disagrees, you're stuck with a fridge full of leftovers.

Know the members of your audience and what makes them tick in order to educate them about what you're selling and empower them to buy from your company.

You may tweak your product, messaging and targeting a number of times. Trial and error is part of the process as long as you learn from mistakes and adapt. 

5. Use the best ingredients.

No matter how grand your idea and how well you can execute delivery of your product, if you're cutting corners with cheap materials and inefficient services, you're holding back your company.

Having a team of experienced professionals and arming them with the best ingredients and tools will make your vision a reality. The key is to know the qualities you're looking for in team members.  

6. Presentation is key.

Any true culinary fan will tell you that presentation is almost as important as the taste itself. 

My mission in creating DataHero is to empower individuals to make sense of their data and it all starts with the user experience and interaction. If the design is not simple, analyzing the data is not either.

You might have a great idea for a company, but if you present it incorrectly, you're missing out on a major opportunity. Blow customers away with something that not only solves a problem but that also looks good while doing so.

Your business isn't going to be perfect at first (similar to attempts to make a complex dish). It takes time, patience and perseverance to build a great company. But by staying hungry and surrounding yourself with a great team, you can serve up something that makes your audience thirst for more.

Related: 5 Essential Ingredients to Doing What You Love For a Living