I recently had a conversation with a parent who said their son, soon to be graduating from high school, wanted to be an entrepreneur some day.
Their son had taken an interest in culinary arts, and had expressed interest in owning a restaurant. At age 18, that’s a remarkable vision.
I was enlisted for some advice, because I must have been deemed an entrepreneur by the default of business ownership. But, I couldn’t help but offer a bit of caution.
First off, I shared that I have never considered myself an entrepreneur. Yes, I am a business owner, but that was not necessarily part of a master plan.
Secondly, I said that if you truly want to be a restaurant owner some day, then you need to find the nicest restaurant in your region. Beg them to hire you as a busboy regardless of pay, and become the best busboy they’ve ever hired. Then, if you shine, show them you can wash dishes with the best of them. If you’re lucky, they’ll promote you to a hosting position, in which you seat guests. Be the best host that restaurant has ever hired. Then, if you impress, they’ll promote you to the wait staff. Be the best waiter they’ve ever hired. Finally, once you have become recognized as the best waiter on the team, beg for an opportunity to work in the kitchen with the best chef in the region. And, if you get that opportunity in the kitchen, humbly glean as much as you can from that chef.
And, do all of this while attending a school dedicated to the culinary arts.
Once you have learned how to do every job in the restaurant, you will be able to appreciate the importance of each employee working in that restaurant. Your primary job as the restaurant owner will be to help each person realize how important their job is to creating an outstanding restaurant. Happy staff make for happy customers. Then, you will be prepared to own a restaurant should that opportunity arise.
This was my advice.
I did add that I feel like young people today see someone like Elon Musk, the wealthy visionary of SpaceX and Tesla, and they want to strive to be like him. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals. Musk, by definition, is an entrepreneur. But, I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy road for him to get to where he is today.
I think the word entrepreneur gets tossed around like it is a career path, and it’s not. Heck, even colleges offer entrepreneur programs. To me, that creates a lofty sense of false expectations. Just because you ace a class on entrepreneurship, doesn’t mean that you have the gusto.
A business owner (entrepreneur) needs to love their work so much that they’d do it for free, because they may have to work for free at some point. They need to be willing to clean toilets, change light bulbs, and do all of the other jobs they may not be able to afford to pay somebody else to do.
Striving to become an entrepreneur (business owner) should not be taken lightly. There is always a mix of risk and reward, but no guarantees for either.
I started in an entry level position learning the fundamentals of the newspaper business, working for a large company. And, I believe, as a manager and owner, that when you start at the bottom and work your way to the top, no job is beneath you. If you want respect from your team, they need to see that you can walk the walk.
I really hope that we as a society don’t misguide young people to believe that they can have everything they want just because they want it. We need to teach them how to work first. They can dream while they work, can’t they?