A few months ago, my 4-year-old niece looked up at me and asked "Aunt Mary, what do you do with all the money you get from the bakery?" My answer? "Well darling, I give most of it away."
She plays bakery with her sisters. It's partly my fault. I went to visit a while back and brought the three sisters pint sized aprons and chef hats. They already had a little cash register and they set up an elaborate bakery, with lots of pretend pastries. When their mom and I lined up to "buy" them however, they wanted real money.
As a kid, you learn to play with other people's money (OPM), specifically mom's and dad's (or Aunt Mary's). Even when you grow up and get a job, you still play with OPM. When I first started working in an office, I used to love requisitioning supplies and stuff. It was like going shopping, but you didn't need money. You filled out a form, got it approved and presto! Paper clips, note pads, pens, whatever.
I graduated from pens and paper clips to business cards, then to plane tickets and hotel rooms. All reimbursed for or paid directly with OPM.
Then I opened a bakery. OPM became MY MONEY. Money I would otherwise be using to pay the mortgage, buy new shoes, pay the power bill, or save for retirement. Now I use my money to pay employees and buy stuff for the bakery. You might think it is the bakery's money, but it is really my money.
And when you spend your own money, you do things differently. To put this in perspective, let me share a few equivalents:
- Burning a tray of cookies is dinner for two at a casual restaurant, WITH a glass of wine.
- Throwing out one underbaked cake is a tank of gas for a mid-size car, when gas is $4 per gallon.
- Letting a single tray of pastries go stale is a decent pair of shoes.
- Overfilling an entire batch of 20 pumpkin breads so that they run all over the oven and become unsellable is a really nice pair of designer shoes.
- Letting the day's batch of bread over-proof is the power bill AND the phone bill.
And the bonus round? A dysfunctional or inefficient employee working one day per week for a month is the mortgage.
So what do I do differently?
- I send people home when they are inefficient (or tired or hung over).
- I keep an extra eye on the proofer and oven. Having a good nose is also helpful. Mine detects that burnt smell pretty early on.
- I find ways to recycle items we cannot sell. Bread gets a second life as toast. Undercooked cake becomes crumbs, ugly pumpkin bread becomes truffles. Day-old cinnamon rolls become bread pudding.
The lesson learned: Be aware of what is going on in your bakery. Some things cannot be avoided, but all those little mishaps add up and will make the difference between success and failure. Know what you can control and what you cannot.
One thing that will never change -- while to me, it's my money, to everyone else it's OPM.