Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lesson Learned...

Since Dad started the restaurant when we were kids, (I was 13, the twins 10, Dame 7 and Veron was a peanut) we learned lessons growing up that were second nature. Only now am I able to attribute some skills I learned growing up as things I learned from working in the restaurant and watching my father work diligently in the restaurant.
Because we saw the inside workings of a restaurant, we never had the "fantasy" of what it was like to own a restaurant. Where others see the ability to work with professional equipment, have a fully stocked walk in refrigerator, an overflowing pantry full of gourmet food, beautiful dishes for presentation, etc, we saw the reality that with all these things come responsibility and shelf life and COST.
Loving to cook is not the same as loving being a chef.

We learned some valuable lessons that I have taken for granted, until I started working with others.
1.SCHEDULING - Time is the most valuable commodity. If something needs to be done, IT NEEDS TO BE DONE. It will not do itself and it needs to be scheduled. Procrastination has no place in a professional environment. If deadlines are not met disaster is the result. Having time to solve a crisis - like an out of stock product, a late delivery or even 10 min to reset a table for a larger group -- these are all crucial.

2. FLEXIBILITY - Keeping high standards are important in any professional environment. As a professional, I strive to do excellent work. However, many things are not within our control and so we must be adaptable, all while maintaining standards in quality, presentation and safety. "There is more than one way to skin a cat"... translates into "cranberry sauce with turkey can turn out to be raspberry and orange sauce with turkey". If the cranberries that were ordered don't arrive in time.

3. PLANNING - Keeping lists, records and dates handy. Planning a rehearsal dinner is one thing. Planning a rehearsal dinner while the client calls and changes plans all while ordering food, cleaning the kitchen, taking inventory, checking the stock of the liquors, chilling the proper wines, making sure the proper glasses are clean and stocked within reach, making sure the lighting is appropriate, shoveling the walkway or sanding or salting.... There is no way to do this without keeping records of some sort. Then, when the affair is over, maintaining those records so that you learn what mistakes you made, what things you did that prepared you for the next occasion.

I write all this with new revelations.
I am working on a committee that is running a tennis tournament. The tournament begins Nov 5th. The planning of this event uses these skills mentioned above. However, I have found out that the others on the committee do not possess these skills.
In the past 2 months since we began the real planning stages, I have accomplished all the tasks that I set out to do. All but one, which I gave up 5 weeks ago, when the person I was working with (the committee chair) answered all questions with "we don't have to make this decision, we still have time". Well, some decisions can wait, others can not.

I managed to design and order 5 gross pencils, design a 8"x14" poster, have 30 posters printed, assign people to hang the posters around Hanover, book a clothing salesperson to sell tennis clothes at the event, design guest passes, design 100 goody bags, acquire the supplies for the goody bags, create charts for people to volunteer to run the event during various times. I also researched tournament prices and rules in order to make this event run efficiently.

The Chairperson and I were going to design etched drinking glasses to give as prizes. Most websites have designing programs built in and are very user friendly. My cohort outright refused to make a decision. She was totally nonplussed by the looming deadline of Sept 12th... if we ordered them later than the 12th, we would be charged an additional $150 rush fee on a $300 order!
When it became clear to me in early September that she preferred to be the person vetoing things, rather than offering solutions to things, I told her that she was on her own with the glasses. I explained that it really wasn't a 2 person job and that my ideas were clearly not in line with her ideas, so why make it more difficult she could do the job alone, whatever she decided would be fine.
So, here we are Sept 24 -- guess what, she has still not made any decisions. She contacted me yesterday to tell me that she was still working on a design and then she would start to price the design maybe by the end of the month.

I sighed and repeated to myself, "this is not your responsibility, this is not your responsibility".

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