Happy she said no

While many were playing with fireworks in their funny costumes to celebrate Halloween last night, I was having a delicious 3-course chocolate dessert dinner at a friend’s chocolaterie. After three years in business, she is gearing up in a rather inspiring way, now training her staff to waiter. Playing the guinea-pig with some homemade 75% chocolate to enjoy AND helping a friend boosting her business: no question, I am there!

The richness of the meal went beyond any expectation, and the staff showed a pretty polished attention to the so-called customer I was. Once the service was over, my friend and I chatted over straight water about the evolution of her business. We joked around the idea of taking over an existing chocolate factory: it did not go far simply because she has kept her vision intact since Day 1. Her idea of chocolate omits unnecessary machines, stays local and makes her interact within the community. Ever since she opened her shop, she knew exactly where she was going: she timed everything, paced herself with the ideas she knew were going to cost money. So much so that she finally decided to get a dishwasher: that is right, after three years.

Over the years, big hotel names and other culinary institutions have approached her, with various “offers”. Then spies, mandated by her competitors, pushed the door of her shop, as well as her buttons. She did not bend, she stayed put and walked them out when she saw fit. Coupon companies knocked on her door as well. She turned them down too: they were not on her schedule, nothing else. She was, and still is, hungry to better her small business, and maintaining it at an artisan level requires work, focus and determination. “Simple”!

Because she loves what she does, she is patient and she knows what she wants (along with what she does not want), she is glad she declined most of these offers, even when they were attractive at the time. There is no science here: it purely comes from a combination of gut feeling and a plan (whether it is a business one or not). And she is sticking to it. She chose to be stubborn and avoided being distracted by flashy things and interested people. Good for her!

Of course, running a small business is the first step to more growth, and my friend is a proof it can be done, just not at any cost. It is not so much about saying no all the time (rather not, indeed), it certainly calls for some basic and sound choices on priorities, weighing what makes sense and investing into an idea one feels promising (financial calculations aside). Covey’s quote confirms: “There are three constants in life: change, choice and principles.”

Since then, she is booked solid until next summer by having agreed on new contracts with “old business flames”. Like other inspirational friends, and business owners, around me, she is an immense reminder of what anyone focused can get to, slowly and surely.