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20 Reasons to Quit Your Day Job and Open a Coffee Shop

Guest post by Jack Groot

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road. The Chicken says, “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!” Pig replies, “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?” The Chicken responds, “How about ‘Ham-N-Eggs’?” The Pig thinks for a moment and says, “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

An old story, I know, but effective nonetheless. The pig literally has skin in the game, but the chicken can walk away. Over the years I’ve worked with a few clients who wanted to open a coffee bar, but to minimize risk, keep cash flow coming in or just plain fear found them working a full time job and hiring a manager to run their new business. They were not committed.

Before I give you some concrete reasons why you need to be the pig, read the following quote (often attributed to Goethe, but actually William Hutchinson Murray):

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves tooAll sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

This quote tells of the importance of full commitment. How when someone says, “Yeah, I was thinking about going on a trip to Florida” it doesn’t carry near the weight of someone saying, “I’ve bought tickets to fly to Florida”. People get excited when someone is committed and sold out to a plan.

Reasons to quit your job to open a coffeeshop:

  1. Oversight – How will you know what is happening at your store if you are not there? You don’t need to be there 18 hours a day (at least not after you’ve been open for a while), but you must be the overseer.
  2. Systems – How will you know the details of creating a clean bathroom if you never do it? As an owner you want to move from working in your business to working on your business, but to get there successfully you must start in it. You have to do the jobs so you can teach others to do them to your standards.
  3. Quality – When an owner is not involved in the business on a daily basis, quality standards are sure to slip.
  4. Culture – If you don’t set the culture of your business, someone else will. And culture is CRITICAL to the long-term success of a business.
  5. Leadership – Decisions need to be made daily. Not being there leaves those decisions to another who may or may not do what you would. And leadership means being there to lead.
  6. Theft – When the cat is away…the mice will carry off the cheese…and the trap. Nuff said.
  7. Training – You must create a quality training system and you must insure it is implemented.
  8. Cell phones – Without your presence I can guarantee you staff will carry, and use, their cell phones even if you tell them not to.
  9. Work – Leadership sets expectations and follows through with checking up on completion. You must insure things get done.
  10. Repairs – If the owner isn’t there, equipment is sure to break and not get quick attention.
  11. Customer interaction – Customers love to see the owner. They don’t have to be there all the time, but when they are not it shows.
  12. A kingdom divided – When the owner is “working a day job” they are always concerned about that first. The coffeeshop will take second place and soon become a distraction and thorn in the side needing attention when they want to have down time.
  13. Friends – When an owner doesn’t show a regular presence, the employee will tend to have friends hang out, putting pressure on them to either pay attention to them or give them discounts or freebies (see #6)
  14. Focus – How can we expect others to focus on what we don’t?
  15. Passion – The passion of an involved and engaged owner is contagious and catalytic. Staff will never get more excited than the owner.
  16. Encouragement – Employees are human and need to be encouraged and praised. Without that staff morale will be spotty at best, depressing at worst.
  17. Management – As good as any manager is, they will never be your clone. They will set direction, make decisions, treat staff, determine quality, etc. all from their perspective, their experience and their idea of what is right. You were supposed to open a business to be your business. If you don’t work it, it isn’t!
  18. Improvements – If you are not at the store on a daily basis, you will have a very limited view of what is working and what is not. Plus you will always get your information through the filter of an employee who may or may not do everything like you would.
  19. Crisis – If there is a crisis at the store you will be largely unavailable to fix it. Whether it is a broken toilet, a sick employee or a customer issue everything will be handled by someone else, or worse yet not handled.
  20. Pride – How can you really have pride in a business that is so not yours?

While these reasons won’t apply forever, they do especially at the start. Once a business is established (typically, 2-5 years) an owner can begin to step back, delegate and really work on the business not in it. So, if you thought you might like to keep your day job AND start a coffee shop, think again.

Jack Groot is a coffee shop owner, educator and consultant who currently runs JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar in Holland, Mich., The Midwest Barista School and OnTrack Coffee Consulting


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