Our favorite coffee house, George’s Café, just turned one year old a few weeks back and we got in touch with them to talk about their first year of success, speed bumps and achievements! From a distance it’s easy to see the apparent popularity of George’s Café and their growth. The thing about success is though, the successful ones make it look easy. The hard work and effort put in behind the business every day to get the gears rolling is left unnoticed by most. So we reached out to Mr. Salim Pathan, one of the founders of George’s Café, to pick his brains about GC’s growth and the top five business lessons they took away from the yearlong tumultuous journey. So here are the five biggest business lessons according to Mr. Salim:
Lesson One: The need for sharing your ideas
Sometimes we tend to bottle up our “great ideas” within ourselves out of fear of other people copying them. Most often, these ideas die within ourselves because we get busy and life moves on after that random stay over. People (if relevant) will always add more value to our own ideas and beliefs. In our case, if on a fateful evening all of us didn’t meet and discuss our ideas, George’s Café wouldn’t happen.
Can you tell us about one idea you and your team worked on this last year that came to fruition?
Most recent example would be when we came up with the weekend brunch idea. Recently, there’s been a growing popularity of western food culture among Bangladeshis, so we thought why not introduce the weekend brunch? Brunch is basically a late breakfast/early lunch and is quite popular on weekends in America.
While working as a chef at Carriage House Café in New York, George established a brunch menu that still continues to please customers. So, we thought of doing something similar here and it was a success. People rushed to our café to have brunch even before we announced it.
According to you what would be the most productive way to get the best ideas out of a meeting?
The most productive way to get a good idea out of a meeting is to be prepared for it. By being prepared I mean starting with setting the mood for the meeting which includes ideal date and timing. The meeting must be facilitated with proper equipments (whiteboard, marker etc.).
Ideas are of no value if they are forgotten later, so we take adequate notes. There has to be one moderator who will conduct the meeting. This will make sure there is no overlapping of idea sharing and no unwanted interruption. This is essential for an effective meeting which also saves time.
Lesson Two: It takes a team
We as individuals inherently tend to be more profit oriented. If I run a business alone, hundred percent of the return will be mine. However, I may not have all the experience to run a startup all by myself. So it’s important to realize that full profit alone is not the end goal. You feel the need to have a team where every individual has expertise in respective fields. In the process, your 100% stake in business gets diluted but 15% of 1000 taka is better than 100% of 0 taka.
So it’s important to assemble a team because a startup is a pretty tough project and we can do with all the help we get. For us, George is in charge of the kitchen, I look after marketing, Zeeshan bhai looks after procurement and all logistics. During our early days all our other partners played significant roles in building this business from the ground up.
Can you tell us about one case where the dedication and versatility of GC’s team stood out?
For example, we held the first ever hot dog eating contest in Bangladesh. George was out of the country but then our managers took over the kitchen responsibilities. I looked after promotion as usual. All other partners chipped in with various logistics issues including a real doctor (Yes we had a doctor handy just in case anyone choked. Thankfully that didn’t happen! ) So it took all of us to really pull that off.
Lesson Three: The team needs balance
Often we think of starting a business with our closest friends and/or favorite cousins. It’s important to understand that even though this will ensure chemistry, it doesn’t necessarily bring important additional skill sets to the table. The primary reason being, we tend to be close to people like ourselves. In startups we need marketers, the finance wiz, the product expert, the guardian etc. 5 best friends who are all marketers may not add a lot of incremental value to a business.
In George’s Café we all come from various backgrounds and we all have different skill sets to offer. So whenever we are stuck with a problem, we leave it to the experienced and expert among us to solve it. We provide opinions but let our expert make the final decision.
Lesson Four: Lot of work goes in the background
Since my University days I dreamt of owning my own café someday. I imagined a rainy day where I would have a cup of coffee with a book to go with it. I always imagined the end result. There are a thousand “unglamorous” tasks that go behind creating that “scene”. Starting from acquiring a trade license, a commercial gas line, ordering fresh raw material every morning to managing things when the market runs out of quality butter. One needs to be fully prepared to address all of these head on.
Does all your ideas play out effectively?
Not 100% of our ideas click. But we adapt. We are fast to accept defeat and move on to the next idea. It is also important to understand that there can be multiple external factors that may contribute towards the failure of an idea. So it’s important to give each one a fair chance.
Lesson Five: Believe in Kaizen
Kaizen means continuous improvement. There is no end point. There is always room for improvement everywhere. The business climate we operate in is always changing and we need to adapt effectively. Sometimes we need to lead the change. So there is no end point in growth. Otherwise Facebook wouldn’t change every once in a while.
What do you do stay updated?
One example out of many would be introducing ‘Kiwi Juice’ the night Bangladesh cricket team whitewashed the New Zealand cricket team in a 5 day ODI series. During match time the sales are usually slow. But we were proactive and spontaneous. People liked the pace of our adaptation and that resulted in positive sales.
So there you have it folks! The Five biggest lessons learned by the founders of George’s Café over the last year. Running a Startup is rarely an easy feat and although the path is riddled with potholes, the success at the end of the tunnel makes it all worth it.
If you’re in town make sure to check out George’s Café, their New York styled cooking and exquisitely flavored coffee at House-2, Road-10, Sector-1 of Uttara.
Find out more about George’s Café on their official Facebook Page: