It’s farmers market season. And CSA season.

As a result, there are plenty of leeks around. That got me thinking about what I’ve been working on for the past 2 weeks: Finding the leaks in my business and mending them.

Finding the places you’re wasting money and time and fixing them will make you more profitable and productive. And it will probably reduce your stress level.

Here’s 3 areas to focus on when you dive in.

One. Projects.

What are the projects that you’re avoiding? That you haven’t finished? That you don’t know how to do?

Make a list. Do it. Dedicate a day to finishing them. If there’s a lot, give yourself a set day to have them all done by.

If you can delegate some of them, do that. If you don’t know how to do something, seek out someone who can. Ask your patrons for references if you need to.


Two. Payroll.

When is the last time you looked at your schedule, your labor costs, and who’s making what?

A good leader understands where labor is at and modifies staffing needs based on the season’s business trends. Maybe in the summer you need an extra person on Saturday mornings but can take a person off of Monday nights. In the winter, you might be heavier on those week nights if, for instance, you’re near a college and have people studying. Know your business patterns and adjust.

Evaluating regularly can also help you determine when to give raises and who to give them to. Being on top of this will help increase staff satisfaction. And keeping trained baristas and other team members around longer should translate to savings for you on training and turnover expenses.


Three. Finances.

Over time a lot of things creep into our budgets. If you don’t keep tabs on things, you can end up wasting a lot of unnecessary money. That app you subscribed to that you’re no longer using is still charging you $19.99 a month 2 years later. Your phone and internet bill periodically goes up after your “initial offer” phase is over. You let someone else do some of the ordering and your inventory cost sneaks up over time.

I spend a morning every 6 months looking at every expense category closely to make sure they are a percent of sales I’m happy with. I look through my vendor list to make sure I know what every one is for. I reevaluate products that are slow moving. I decide if it’s worth breathing new life into a menu or merchandise item that’s underperforming. If it is, I create a plan. That might be a sale. It might be a promotion. It might be getting the staff on board to suggest it. If not, I determine how and when to eliminate it.

I also use this time to look at things that are performing well. If a product is selling well, I might start ordering more of something to see if we can push it. That might mean pulling from one part of the budget to help another. If I understand where my money is being used, it’s easier to make those decisions.


Here’s how I started this process last week.

I made a list of all of the vendors I wasn’t sure about amount spent vs. the value I was receiving.

For services, I made some calls to see if we could negotiate a different price. I was able to decrease my phone bill by $20 a month as a result of one of those calls. With another one, I found there was an error and I was being charged for a plan higher than what I signed up for. It’s sometimes worth the call.

For inventory items, I looked at underperforming items in our merchandise and decided to offer a smaller range of brewing devices that sell better instead of trying to stock more variety. That will allow us to stand behind what we offer and be able to share our opinions as a staff more solidly.

Here’s to finding and mending your leaks!

Jump in. Get creative. Think outside of your usual set of rules.

September 7, 2016