Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Domino Effect

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can." -- Little Engine That Could

Here’s a typical exchange I have with friends, particularly with those that I haven’t seen in a while:

Friend:So Amir, how’s the restaurant coming along?
Me:It’s coming along well, we hit some small snags in the process, but we’ll be open soon – I’ll definitely keep you posted.
Friend:Great, can’t wait for the opening – I’m excited to come check it out, just let me know when!
Me:Thanks – you’re awesome!

However, this past Friday I was in the midst of having one of these normal conversations, when an acquaintance bursts out and says, “Dude, I’ve given up on your restaurant opening…it’s taking you forever.

At that moment I bit my tongue and tried my best to withhold all the pent up frustration I’ve been harboring dealing with the construction process. Instead, I simply asked him, “Buddy, have you ever built or constructed anything?” Now, I’m not talking about building a crazy financial model in Excel or a killer PowerPoint presentation, but rather something physical like a house, a store, or a product? Naturally, he gave me the blank stare and replied, “No, but how hard could it be?

Now, he does have a point… none of the stuff I’m currently working on is hard. Rather, it’s a game of patience, persistence, and being resourceful.

We executed the lease for our location 13 weeks ago (Blog) and at that time I thought we’d be open for business in 10-12 weeks. However, due to my naiveté I didn’t realize the number of variables at play in constructing a restaurant. In hindsight, building a store is like the dominos game – where you need each piece to fall in place before you can move onto the next piece.

In our case, there were a number of hiccups. For instance, the local city regulators (affectionately known as L&I here in Philadelphia), took 8 weeks to issue our construction permits since the landlord delayed in producing needed documents. Then, you have the local gas company who took 3 weeks to return my phone call to setup our gas account. Lastly, you can’t have any of your final inspections, be it with the Board of Health, building inspector, the landlord, or the fire department, until everything else is in order.

In talking to my mentors, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised the construction process has taken a few weeks longer than anticipated… it’s part of the territory. However, through this experience I’ve learned a tremendous amount which I’m sure is only going to make us even more efficient for the next go around. In the meantime I can continue to say with confidence that we will be open soon… just don’t hold me to a specific date :)


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