ButtercupMama Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 9:38pm
post #1 of

My shop's been open a couple of years now, and the business is doing well; sales growing despite crappy economy.
I love my place, but dealing with people in this way is maxing out my stress level to an unhealthy point.

I have no idea how to go about selling my business. And I have to be especially careful, and keep it all on the downlow, as I have lots of orders booked; don't want to lose the confidence of our customers.

This place has been my blood sweat and tears, but I don't think I can deal with the crazies anymore... and I miss my family and any sort of level of calm. We do have lots of wonderful people in here, but the turkeys are getting me down. I work hard and sacrifice substantially.
I do still enjoy cake art.

I'm still about $65K in the hole, as far as my loan goes & we did $158K in sales last year.

Input, ideas anyone, on where to begin?
I do appreciate the help/support.

49 replies
playingwithsugar Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 9:45pm
post #2 of

Check with your local realtors. Usually someone on their sales staff specializes in selling businesses.

If you don't want to pay the commission, take ads out in ACD and Modern Baking, and try to sell it yourself.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

jadak Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 9:52pm
post #3 of

Where are you located? Maybe someone on here would like more info..

mccakegal Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 9:56pm
post #4 of

I'm guessing (hoping) that you are just looking for somewhere to vent.

I wouldn't make any rash decisions, especially if your business is doing well. Now is NOT the time to sell. The economy is so tough and if if your business is going strong, you are in a great position.

What exactly is the problem? Could it be handled by hiring a manager to deal with annoying people? Is it a pricing question? Maybe you aren't a "front of the house" sort of person and you just need to add someone to deal with the public.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water! Or the cake pan out with the cake icon_smile.gif

We're here to listen.

kissylips Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 9:58pm
post #5 of

Have you tried getting some business coaching? It really helped us get systems in place that release us from so much of the day to day stresses. Would it be possible for you to have an employee in charge of the parts that stress you out so that would allow you to focus on the art?

willj7r0 Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:07pm
post #6 of

Craigslist is a good place to post this stuff discretely.

If you could afford it, maybe you can consider bringing on a business manager to handle all the hassle. That would leave you free to make cakes.

apetricek Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:14pm
post #7 of

I would love to have my own shop...I agree with the others...I wouldn't do anything on "a whim". If you are doing well...have you considered cutting back your hours or days that you are open...maybe only make it a 3 day week...Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Maybe if you limit your customer exposure you will get out of your "funk" and your stress would be lower. Have you considered getting someone to help out, maybe someone entry level, to at least help clean, make icing, crumb coat..etc. Or maybe try and get someone to be your customer service person..Maybe someone that will only deal with the customers..and you can continue your passion for decorating only? I would hate for you to do something rash, and then in a year or two regret it...Maybe take some time off too...I know you said you had orders, but maybe in a month or so block out your schedule..and "close up shop" for a mental vacation...Good luck..maybe talking to others will help you..!

onebigdogmama Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:19pm
post #8 of

I am with Mccakegal and kissylips. Now is probably a good time to sit down with your partner/spouse and re-evaluate you and your shop. Dont do something that youll regret. Allow yourself to take a step back and look at the BIG picture. And maybe hiring a bulldog up front might let you be more productive in the back.

Make a list of things that you would like to see happen to your shop. Include your employees, have them step up or get rid of them. It is up to you.

I am not a business owner, but I do know that there are a few out here that might say the same thing. And an outside party might do the trick, business coach or a bakers network.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Remember to breathe and just keep swimming. I love that phase! LOL Best of luck to you!

grama_j Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:19pm
post #9 of

I'm going to agree with a couple others, and get someone to handle the customers, and YOU stick with the baking and decorating for awhile...... the public, bless them, will drive you NUTS if you allow them to...... Take a step back and a DEEP breath..... okay..... maybe two, and GET SOME HELP........

chassidyg Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:27pm

do you have any local colleges? maybe you could get a couple of interns to help with some of the customers & basic decorating

nannie Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 10:41pm

I so agree with the others who have suggested you find someone to handle the customer service end of the business.

I've worked with the public my whole career and I do know how crazy they can be.

You might be able to arrange it on a part time basis maybe getting someone from a local business college who needs something on their resume.

Please don't be impulsive and give up something your've obviously worked hard to acheive.

1234me Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 11:14pm

I have no words of advice - just wanted to say I totally understand what you are saying. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cake decorating but having to deal with the customers is my LEAST favorite part. They want to talk on the phone about their orders a million times and lately if I get another mom with an only child and it's their first birthday - I MIGHT SCREAM. Those mom's are PICKY PICKY PICKY and it is so obvious they only have that one child and their life centers around them and this birthday party. Don't get me wrong, it is a special birthday, but it is so funny to me the difference between a mom doing their first birthdya party with their one-year-old and a mom who has several kids!

indydebi Posted 27 Feb 2009 , 11:26pm

I can bet I know exactly what stage you are at. You're trying to do everything and nothing seems to be getting done. THe business is growing and you feel it's growing out of control. Like you're "losing it".

Am I close?

If I'm close, then you need to read the book "The e-Myth" by Michael Gerber. You can get it pretty cheap at Amazon.

In a nutshell, this explains how we start a business with our passion, then end up wearing 14 different hats and we start to lose our passion. It helps show us that we are not a failure, we are not unorganized, we are not short-tempered ... we just can't do it all, all by ourself.

This book motivated me to hire a bookkeeping service. I was stressing because the books weren't getting done, which made me dread walking into my office area, made me dread the 'end-of-the-month', etc. I didn't want to dread doing what I love. So I took my first major step toward delegating. I didn't think I could afford this service ... but I can't afford not to.

And thanks to a GREAT referral from a fellow CC'er, I found a fabulous bookkeeping service, who was way less than half price of the first one I interviewed! Way more affordable than I ever thought it could be!

Get the book. You'll feel better. thumbs_up.gif

Juds2323 Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 12:00am

I'm not sure what stage you are at, but maybe you could raise your prices a bit and still end up with a profit without so much angst - or at least make it more worth your while to put up with it. A few less customers - but same bottom line.

JMO

Judi

Paul353 Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 12:41am

As Indi suggested, Read the book "The e-Myth" by Michael Gerber immediately. You can get it locally at a bookstore or download it online.

This may not change your mind, but it will show you what happened and how you can fix it if you really want to.

littlecake Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 1:42am

i have my shop up for sale...i'm planning on downsizing.

i know exactly what yu mean, i'm in my seventh year...the first couple of years...(after my partner left) i'd go to bed dead tired, and cry cause it just seemed like too much.

you know you DO NOT have to serve everyone....if they hack me off...i send them packing "soup nazi" style....no kidding, i'm not afraid to "fire" pain in a$$ customers....i don't care if they get hacked off...i don't want them to come back anyway.

95% of my customers are lovely now...but i still get hacked off sometimes...people just don't know how to act.

i've been in other businesses....you always got the "turkeys".

geeze you got me curious as to what was "the straw that broke the camels back."

i think you need some rest, and think if selling is what you really want.

i'm 51...(geeze i can't believe it)...i still love decorating, but i'm tired, i think if i downsize, i can make a living...and still have a life.

my heart goes out to you...((((((((hugz))))))))

-Tubbs Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 3:59am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul353

As Indi suggested, Read the book "The e-Myth" by Michael Gerber immediately. You can get it locally at a bookstore or download it online.




YES!! Do it today! I've just read this and I'm glad I read it before I formally start my business. It takes a big step back to look at exactly the problems you're facing. The case study lady even runs a pie shop.

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you luck and a good nights' sleep. icon_smile.gif

ButtercupMama Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 1:31pm

Yes, thanks everyone. Came in this morning to find so many replies on here; that is so nice.

I have been considering selling for about a year now. So it's nothing sudden. Yesterday I just had one more woman who didn't like her cake.

Most people are overjoyed with their order; then that tiny percentage is not JUST unhappy, they are like fireballs of rage! I just want to fix it, but they just want to use me as a punching bag.
When I asked her what she wanted, she assumed I was being rude. I tried to explain to her that I really did want to know what she wanted, so I could change it to her liking. Her sister ordered it, so of course she didn't get what she wanted; it didn't occur to her that she should take it up with her sister icon_confused.gif Clearly we were at fault.

2 weeks ago I had a woman who was so unhappy that I wrote her son's name on the cake in white instead of blue, she wrote a letter to the BBB. I offered to fix it as soon as she called me to complain. She said I had to send a decorator out to her house an HOUR away immediately or she wanted a full refund of her whopping 30 bucks.
The BBB complaint letter is full of lies; I assume the truth sounded as stupid as it was, so she embellished...majorly. This will end with me having an "F" rating, as I won't give her a penny. Not that I give a crap about the $30 bucks (hell, I gave yesterday's lady her $60 cake for free just to shut her up.) but I won't indulge this lunatic. I tried to get off the phone with her peaceably many times, but after she screamed at me for 20 minutes, I had to hang up. She then called back dozens of times on end, and I had to call the police I was so afraid she was going to do something crazy.
I have 3 lovely employees. They get their share of the nutjobs, but when it comes down to settling it, it's all me. It's hard because I don't see my children, and I'm here all hours. Then after no sleep, I get screamed at by weirdos, as if I'm trying to pull one over on someone.
I feel like I'm being pummeled sometimes.

Yes, my books are a mess. I will call a bookeeper today. I do use a CPA, as well as a payroll service, but none of that stuff is my cup of tea, and I really suck at it. I'm okay with numbers, but the taxes and endless paperwork is completely mind-boggling to me.

I have looked for e-myth in my barnes&noble, but they don't have it. I will have to order it online.

Other mom&pop businesses around me are going under like crazy. I know I am lucky that my business keeps picking up. But I have gained weight, my head and stomach hurt often, my heart races, I feel awful, and I have nightmares about cake constantly. On my days off I get totally upset if we don't hurry up and do something relaxing!! It's crazy, and I feel crazy!

I don't know who I might hire that would handle irate customers for me. And it's always a judgement call on what to do. If we've filled their cake with the wrong filling or something I give money back... if I can repair it, I offer. Some people just go totally crazy, and you don't know what to do for them... and they make you want to choke them, not give them something.

Ugh, I could vent all day, but there's mucho work to do, and I don't know that it will help. I have a fear now, that everyone who walks in the door to pick up their order will go ballistic over something. Like waiting for a bomb to go off in my face. I just don't know how long I want to continue this!

ButtercupMama Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 1:50pm

Oh, and BTW, as much as I would love to divulge my shop's name and website so you guys could get a better feel for my situation, I just can't....

Although I am super friendly with my local competition, and feel that there's enough work for all of us, I found on other boards that my posts were being watched/tracked by a couple of them. It was a little weird. So I don't want to expose my belly here. I've got to be incognito.
icon_cool.gif
I'll say that we are in the United States, west of the Mississippi. But that's it! tapedshut.gif

cookie_fun Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 2:05pm

Buttercupmama~

Just wanted to say I'm sorry that things are so stressful for you. It's a shame that these nutjobs are ruining the fun in your business.

There are people out there who take everything to extreme. I honestly believe customer service is the hardest job out there, and as the owner you are the customer service too!

If you are truly going to sell your business, I wish you all the best! icon_wink.gif

littlecake Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 3:02pm

buttercup mamma.........before i opened my place i wored at several bakeries...so i've seen a few things.

if it gets around that you'll give them as cake for free if they b!tch about it....the word gets out...and when someone wants a cake they can't afford...they'll play that scam on ya.

if they don't like it...give them a refund...BUT NEVER EVER GIVE A FREE CAKE AWAY AGAIN.

i used to have that a bit....but after they found out "homie don't play dat"...i haven't had that in years and years.

give the cake away to a nice person...or the womens shelter or something.

it's awful that people can be so rotten...but they are,

GOOD LUCK

drowsyrn Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 5:46pm

As some of you know, I had my shop up for sale. Well, I am in the last stage of getting it sold. And.....I am so happy! We have all our negotiations met and we are waiting for the lawyer to draw up the contract this week. I ended up selling to my employee I hired about six months ago.

I only did it for a year and a half and I am not having fun anymore. I actually loved the start up process of the business... getting all the construction done, getting permits, etc. I made a little money on the deal, which isn't bad for a year of work.

I wasn't sure either if I wanted to sell or even how. So when I decided to do it, I had the mind set that if it happened it would have to be just right or I wouldn't do it. I would have been fine to just keep doing it and try again another time. I put an ad on Craigslist and got a lot of responses, only a few were serious. I did not use a realtor and told the people who wrote or called that they had to be serious and have finances for the purchase before I went any further with them. I didn't ask to see anything but said if we got to that point, they would have to verify they had the finances, just like a realtor would do. They understood and you knew who was serious and who wasn't.

Anyway, once my employee heard I was selling, she apparently thought about it and got her financing ready before she approached me with an offer. We negotioated about a week and covered everything we each wanted, now we are waiting for it to be drawn up. I still am thinking if it happens, it will be nice and if it falls through, it will be okay.

I am giving her eight hours a week for six weeks of my time for training, so I will be able to ease out emotionally icon_smile.gif

It sounds like you are in the same position I am. You don't HAVE to sell and settle for anything. I am and was in the black after being open three months. You can always do some advertising and see what happens. Do your research on selling a business. I don't know if you have sold a business before, I hadn't. So this too is a learning experience.

I think you should just put a few free ads out and some feelers and see if anything bites. It can't hurt. I think it is much easier to stick to your guns and what you want when you are not in the position of having to sell but want too. Good luck and keep us up to date on what you decide to do.

Redlotusninjagrl Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 6:07pm

Buttercup, I think you are just too nice and people are taking advantage of that. I think several people gave you some good ideas on how to handle people complaining. I don't like working with people because I can't deal with "the customer is always right". Well, when you are your own boss, you make the rules. When people want to order a cake, make them come by your shop, sketch out precisely what they want and have them sign a contract. The problems you seem to be having would probably make anyone want to quit!

Hang in there!

all4cake Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 6:57pm

You could definitely benefit, as we all could, from a 'Mary Alice'! I am training my daughters to be like her in their spare time...so hopefully at least one of them would be able to handle any of those types of situations should they arise. I believe wholeheartedly in customer service 'til it hurts...I just didn't mean 'til it kills...I've acquired the attitude like LittleCakes..."If you don't want me to fix it, here's your money...I'll keep the cake...there's the door." Daggum...if you fix it, they pay full price, if they take it as is (if the company...order taker-decorator ...isn't at fault but the person doing the ordering (like ordering blue because that's what THEY thought it was going to be and it turned out that it was supposed to be red) this does NOT apply...no discount...no nothing...maybe an offer to change it if possible)), I might would knock 10% off...no more...otherwise, there's the dang door! I see it so much more now...customers(not necessarily mine) trying to make business employees kiss their ass for their business. It truly sickens me.

Post a sign in your shop...."Verify order before leaving. We can't fix it once it leaves the bakery" OSLT

kbak37 Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 7:17pm

Hang in there..there are crazies everywhere! I am a respiratory therapist by day and there is not a day that goes by that I dont want to do "pillow therapy" on some ungrateful full of themselves jacka**! You would be shocked at how many people want the world and expect the best for NOTHING! I was at target the other day and a lady in front of me was complaining about a .10 difference in the cost of an item. I felt like giving her a dollar and telling her to shut it and get out of my way.

Wow..I must be cranky today. Anyway focus on the appreciative customers and as another poster said..go cake Nazi on them!

gerripje Posted 28 Feb 2009 , 10:02pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by kbak37

I felt like giving her a dollar and telling her to shut it and get out of my way.




icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif
Thinking about dealing with people that are undealable, makes me never want to do this as a business. My friends that I make cakes for are usually so happy with anything, cause they ask me if they want to make a 3 tier cake will one cake mix work?! icon_confused.gif And does Safeway have those pretty cake pans shaped like flowers??? So yeah, my cake could be as crooked as a politician and they love it!!

classiccake Posted 1 Mar 2009 , 3:31pm

I have owned a store for 14 years and believe me....I know what you are feeling. I remember calling my accountant one day and when he answered the phone, my first question was, "How much is my shop worth if I were to sell it!!?" icon_cry.gif

He chuckled and said,"Having a bad week?" We talked for awhile and I later decided I was not ready to sell.

Everyone has ups and downs. Try to really list what the aggravations are by priority, then see if there is any way to resolve any of those issues. If you feel like you can't and it is all too much of a burden, then find a way out. It is no sense to end up with a "crash" over cakes.

Some helps:
Keep a blacklist...really. If you have an unreasonable customer, then politely tell them you are not comfortable accepting any more orders....or tell them you are booked full with orders....whatever. Do your work for people who appreciate the effort.

We all have misread peoples visions for their cake, but try to have a check and balance with your order taking. Take time to repeat what you have written down and ask, "Did I include everything you are wanting? Do I need to make ay changes to the instructions? And always repeat the Date they are wanting the cake. You can even have them sign the order sheet if they are present, or on the phone. say, "Okay, I have your verbal agreement that the order is correct." That lays some of the responsibility on them. We are not mind readers!!

Yes, if one of our employees errors, we take the heat, not them. That is part of our responsibility as the store owner/manager. I actually cried the first few times there were problems (in the back room.) Now my skin has toughened. I do try my best to correct things. If they refuse, then that is their problem. I have gone to a few homes and corrected problems. I have also corrected problems they caused. In the end, I feel like I have done my best. I do discount for mistakes if I am liable for the errors. If they dumped the cake on the way home, then that is their fault. I will fix it, but no He complains that every time I hire more help, it doesn't ease my time commitment. I do have an assistant manager now that I trust and I can take some time off now, but it is still long days and 6 days a week most of the time. You are going to have to judge what your limits are and see if there is any compromise.

Congratulations on a successful business. Open less than 3 years and approaching $200,000 in sales is an accomplishment.

Let us know how it goes and cry on our shoulders if you need to!!

ButtercupMama Posted 4 Mar 2009 , 6:29am

Okay, not to bump this up, but I didn't want you all to think I disappeared and just went off the deep end. (Although occasionally on my way to work I'll think, "What would happen if I just kept on driving....?")

I'm going to stick it out with this business until mid-summer and see how I feel at that point. In the meantime, I'm going to do the very best I can to perfect every aspect of my business. That way, IF and WHEN I'm ready to sell, I will have my ducks in a row.

*I have picked up the e-myth, and am on the second chapter.
*I have an inquiry submitted to a local bookkeeper.
*I am making fresh lists of the things I have been putting off, and re-committing to get some of those extra pesky things done each day.
*Blacklist of customers we no longer feel comfortable serving is posted for the staff, so names are quickly recognized.
*I have begun an order for some fresh signage with my local sign shop; one of which will be a beautifully professional "Policies" sign, which will be lovingly displayed by my register. *sparkle!*

My employees and I had a brainstorming session today regarding the Policies sign. I could go on and on with this thing,(Picture me dropping the end of a long scroll to the floor that keeps on rolling) but I know the policies should be short and sweet. Here are a couple we came up with, but they are wordy, and may be unnecessary??
PLEASE give input on specifics/if I'm forgetting anything; this sign will be pricey (it's a beauty) and I don't want to revise it anytime soon:

*We want you to be thrilled with your cake! In the event that you are unhappy with the finished design upon pick-up, we will make every effort to change it to your liking while you wait!
*7 days notice is required to place your order; orders placed with less than 7 days are subject to a rush charge.
*No changes or cancellations will be allowed with less than 7 days notice.
*Once cake has left the premises, no refunds will be given.
*We cannot be held responsible for cakes damaged after leaving our shop; cakes are fragile...please use good judgement regarding transport and harsh weather!

And we're not total jerks, if the b-day kid gets sick, we let mom out of it! If they get the wrong flavor inside, we'll give them a new cake, or their money back, etc. But it's impossible to list every scenario. Ugh!
And with these policies I am trying to avoid the folks who keep their cool in store, then call me later to scream about it. Let me fix it on the spot, or forever hold your peace, people!

Okay, sorry so long... if you have input, spill it.
Thanks,

icon_rolleyes.gif

And thanks for everyone's support and opinions. I really appreciate the support and words of wisdom!

ClassyMommy Posted 4 Mar 2009 , 8:06am

Your list of changes looks great! One thing that you didn't post (but you probably meant to) is to take time out for yourself and your family. They come first before business! I know that it is hard to do, but it is really what we live for. icon_lol.gif

Congrats on weeding out those awful customers! thumbs_up.gif

all4cake Posted 4 Mar 2009 , 4:14pm

heyyyyyyy...that sounds too cute to overlook...

"... speak now or forever hold your peace!"

There's gotta be a cute cake sign out of that! Somewhere!

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