Catering Business – Information Sources

Before you get started in the catering business it is wise to learn as much as you can about the industry. You need to know about cooking, kitchen management, food preparation and service. As a small business owner you should also make sure that you know the basics of small business management and marketing.

Let’s take a look at how you might go about doing some research for your startup. You will find that there are a lot of good catering business information sources out there once you start looking.

Paper Books

There are a lot of books for sale that focus specifically on how to start a catering business. Look for the titles that have been written by catering business owners themselves rather than those that have been written by researchers without first hand experience. Most of the large online booksellers stock a wide range of titles related to catering and starting a business in general.

The Internet

Firstly, you can try looking online. You will find some relevant information on the Internet although there is generally a lack of good content online relating specifically to catering.

There are some websites selling relevant books and guides. Some of these have been written by experienced caterers and they are usually filled with lot’s of practical information gained from personal experience. The advantage with some of these products is that you can download them and get started right away.

Online Forums

Online discussion forums or bulletin boards are a great way to interact with other catering professionals. They are an excellent resource for getting information and allow you to ask questions that may get intelligent answers. The Internet still lacks a specific catering forum but some of the forums for chefs or restaurant owners do have small sections devoted to catering if you look for them.

Catering Associations

You can contact the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) for lots of information about the industry in the US and to network with other caterers.

Magazines

Industry publications like Catering Magazine and Special Events Magazine offer readers a great way to keep up with developments in the industry.

Courses

Another way to inform yourself on how to go about running a catering business is to attend a course. Such a course could help you to improve your culinary skills or help you to learn about small business administration.

Suppliers

Catering equipment suppliers are another good source of catering business information. If you get talking with them you can not only find out about the equipment that you need but you may also pick up some information on the current state of the local market.

Competitors

Your competitors can be a great way to find out useful information. Approach them pretending to be a prospective client and you can pretty much uncover the entire way they run their business by observing their sales approach and asking the right questions.

Customers

Lastly you should talk to some regular people who have hired caterers. Try to find out as much as you can from a customers perspective about what they experienced the last time they hired a caterer. See if they have any suggestions for how the service that they experienced could be improved.

Get your business off to a great start by reading, learning and doing research before you take the plunge and open your doors to customers. You should also make sure that you continue to educate yourself throughout the life of your catering business so that you stay up to date with trends, industry developments and changes in your market.

Laundromat Business Information and Resources

Starting a laundromat business may seem simple but if you look a little deeper you will see that there is more to it than meets the eye. Some laundromat owners rush into it and end up misjudging the market, spending too much to get started or making other mistakes that lead to financial losses and business closure. Others end up doing everything right and enjoy the semi-passive income that this business model has to offer.

What separates these successful laundromat owners from the losers. Much of the difference comes down to the research, planning and preparation that is done before the coin laundry is opened for business.

To increase your chances of success in this business you have to do your research and gain access to quality information. You have to read everything that you can and talk to people who may be able to offer useful advice. Below I have set out some potential laundromat business information sources.

Books and Startup Kits

A great starting point is to do some reading on the laundromat business. There are many books for sale online. You can also consider purchasing e-books and online startup kits that you can download right away. Wherever possible, try to purchase information from someone who has had first hand experience in the business.

Laundromat Owners

One great way to get information about the laundromat business is to talk to people who are already in this business. While it may be difficult to get them to really give you all of their tips and tricks, they may offer you some guidance if you are polite. One of the most important things to find out is what kind of machinery they are using and how their experience has been with it. How quick was the manufacturer to respond when their machines have broken down?

You may also find someone who has been successful and is willing to mentor you, providing that you are not going to be one of their direct competitors

Work Experience

Consider getting a job at a laundromat so that you can learn more about the business. Ideally you could work for someone who owns a chain of stores so that you could get an overview of how a successful operation is run. Even if you just got a job as an attendant for a couple of months you could learn a lot about the business.

Equipment Suppliers

One of the best sources of information to tap into when you are just starting out is local suppliers. Manufacturers and distributors of coin operated laundry equipment should be able to give you an enormous amount of information on the local industry and your expected startup costs. You should try to remain a little skeptical as their motivation will of course be to sell you machinery.

Join Associations

As a business owner you can benefit a lot in this industry by joining a relevant trade association. The Coin Laundry Association is the US serves laundromats at the national level and there are also many local associations as well.

Forums

Lastly, a great place to pick up information about the coin laundry business is online discussion forums. There are several sites on the Internet where laundromat business owners meet to discuss industry news and developments. The mood on these forums is usually fairly polite and helpful and people don’t mind if you ask questions.

Share Our Business Information With Who?

Business information has traditionally been kept hush-hush. Typically it is only trusted to upper management and the finance department. Sharing such information was once an unspeakable sin. Today, things are quite different in the workplace. With authority and decision making being redistributed across the organization, employees at all levels find themselves deeply involved in the day-today running of the business. This increased involvement creates a need for more information.

Teams need good information in order to function effectively. A key role of today’s management is to make sure the team gets adequate business information in order to function effectively. Getting business information to the team that is timely, credible, relevant, and understandable presents a number of challenges. These challenges maybe internal to the team or external to the team. The benefits outweigh the challenges. Many organizations now have a practice of regularly sharing business information with all of their employees. Advantages include:

– Sharing business information will help employees to understand business fundamentals.

– Sharing business information helps employees see how their work contributes to the goals and objectives of the organization.

– Employees are better able to think beyond their job, department, or division.

The numbers can have a dramatic impact on the employees feeling of ownership.

These advantages help improve the teams’ problem-solving and decision-making skills. Managing the information needs of the team is a critical function of the team leader..

Sharing business information with an entire team requires asking some difficult, self-reflective questions. Taking the time to answer those questions will create the proper environment for the team. Successful team leaders know how to make the information meaningful for their team. They give meaning to the numbers so the team can answer the question, “How does this affect us?” Team leaders must think very carefully about what they want to do and why. They should consult some of the many books, articles, seminars, that are available on the topic of sharing business information.

The team leader must decide precisely what should be shared with the team. Team involvement is critical at this point. Take the time to introduce the topic at a meeting and explain why it is important. Allow people the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns. Next, ask the team members what kinds of business information they need. Be prepared for a lot of silence at this point. Since few team members may have had access to business information in the past, they may not know how to answer the right questions.

As a minimum, most teams need the type of business information that allows them to monitor and adjust how they are performing. These teams also need information on the goals of the larger organization so that they will be in sync with the company’s strategies. Above all, the team must have information that will help it understand the business in order to make good day-to-day decisions. If receiving business information is new to the team, the team leader must start with basic information and slowly work up to a broader understanding of the numbers. This is an educational process and the intention must be to create a foundation of business literacy within the team.

Only when the foundation has been created, can the team leader help the team think about its ongoing business information needs. Quality, cost, delivery,safety, and employee morale, are examples of typical indicators. – What are the primary indicators of how the team’s business is performing?

– What type of information will help the team track these indicators?

– What is the source of the information?

– How often should the team receive this information to be timely in its decisions?

– Who is responsible for obtaining this information?

It is simply not enough to bring business information to the team. The team leader must also understand the principles that underly the effective management of business information so that it feeds good team performance.

Planning about how to sustain the business information effort is just as important as implementation. Without continued attention to maintaining adequate business information on the day-to-day operations, the effort will simply fade away and become another “Flavor of the Month”. It is crucial to design a business information system that will function independently of the team leader. This is especially important if the organization is not totally committed to sharing the business information or if there is a turnover in team leadership. In these instances, it is best to leave behind a sustainable system.

The road to sharing business information with the team has a number of ups and downs. The team leader must be persistent. It is essential to not allow the team to get discouraged by a few setbacks. Obtaining the type of information that creates energy and drives excellence take work. Remember, you must maintain a reasonable pace. It may require a little time for team members begin to trust the numbers, let alone use them!

Expect that you will face obstacles as you plan and implement the business information sharing strategy within the team. Some of the obstacles will be external to the team while others will come from within the team. The assumption in sharing business information is that authority is redistributed within the team. Rather than the organization sharing information on a need-to-know basis, it is treating employees more like partners. The team leader no longer holds information as a form of power, he/she is responsible for sharing the knowledge and training the team about the business.

This gives the employees a chance to gain more control over the day-to-day business by understanding business fundamentals. This will enhance employability and give a sense of pride and ownership that stems from being more actively involved in the business

Brice Alvord has over thirty years experience as an internal and external performance improvement consultant. He holds a BA in Sociology/Psychology from Central Washington University and an MBA degree from City University of Seattle. He is the author of over two dozen books on continuous improvement and training.

Business Best Practice and the Power of Business Information

Do nothing and you get to stay as you are.

Best practice is the goal of each individual business and will probably be described as looking after matters of ethics and integrity, good customer relations, supporting staff and maintaining good standards of service, accountability and fiscal compliance. Or the description might include positive management styles, high productivity and good economic strategies.

Most would agree that best practice is leadership, goal setting, teamwork, maintaining a culture of compliance, supervision, discipline, support, training, accountability and responsibility.

What if all of these were the focus of a new way of managing business information that provided everything that was needed to manage the business for success and peace of mind?

What if your most precious asset is your business information and what if the success of your business is affected by a lack of order and control over what happens on your business computer network? When you have no control over your business information you have no control over best practice and you might as well forget about it being in control of the business.

Best practice is available through an intelligent network that uses Business Information Organization (BIO) to create the kind of framework that allows for everyone in the business to have access to what they need to achieve the outcomes the business needs. You won’t have best outcomes unless you have best practice. You won’t have best practice if your business information is in a mess.

This is not about the way that your computers and peripherals communicate and it is not about any software. It is not about having the newest and the best equipment. It is not about hiring smart consultants and contractors to take over what should be the role of the business. It is about the power of content and the context of that content.

To explain this approach to best practice there is the example of a new office goods company. They had purchased a new warehouse and were planning to sell their goods online and in a large new showroom at the business end of town. They hired a new business management consultant with links to software companies who advised that they have two ways of managing their stock. Option 1 was to leave everything on pallets and use barcodes to locate the right pallet to get the stock to fill an order. Option 2 was to unload the pallets and store all of the same items together. Both options would be supported by software and equipment.

They chose Option 1 because they could unload the trucks faster and by having a pallet friendly storage system, get a more even distribution of bulk throughout the warehouse. It went well for a short while but they suddenly found that they had to hire more people to work in the warehouse running around to different stacks to fill a single order of multiple stock of the same item and when the computer that managed the warehouse was hit with a virus, everything stopped.

You would be highly unlikely to have chosen Option 1 but the point is that business information is like stock and you may be unwittingly using that scatter option for your business information. The more information is scattered and the more the content is hidden, the less it is available for the business. If that business information includes policy, training, resources and business knowledge the business can be in dire straits or just not doing what it should be doing.

So what if the most important stock of the business was its information content and what if it was no longer hidden and available to achieve the best practice you so desperately want to achieve? Look at your information now. How much do you know about the way it is managed? Where is your policy? How accessible is it and who created it? How often is it reviewed and updated and who does that review?

Look at your own information. Do you organize it at all or is everything bundled in my documents, my pictures, my albums? Is everything haphazard or loosely organized because you tell yourself you are the only person who needs to know what is there and where it is? If you create new folders do you think hard about how they are named and sited? Are there times when you can’t find anything? Is there time when you waste time and money looking for it?

The bad news is that the way that you don’t organize your information is exactly the same way that you everyone on your staff can’t and won’t organize the information they collect or create and store as they work. And the even worse news is that they are quite sure that they are the only ones who should know where it is and what it is. And even worse than that, they think it belongs to them and will delete it without asking anyone whether the business wants to keep it. So how does Option 2 which is about sorting and control sound when it comes to business information and protecting what belongs to the business in a place where it can be seen?

If you were able to make policy, training, resources and business knowledge (current and past) available where and when it is needed, you will have what you need for leadership, goal setting, teamwork, a culture of compliance, supervision, discipline, support, training, accountability and responsibility. You will have best practice leading to productivity and business success. Can you claim that this is available to you now?

Don’t let the IT industry keep dictating Option 1 for your business information content. They have a one-size-fits-all solution to your business information needs and they won’t be in your business to see how chaos slows it down and sometimes brings it to a grinding halt.

Option 2 is about the Intelligent Network and Business Information Organization (BIO) and it will cost you nothing to set it up. It is time to find out how it works and why it will work in your business. If you do nothing more than creating a network place for information based on what the business is and what it does you will be on a winner.

If, after reading this article you start asking questions about policy in your business you will start to move forward with velocity.

It is time to reject the ‘my documents’ solution and the promise of the virtual organizers in favor of ‘real’ order and control. It is time investigate the potential of the intelligent network and business information organization. It is time to explore best practice in information that got lost along the way and take back the control of your business.