There is a really cool visual of businesses being created all over the world around kitchen tables, or if you’re an old-school techie, in a garage.
If you’re a fan of any house-related programme on TV, you'll know that kitchens are the heart of the home. They are where soup is made, with a smell that emanates all around the house and draws people to see what’s cooking. They are where people congregate when there is a party going on.
So, who’s around your table? Which of your friends and family have come to take in the aroma you are creating, ask questions, offer advice, support and a helping hand?
Have you ever heard someone come up with a new business idea and straightaway you want to buy it, whatever it is and as soon as it’s ready? These are the hungry people around your startup table. They are passionate about what you’re cooking up because they can see how they and others will benefit from the deliciousness. These people are great to have around your table as they make you feel appreciated and give you confidence that your idea might just work.
You’re cooking chicken noodle soup but there is a vegetarian in the kitchen who wants to know everything about the recipe and cooking methods you’ve used. They have no intentions of partaking but they’re intrigued to see whether it will be pleasing to their fellow diners. They ask lots of questions which not only get your creative juices going, they help you problem-solve some of the finer details in your plans.
It doesn’t even matter whether anything is actually cooking, they are the life and soul of the party. They have to be in the kitchen, where the action is, regaling war stories of old and demonstrating party tricks. At times, starting a business will feel like a hard slog, like everything is taking longer than it should and is more difficult than it needs to be. It is in these dark moments that the party animal comes into their own. They will bring a healthy dose of laughter, optimism and energy just when you need it.
You’re cooking your favourite miso soup and one of your mates has only gone and brought someone who used to work at a Japanese restaurant. Depending on your level of self-confidence or self-awareness this will either be daunting or an opportunity for you to really show your stuff. Like any gracious guest, the expert won’t laud it over you or try to make you feel small. They will be there to gently coach and correct if they see you taking a wrong turn and are happy to give advice when asked, without grabbing hold of the spoon.
Don’t you love those people that always turn up early to give you a hand in the kitchen? Whatever you’re cooking, they’ll be there asking what they can do to help. Even though you occasionally get in each other’s way or you sometimes disagree about the best way to chop onions without crying, you’d always rather they were in the kitchen. Anyone willing to roll their sleeves up and give you a hand in brining your vision to life is worth their weight in gold. Jim Collins has a great saying about getting the right people on the bus and in the right seat. These might just be the right people.
Contributors - FFFs
Some people don’t cook. Ever. They are more than happy to bring you a bottle of bubbly or an M&S dessert but please don’t ask them to pick up a kitchen utensil. In fact they might only come into the kitchen to deposit their offering and then disappear again. There is a great saying that when you’re starting your business, the first place you tend to go for funding, after you’ve exhausted your own hard-earned cash, is family, friends and fools. They may not completely buy into the idea but they believe in you and they want to support you. You owe it to them to not waste their money.
Sit at the table
Working on a startup can be a very lonely, time-consuming place. It’s easy to shut off from friends and family and become consumed by the task at hand and nothing else. Just remember that in addition to business mentors, entrepreneurs, suppliers and marketeers, there are people who were around your kitchen table long before you started on this journey and will be there long after you’ve launched. Be sure to sit at the table with them every now and again.