Every time New Year rolls around people get caught up in making “resolutions”. Lose weight, stop smoking, find a new job, make more money… the list goes on and on. Ask people around January 12th if they are still perusing their resolution and you may find they have quit already. Folks proclaiming late in December, “next year I’ll going to lose weight and exercise more” generally quit on the 12th as this article notes.
In your business what are your goals, how do you set them and most importantly how do you achieve them? Folks that have been in leadership roles in most companies have been exposed to personal development plans (or similar name), which is a fancy way of saying “personal goal”. Motivational speakers often have goal setting course, plans and audio recordings to inspire and teach about goals. Of course, an internet search will turn up tons of both free and costly information about goals. Each person has to know what works to motivate them and find courses that “speak” to them.
We are going to break down the goals in the picture above, discussing the important points of setting and acting on these goals. Inspired by my recent trainees, these are common goals I have heard in nearly every training session since, well, forever. The process I am going to reveal was taught to me in the early 1980’s and one I have using since. I have added only minor tweaks to improve the process for me and my trainees. I worked for a restaurant company that valued it employees and spent huge amounts of money training us on the complete operations of a restaurant. Those processes translate well into cart, tent and trailer vendors, because they are basic foundations upon which to scale your business as you see fit.
Your goals must be:
Likewise, number two in the picture would read, “I will generate $50,000 (10% increase over last season) in profit by 10/31/2018 (end of my selling season)”, and number three would read, “I will find a site that has a foot traffic count of 1000 or more per hour with 2 or fewer direct competitors within 2 blocks and has at least 80 square feet for my set up by 5/1/2018”. Each goal could have smaller steps with dates for completion. These goals could work in concert or be completely independent of each other.
Your goal must be relevant, relateable and beneficial to you and your business.
This part is the “WHY” of the goal. Why is it important to you and your business? This is your personal motivation to achieve your target. Represent this in a tangible way if possible. If the 10% percent increase in profit is going to be used to go on vacation, then get the brochures from the hotel and the city your plan on visiting. Cut out pictures, write $50,000 on them and post them where you can see them often. One restaurant I know has a bulletin board for the staff, titled “Why I am working today”. The staff can post anything they like on the board to remind them what the hard work they are doing is going towards. Children, a new car, Disney World, a beach scene, groceries, are all pictures on the board that bring a smile to the person that posted it. Those reminders make challenges less frustrating and provide the motivation to persevere.
What skills, knowledge or training are required to achieve this goal.
List skills that anyone would need to achieve this goal. Don’t worry about whether you have the skills at the moment or not. Just list everything. In our example of increasing profit, one would need to do two things. One - increase sales. Two - decrease expenses. Increasing sales requires, marketing knowledge, social media use, increasing speed of service, maybe a menu increase, maybe increasing operational hours or days, loyalty programs, discounts, suggestive selling training and anything else that will drive sales. Decrease expenses would include finding better pricing from suppliers, buying in bulk, reducing utility consumption, decreasing waste, reducing mistakes, increasing yields and anything else that would reduce expenditures.
You must anticipate the major challenges that stand between you and the target goal.
Step 2 gives you the reason for the goal, your personal motivation to keep going when things get tough. This step and what it contains is why you need step 2. If increasing profit 10% was easy everyone would do it. You have to list everything you think could interfere with your achievement of the goal. Remember, both external and INTERNAL forces. External would be new competitors, bad weather for most of the season, increases in costs you did not foresee. Internal has do with you. Procrastination is a silent goal killer. Maybe you need to be friendlier to your guests. The number 1 thing that stands in the way of most people achieving their dreams is themselves. Refer to the contents of Step 2 as often as needed to motivate yourself towards your goal. Take a hard look at step 3 and list what training you may need.
Zig Ziglar says, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.”
Determine who you can work with to achieve this goal.
You should find a mentor or business coach to guide you along the process of achieving your goal. You may also need someone that will teach you what you need to know from within the food industry. As well as someone that will hold you accountable for your results and that has been in your shoes.
Plan of action. List every step required to achieve your goal.
List everything you can think of that will progress you towards the goal. Delegate if possible. The smaller actions are perfect to hand off to someone you might be training. This gives them a chance to learn the business a little better and also show some ownership and responsibility towards the business. Break down big actions into smaller chunks, each with their own deadlines.
Smart VS Smarter Goals
You may have heard the acronym SMART pertaining to goal setting. In recent years many coaches and trainers have added ER to make a more complete process to setting, writing and achieving goals. If you aren’t familiar with SMARTER goals the process is:
Specific (you know exactly what you're trying to achieve)
Measurable (you know when you've achieved it!)
Action-oriented (you can DO something about it!)
Realistic (it IS achievable) and
Time-Bound (has a deadline)
Exciting & Ethical (lights a fire and is morally & legally right)
Resources (what do you need you don’t already have)
Let’s look at the first example and see if it checks all the requirements:
“I will purchase with cash, a brand-new Lightning Bolt w grill cart from Hot Dog Cart Company for $4199.00 (including shipping) by 1/1/2019.”
“I will purchase with cash, a brand-new Lightning Bolt w grill cart from Hot Dog Cart Company for $4199.00 (including shipping) by 1/1/2019.”
“I will generate $50,000 (10% increase over last season) in profit by 10/31/2018 (end of my selling season)”
“I will find a site that has a foot traffic count of 1000 or more per hour with 2 or fewer direct competitors within 2 blocks and has at least 80 square feet for my set up by 5/1/2018”
1/2/2018 set up additional bank account for cart purchase and deposit 10% of profits weekly thru 12/31/2018.
1/2/2018 begin search for new location identify at least 3 new sites with foot traffic in excess of 1000 per hour, 2 or less competitors and enough set up space.
1/2/2018 and ongoing. Submit applications for large events (proven attendance 10000 daily) Get accepted to a minimum of 5 this year and offer to be on stand-by for any event declined admittance.
2/16/2018 Open for spring break season (possibly using old site until new one is available)
Increase sales with:
Analyze P&L monthly (by 2nd of following month) to determine if meeting projections for sales and profit and take corrective actions if not meeting goals.
Be in new location by 5/31/2018
Order New Cart by 11/1/2018
Now that’s the formula that I have just given you pure and simple.
And Tim, the trainer says, “I think we should leave.” The Mark, the marketer says, “I think we should stay after all the Health Department score is 98!” Guy, the guru says “No this place is GREAT! Look at all the reviews and testimonials!”
Who would you trust?
Before the answer let’s look the differences in them. Mark, the marketer is someone that does some internet research, talks to a few people in the business and prints a book trying to establish themselves as an “expert”. (Every publishing website says writing a book defines the author as “expert” and a published author gains credibility.) Once the book is published, now the “expert” claims to be a ‘teacher’ because people have read the book and maybe asked a few questions. The next step is to create a re-hash of a chapter in the book, call it a course and sell it. Remember, this person has little to no experience in the business, just research on the internet and an ability to write. There is at least one website that passes itself off as “# 1 site for food trucks” that was started by a guy that specializes in internet marketing. He wrote a few blog posts posing as a food truck expert and then hired someone to continue the blog posts and interviews. Research “passive income” you’ll find the owner, his story about starting this site and admitting no experience in the food industry except knowing how to eat! His motivation? Money!
Guy, the guru is even worse. This is a person that follows a tired and true formula for self-promotion mixed with a charismatic personality. You have probably read several of these stories. A person has a great life; some crisis creates a failure to suffer through then the person grabs some completely different business opportunity and makes tons of mistakes, yet, in spite of himself, becomes successful. Next step is to quit or sell that business, write courses or DIY plans and then promote the plans and courses to death with blogs, books, videos, emails and websites. All the while extolling how easy the business is if you just follow the “blueprint” or join a private group. Throw in a little self-denigration to demonstrate humbleness and viola you are Guy, the guru. As Guy, the guru, your personality draws people in and they will promote you blindly to other people based on your story and personality. Guy, the guru claims superior knowledge of food, vending and business in general. Guy, the guru offers free tidbits of information that demonstrate expertise and always lead back to click here or search my website for more information. The minions of Guy, the guru never dispute wrong information because they and the uninformed visitor don’t know any better. Thus, a maddening cycle of disinformation creates a sale which creates followers which encourages more incorrect information. There are at least 4 websites that do this. They have common traits in pricing claiming, “my customers (minions) say this course/plan/software/book is worth more so the price is going up soon” or they have 18 different prices for trailers/carts each marked out with an ‘X’ and the lowest price is when you join a private, double secret, outlaw, wanderer group that happens to vend. Now that group costs “$500 a year or join today for a one-time cost of only $400 for a lifetime subscription” and get $1000 off the trailer??? Is anyone dumb enough to fall for that? Unfortunately, yes. If the cart/trailer can be sold for that deeply a discounted price, don’t you wonder where the profit is??? Maybe that’s why Guy, the guru’s first businesses failed? Let’s say the discounted price is a lost leader and is really sold at breakeven. That means the profit is in the $400 subscription. Hmmm, $400 profit on a cart? Not bad but as a member the next cart you buy is also discounted thus no profit for the cart seller. We know there is profit built into the price no matter how deeply Guy, the guru pretends to discount the cart. Guy, the guru assigns “value” to a product then pretend to “discount” said product. Quite frankly Guy, the guru is a parasite that needs to constantly sell you something, a course, a book, a new “shiny” piece of overpriced equipment with a “business in a box” add on. One recent guru bait and switch was introducing a “new piece of equipment” along with a sure-fire business-in-a-box training program that would bring new amazing amounts of business just because you posted a picture of the new equipment on Facebook. That marketing nightmare took a build-up of several weeks’ worth of emails culminating in 11 straight emails inviting you to watch what ended up being a 90-minute demonstration video with the total program and price reveal at the end. This “new” cooker, a pig roaster, paired with the aforementioned biz in a box nonsense came to nearly $10,000. Oh, wait, except the product is from 2007, manufactured in Canada and sells for under $6000 at Cabelas. Guess what the chef that created this cooker also has a “business in a box” option for, you guessed it, $10,000. All that build up and hype for a 10-year-old overpriced product. In case you can’t tell I hate Guy, the guru types.
Tim, the trainers are people that actually are in the business, practice the business daily and have been trained by people from within the business. They read and research because they want to be the best in their chosen field. Tim, the trainers are in business and may even fail like Guy, the gurus occasionally, BUT they don’t jump industry ship and start a completely different business in a different industry. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off and fix what went wrong. Unlike the Guy, the guru that pouts like a baby and quits an industry that they obviously didn’t understand in the first place (remember they failed), Tim, the trainer stands up, fights and wins. Industry/business trainers are in the field preforming the tasks they are teaching. Tim, the trainers are on the cutting edge of their chosen field. They have to be, otherwise the trainee ultimately fails. Therein lies the difference. Mark, the marketer sells information and doesn’t really care if the student fails. His only goal is the next sale and gaining a new email address for their “list”. Guy, the guru provides some useless “free” information via live stream video and encourages his minions to spread the word on the next product awesome product. Tim, the trainer, on the other hand, provides information, explains the how and why (because he is still in the business) with feedback on performance of the trainee. The goal is for the trainee to improve. Mark, the marketer and Guy, the guru blame the student when the student fails. Tim, the trainers provide ongoing feedback and follow up on trainee performance often preventing or lessening failures. Question is: If you have to pay for information who would you rather get it from?
Back to the story, who would you trust? Guy, the guru likes the reviews because they are the life blood of selling on the internet. Except that many reviews are generated in exchange for something. Many companies offer freebies for high rated reviews. Guy, the guru often gives away training products asking for “honest reviews”. Mark, the marketer likes the health department score, because it is a researchable opinion. Except the Mark, the marketer has no field experience to understand the scoring, they just know the grade. Restaurants are only required to post the most recent inspection if they are even required to post them at all. Inspection grades are actually history, something that happened in the past. What really matters to you, as a guest, is NOW! Tim, the trainer wanted to leave based on something observed in the present. All it takes is one observable instance of not following health codes to make someone sick.
Let’s say upon entering the building you observe an employee exit the bathroom and go straight to the register to take your order. Mark, the marketer and Guy, the guru may notice, or they may not, both are NOT active in the industry as they provide information from research or memory. Tim, the trainer IS active in the business and noticing trainee action is required in order to give feedback. Tim, the trainer also understands each employee action reflects training and company focus. This employee was poorly trained, and the focus is on something other than food safety. According to FDA codes a double hand wash is required when an employee goes to the bathroom. Once inside the bathroom and once when returning to the work station. If you are thinking the cashier doesn’t handle food so food borne illness is not possible, you would be wrong. Norovirus is the virus that cost Chipotle millions (7% of the company value) in one day and is easily transferred by human contact. The cashier washes their hands and leaves touching the bathroom door handle picking up the virus from someone that did not wash their hands. Then the cashier passes it on to you when you handle the change or receipt the cashier just touched.
You might just get sick following the advice of marketers and gurus, or make your guests sick, or the more likely scenario - go out of business.
Internet marketing gurus and advertisers, in general, have ruined the English language! They both use click-bait titles containing words that people can’t resist, like FREE!!! Everyone wants to get products for free as long as the receiver sees value in that product. According to the Cambridge Dictionary FREE when used as an adverb means: “costing nothing; not needing to be paid for”. Notice there are no conditions placed on the word FREE. It doesn’t say if the purchaser does XYZ then the product is free.
“Ethical bribe” is a euphemism marketer’s use when they offer a ‘free PDF of valuable cutting-edge information” in exchange for your email address. They actually mean “I am going to spam you daily with super long emails that direct you back to my website so I can get my visitor count up while I try to sell you something that is massively overpriced and essentially useless to you but you gave me your email and I am going to abuse it 😊” The moment you put “ethical” in front of “bribe” you created an oxymoron. In the case of most internet marketing types, there are no oxen around.
How does that apply to us honest street vendors that are trying to make a living? We all, at some point, look to others doing the business for advice, examples or just commiseration. Sometimes we search the internet for help and that is when the snare is set. The website owner is lurking in the shadows waiting to hear the “click” that springs the trap, sending an avalanche of emails all seemly written for just you. They aren’t. They were written months or even years ago and automatically sent by a service that just inserted your name based on programming. Here are two examples of fellow street vendors that fell for the “it’s free, what have you got to lose?” lies.
“Tom” (changing the name to protect the swindled) is a hard-working hot dog cart vendor on the streets of a small Kentucky town. Tom works every weekend often driving 100’s of miles to serve his food at county fairs or other shows. Tom thinks ahead on nearly everything he does and plans every penny he makes. He takes off every winter to be with his family and loves being a vendor.
One snowy evening last December, Tom sat down to finalize his bookkeeping for the year. He discovered after paying all his business and personal expenses, he had a few hundred dollars left to spend. Tom decided to cruise the internet, looking for equipment or training to improve his business. He ran across a website touting the “best on the planet” private vendor group and read all the information, choking when he got to the price. “$400 dollars a year!”, no way he thought and promptly looked elsewhere. A couple of days later he ran across a video by the “vendor guru” saying the group fee is really “free” because it is tax deductible as an education expense for your business. Tom thought “Free works! I’ll have my money back by mid-February!” and with that he pressed “buy now”.
Remember I said Tom always thinks ahead? He has done his own taxes since he started working and doing his business taxes is no different. He input the cost of membership on his Schedule C and went to cipherin’ (figuring math for city folks).
That’s when I got the call.
“45 dollars, that’s it, 45 dollars!” Tom screamed into the phone. “What!?” I asked. Tom went on to explain what had happened and the $45 was the increase in his refund. A far cry from the full price he paid. After I calmed him down, I explained the difference in a tax deduction (which only lowers your taxable income and returns a percentage of the deduction as a refund based on your tax bracket) and a tax refundable credit (which you cannot get for most business expenses). He was not happy. Basically, to encourage a purchase, the video maker heavily implied the price would be offset by tax savings, effectively making the purchase “free”. Most American’s depend on other people or software to figure taxes and really do not understand the system, it’s terminology and how it functions. People are thrilled to get refunds, not realizing they actually made an interest free loan to the government. Tom figured his taxes with and without the deduction to see the difference. That’s when he discovered he was taken.
Another friend, “Tony” was a complete newbie and asked me about a “free” training day being offered by another “vendor guru”. It involved receiving a day of training with an established vendor. Except you had to pay $300. “How is that “free”, I asked Tony? “Well, when you order a cart you get a $300-dollar credit.” After I picked myself off the floor, I explained that is not “free”. Free means “no cost”, paying for a cart to get free training is still paying. It is like saying “free mustard” and then charging a dollar for a handful of mustard with a promise of a dollar off a hot dog in the future. Major cart sellers across the country understand they have to offer support and training to prospective buyers. Otherwise, the failed businesses create a used cart market glut driving down the sales of new carts. Some manufacturers offer manuals and limited training, others offer commissary and licenses assistance and others have boisterous spokesmen offering the moon to get you to buy. When you offer a strange, unusual product training has to be a part of the package. For instance, cars in the early 1900’s were sold with driver training that we all “just know” now-a-days. The training included such informational gems as:
“to explain velocity and centrifugal force and why when drivers took corners at high speed their cars skidded or sometimes "turned turtle" (flipped over).”
Of course, a cart or trailer seller needs to offer some semblance of training, it makes good business sense. What does not make good business sense is wrapping your products and training in hype and confusion. Stating “I have trained thousands” of vendors is a fisherman’s tale. Writing a book or selling a “training” course is no more actual training than someone having read Gray’s Anatomy (the book not the TV show) and calling themselves a doctor. Training requires demonstration and feedback, but only a real trainer would know that.
After I talked Tom and Tony down off the ledge, I offered real training to Tony in person with demonstration and real-time feedback. I encouraged him to buy used and work his way up to bigger and better. As for Tom, I told him to check with the seller for a cancellation policy and anytime he felt like he needed training to call a real trainer not someone with a salesman’s agenda.
Tony plans on buying a used cart and using my “used Cart Inspection Checklist” download to get a great price. Tom plans on joining Facebook groups for information and running ideas by me before spending money. After all, 40 successful years in the food business has to mean something.
The moral of story is: If someone offers “free” with any conditions. RUN THE OTHER WAY. Because if they can’t speak straight about free how can you trust them when your money is involved later?
I have had a passion for helping people since an early age back in rural Kentucky. That passion grew into teaching and training managers and owners how to grow sales, increase profits, and retain guests. You’ll find a ton of information here about improving restaurant and food cart/trailer operations and profits. Got questions? Email me at Bill_Moore@live.com