As a cake designer you are very often creative and visual, usually with a strong right side to your brain allowing the designs to flow.
Using your imagination, creativity and experience with only a few guiding points you can come up with amazing cake designs that have the assembled audience in awe.
Creativity is seen by many as a form of escapism, of getting away from the day to day stuff and relaxing into your flow. I certainly know that Paul , our Cake Artist/Director, comes up with his best designs when fully relaxed and I’ve lost count of the number of times he would ask to stop off at a newsagents for a sketchpad and pencils when away on holiday, just to get his ideas down on paper.
I appreciate that it’s not always easy to get into that relaxed state to come up with every single design, but I urge you to get into that state of flow and allow yourself to dream about your business and where it will be in three or five years time.
Treat the vision for your business as a must-have before you even get started and if you are already underway without one, then this is the time to stop and get it clear in your mind why you are doing what you’re doing. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going how will you ever know when you’ve arrived!
Get yourself into a relaxed state and remove any issues that you’re dealing with in the day to day life, forget about the customer who complained about something trivial or who questioned your pricing, this is your time and don’t let anyone or anything interrupt you for 5-10 mins.
If you haven’t tried relaxation techniques before, at the most basic level you need to get yourself into a quiet relaxed environment. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth pushing every last breath out from the bottom of your stomach. Concentrate on your breathing and once you know that your mind is clear it’s time to ask ‘What do I want to achieve with my business/life?’.
Keep breathing allowing your mind to drift into various scenarios, but always returning to the main question. Keep going until you have a clear vision of what it is YOU want and do not be influenced by what you think others might want or consider successful as that will never work. It’s got to be what YOU want as you are the only person that can drive the direction of your business so once you have the vision then write it down.
Business visions can be anything from I want to spend more time with the kids and earn a specific sum per week through to someone looking to open a cake shop in every town in the county. One isn’t a better dream or goal than the other and of course they are completely different and it follows that if both were achieved then both are equally as successful. Clearly one requires more time, effort and risk, but that doesn’t make that person any more successful, that may be down to other peoples perceptions.
The vision is the guiding point for every single thing you do in business, which is why it has to be personal to you and not influenced by others. Make sure it’s something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and will drive and inspire you when the going gets tough.
Bringing your vision to life requires you to define it as SMART objective. That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. By doing that, you are stating that to achieve your vision you need to make sure that it can be assessed based on these factors. These then start to form your goals.
If you think about the Captain of an aircraft flying from Heathrow to LA. His vision is specific in that he wants to land safely in LA, easily measurable at progression points along the way and certainly achievable and time-bound. However, during the flight there may be a storm or delay that alters things so the original SMART objectives need to be revised, however, by always going back to the vision, landing safely in LA, he stands a great chance of achieving the original objective.
You wouldn’t get into an aircraft unless you knew where you were going would you? That sounds completely crazy, unsafe and ridiculous so why on earth would you start a business without knowing exactly where you plan to go?
I do understand that, generally speaking, those with a strong right side brain are less inclined to be interested in business plans, structure and paperwork, but that’s fine because very few are good at everything. However, whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of thinking "I’m good at cakes so I can start charging a little and make a business from it" as, unfortunately, without some business planning and thought behind your vision it’s highly unlikely that you’ll achieve your vision or business goals.
If you haven’t already tried it, go back to the breathing exercises and come back with your vision and SMART objectives. This is a great start, but each objective needs a little more planning and detail, putting some meat on the bones, so to speak, in order to ensure that it’s clear and will be delivered to a measurable timescale.
This begins to form a structure to your vision and if you’ll allow me to call it a business plan without disappearing, let’s do that. There are two types of business plan. The first being the one that you’ll present to the bank or lender to secure funding and the other a working document that you are fully engaged with and believe in, so let’s focus on the latter.
Your plan can be as big and bulky as you like, but I like to keep ours to one, but sometimes two sides of A4 paper. On there should be your vision at the very top, followed by your SMART objectives. We break our objectives down into bite-sized chunks e.g. if your measurable target is to have generated £15k in sales in twelve months, then for each month between now and then how much would I hope to achieve? This then gives a monthly measurement against the annual target and so long as its managed, it means that you won’t get any surprises at the end of the year as you’ll have been measuring your progress at milestones along the way.
Just one thing to point out if forecasting sales per month, just remember to account for quieter winter months and you would expect to be busier in the summer if focused on making cakes alone. You should always track your year on year sales too so you can measure performance against a similar period last year, which again lets you know whether you are improving or otherwise. It is never too early to start recording these details so if you are not already doing so something you should really start today.
Planning and monitoring might be boring for some, but if you want your business to stand of chance of being successful, profitable and allowing you to achieve your dreams then you really need to get on top of these tasks. It’s no accident that most businesses that fail don’t have a plan. Running a profitable business can be hard enough sometimes with a plan in place and the funny thing is that it doesn’t take too long at all and will make you feel clearer and more driven as a result.
Planning helps you define your target market and work out how best to reach them. Helps with pricing because you’ll know that to achieve your vision you’ll need a certain amount of profit and to achieve that profit you can either reduce costs, increase volume or increase prices. I know the one I would choose.
From my time in the military, a sentence sticks and feels appropriate for this article as it's as true in business, as in the military and in life itself…. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. A short, but hugely important sentence to finish with.
The single most important thing you can do for your business is to have a clear vision and objectives. You wouldn’t get in an aircraft unless you knew where it was going so don’t get onboard your business unless you know where it’s heading.
If you don’t have your vision, aims and objectives set some time aside in your diary and I promise you will feel a lot clearer and likely more driven once you have clearly written everything down and set a path to achieving your dreams.
Article by David Brice, lead Pro Member Tutor at CakeFlix, Living the Dream!
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I'm David Brice, lead Pro Tutor at CakeFlix. Within 10 years I changed my business and life by applying the ideas given in the article above. I now live in a lovely villa in the south of Spain, enjoy what I do very much and very much living the dream. That didn't happen by accident, it took a lot of focus, planning, grit and determination, but my goodness, it was worth it!