by Anne Day | Featured Contributor
What kind of cook are you? Do you follow the recipe to the letter of the law or do you improvise, chucking in a cup of this, a sprinkle of that? I have to confess I am the latter, and living in the country now, it is just as well, as you sure learn to be flexible when it is a half-an-hour drive to the nearest grocery store if you’ve forgotten an ingredient.
I was watching a “foodie” being interviewed recently and she made an interesting observation in that she believed people today want that quick fix, that quick recipe that will mean the perfect meal. And because of that, they don’t deviate from what the recipe says, they stick to it and measure everything. Now this, she pointed out, doesn’t guarantee that the result will be perfect.
She admitted she used to cook like that. Intensely reading about every ingredient, ensuring she stuck to what she was told to do, but now she doesn’t. She’s decided that food actually becomes more interesting when you tinker with recipes, substitute ingredients, because as she’s observed, life is like that too. Sometimes when we stray off the prescribed course, we gain so much more. For her the journey is more important than the destination, because you could change your mind about where you want to end up.
Think about your business. Have you found the recipe for success? Often people are so focused on their end goal, that they put on blinkers, and truly miss the side trips along the way, that yes, may take them a bit off track, but the scenic route can also lead to unexpected opportunities and could in fact, change your end destination. When you are so driven to succeed, you are often less willing to go off course, to take risks that could in the end, get you there faster.
I guess I am consistent. I run my business the same way as I cook. I am always changing up the ingredients; I take a handful of this and mix it with that, because that’s what keeps it interesting – both at work and in the kitchen.
When you get complacent and keep doing the same old, same old, because everyone liked it in the past, you can learn the hard way that folks are bored and want something different. It’s a bit like when my kids were little and I would latch on to something they liked for lunch, I would go overboard and send them off with the same item every day, until they complained and were sick of it.
Likewise in business, you need to listen to your clients and be prepared to mix it up. Their needs change, and so what you offer needs to change too. And the focus should be on what they want, not what you want to offer. Unlike my daughters, they could choose to take their business elsewhere, without a word to you as to why. The girls on the other hand, were quite vocal.
I remember a friend asking me for my recipe for turkey soup. She’s one of your “by the book” types, and was shocked when I explained that I literally threw in whatever was sitting in the fridge and that I hardly ever measured anything. At best, I could share the core ingredients, but that was it.
In business you need some core elements too, but there are also so many variables. The audience will always be different, so you need to have the flexibility to switch it up to suit all tastes.
But I will let you in on a secret – it was the red lentils that made the soup zing. What makes your business zing? What’s your secret ingredient? Whatever it it, make sure you use it to your advantage.
But she found working for yourself can be isolating and so eleven years ago she started Company of Women as a way to connect and support women entrepreneurs. Today the organization has six chapters across the GTA and beyond, and over 300 members. In 2009 she received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Oakville and the TIAW World of Difference award for her work in supporting women internationally. Over the years she has helped thousands of women grow professionally and personally through her programs, services and personal encouragement.
She is the author of three books, the most recent being Day by Day – Tales of business,life and everything in between. She is a regular business columnist with Huffington Post, and blogs for numerous other publications.