Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Sometimes I wonder. What if I hadn't tried to grow up so fast? What would have happened if I had chosen the traditional path? Why did I put myself through this?
I believe in God and I believe in Destiny. I think I was meant to grow up too fast. I started my first big business when I was 21. It was big for me. I had a partner, we had a vision, and it was my responsibility to execute it. The business did well, but I hit a few roadblocks, and when I came across those bumps in the road, I relied heavily on my team. It was great actually. I had staff that was older and had valuable suggestions, and I also some younger team members that didn't have as much experience but had great and innovative ideas that helped with sales and service. After a while, I determined that the opinions that I value most for the improvement of my business, are the opinions of the people helping me and working and in the trenches. They see improvements that need to be made, they hear customer feedback, and they want to go to a job that they enjoy.
Business owners - we do the best we can, but sometimes we get frustrated. Every little thing costs money, there are always unforeseen expenses, everyone wants a raise, and most of them deserve one and you just can't give it to them yet. I have found myself frustrated and I've asked myself- Why don't I get a regular job? life would be easier. Why doesn't anyone understand me? I'm doing my best. Will it ever get easier? Will problems ever go away? No. This is the life I chose. All of these people depend on me. Their families depend on me.
I commonly find that other entrepreneurs ask themselves the same questions that I have asked myself. Business ownership can be a really lonely life. You make decisions for the company that make you seem ruthless and less human. When in fact, you're thinking of the greater good and how you'll be able to benefit more people. This is why we need thick skin.
A business is a being. It becomes a powerful energy. It can be stronger and greater than an individual. That's the way I look at it, and it's why I love my work.
When you have a successful business with a solid and unified team, you have the power to make change, you have a greater voice. A leader needs to love working, a leader needs to be humble. When you're a humble leader, you might have a few more barriers to immediate effective results, but I think it is better to be that way. Employees might initially view me as an inexperienced leader because I'm young and a generally positive and nice person, but I just prove them wrong by doing. Proving them wrong requires setting an example, training, and encouraging them to come up with positive ideas.
Starting a business at such a young age allowed me to view leadership with virgin eyes. I didn't want to be treated differently by my team, I want to do it together so that everyone feels supported and understood. This has allowed me to have a low turn over rate in employees, and a more unified an happy team. So, I'm not saying it's for everybody, but you need to create a team that will be the most effective under the work environment that is the best for you. Because at the end of the day, you are the person that they depend on, you will be there almost every day, and you are the person that needs to keep the group moving toward bigger and better opportunities. Taking care of your employees is a form of taking care of yourself, because without them you'll never be able to build your dream.
Pictured: My main deli team that I will love forever. Chef Adam Goodison, Octavio "Tavito" Londoño-Niño, Me, Melville Johnson, and Ilse Cruz . So many other team members aren't pictured. These guys are all incredibly talented and went off into the industry and will always be some of my closest friends.