Lessons For Entrepreneurs

DANNY MEYER

Always in search of the perfect holiday read, it was while browsing the shelves of a favourite bookshop that the book ‘My Fat Greek Taverna’ by Costa Ayiotis caught my eye.

The subtitle ‘from diplomacy to ouzo’ sets the scene for what readers can expect.

I must admit reading is a passion and bookshops attract me like a magnet.

Considering the time spent in bookshops over the years when we were on annual family holidays, unsurprisingly this frequently caused much annoyance to Thea and our children.

As an aside, on life’s journey the interaction with certain people will impact markedly on who you become in later life.
Cast your mind back to discover that I have a point.

Irrespective of your age, dear reader, quickly springing to mind will be individuals, past and present, who you still fondly remember for their influence on your persona.

Topping my list is a primary school teacher, Miss Taljaard.

At an early age, my dear Miss Taljaard helped me to discover the wisdom of learning to read and reading to learn.

By now she must be long departed, but nothing will please me more than having an opportunity to hug and thank Miss Taljaard.

As for Ayiotis, a South African of Greek descent, who abandoned a promising career to open an eatery in Cape Town’s seaside suburb Hout Bay.

‘My Fat Greek Taverna’ chronicles his journey from diplomacy to the realisation of a dream to open a restaurant offering wholesome home-style Greek cuisine.

Armed with a law degree and work experience gained as a diplomat accredited to the United Nations, Ayiotis had never experienced the ups and downs of starting and running a business.

What he did have was a love for good food, service excellence, socialising with people, self-confidence and a willingness to learn.

Despite prophets of doom and naysayers, in what Ayiotis says was a moment of madness, with determination, focus on turning a business dream into a business reality, combined with tenaciousness, his decision to venture into business carried the day.

Not only is Ayiotis’ book captivatingly interesting and a humorous read, but it also incorporates numerous lessons in entrepreneurship.

Here are a few:

Initially buying a dilapidated property to renovate, he soon discovered the horrendous cost.

Then bought a failed eatery with infrastructure, including plumbing and electrics, already in place.

Selecting the right partners and establishing clearly defined roles and responsibility also helped to reduce the financial burden at the start and to share the workload as the business gained traction.

Ayiotis discovers the importance of cultivating solid relationships with the landlord, bank and service providers, but to avoid overdependence on them, as their promises don’t always come to pass.

The food business is people dependent, for cuisine preparation and customer service.

Ayiotis learnt that there must be no latitude for sloppiness or unreliability, which means hiring carefully and firing enthusiastically.

And that the adage ‘less is more’ applies in the menu offering and the cost of stocking ingredients; the importance of mentors; avoiding negative people and that the customer is not always right.

Or knowing when to sell and move on to something better.

These are among the lessons you gleam as you read Ayiotis’ book, a recommended read.

  • Danny Meyer is reachable at danny@smecompete.com

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