I recently went to LA to film part of our new TV show. It was actually the third time I’ve had to go away and leave the business running without me — and it wasn’t nearly as scary as the first time.
OPINION: That first time was in May, when I went to Japan for three weeks, also for filming. The Japan trip was scary for a couple of reasons. It was my first time being filmed and I didn’t really know what to expect; and it was the first time I’d really taken myself ‘out’ of the business.
My husband (business partner Nick Siu) has always talked to me about creating passive systems, but before the trip, I’d never left my staff to run the school without me. It turned out to be a real blessing in disguise.
I thought long and hard beforehand about how it might work and two weeks before I left I hired a temporary admin person to handle all the back-end stuff at the cooking school, as well as the booking enquiries.
Fortunately I had worked with Fallyn, the person I hired, in the past. I knew she had a great work ethic and that I could completely trust her, but in reality she was still learning about the way we operated. I was so worried. I thought staff might treat the customers poorly and customers might complain — I had all these fears. It turns out they were unfounded.
Fortunately I had some kind words from my husband and I just had to tell myself to trust in them. It sounds easy, but I ended up very stressed and crashed at the end of the trip.
But a great thing happened: we survived! The biggest thing I learned was my staff took the opportunity to take their performance to the next level, but that it was also up to me to put the systems in place that would allow them to flourish.
That learning had a direct financial result. In September we went on holiday to Thailand, while also doing market research for some Thai cooking classes we wanted to introduce. That month we tripled the turnover we’d done in the same month a year earlier.
There is a saying I like to think about, which is, ‘you have to give to receive’. I feel like I’ve had to get let go of my ego and the result has been an even stronger team. Now that I’ve come back from my third trip — this time I went to the US — I don’t feel like it was a big deal at all. I had complete trust in Fallyn (who is now our fulltime admin manager) and my staff have developed a feeling of empowerment and taken real ownership of Sachie’s Kitchen.
We’ve created efficiencies through a new website that has an online booking facility. Going away to film for the TV show has also allowed me to gain new experiences that I can bring back to share with my staff and suppliers (before the general public get to see them on screen).
I feel it’s made us function even better as a team. Ultimately that makes us better as a business, because it makes our service to the customer more valuable.
Sachie Nomura is the entrepreneur behind Sachie’s Kitchen, an award-winning Auckland-based Asian Cooking School: Sachieskitchen.com