Beverly Yeoh, 31, Co-founder of Free the Robot and Bitters & Love
Our customers know that we’re a locally owned café bar but to be honest, no one really cares who owns the establishment – it’s really about the staff on the ground who make the difference and foster relationships with customers.
A mistake I made early on was blind hiring – hiring people who were interested but had no idea what they were in for. It was a pretty desperate time when we really needed help. But we all ended up having to work even harder instead.
As an owner of an F&B spot, it’s important to equip yourself with certain skills just in case you need to take over in a crisis. I can’t do everything but I’ve got some experience handling the floor and I’ve done some bartending, so at least I can step in if it gets slammed. As long as you can contribute, you count as help.
If you’re setting up a business on your own, dream big but start out as small and as lean as you can. Do everything yourself in the beginning, maintain control of the people you hire, and manage your own risk. A smaller place also allows you to hone the concept of your business so when you finally do expand, you do it on a strong foundation.
One thing many who first set up an F&B spot don’t think about is how much backend work there is. Finance and accounting was something we handled on our own, using Excel to keep track and record numbers. As the business grew, we needed to churn out more reports and it was not viable to continue using Excel, that’s when we made the switch to QuickBooks Online, which made our lives a lot easier.
There are no such thing as failures, just lessons. We learnt a big lesson when we started our restaurant concept previously; we didn’t plan our target market and didn’t really focus on ambience. We had good food, but that location we had was quite a trek from the CBD for lunch. We took what we learnt, planned two-steps ahead and created Free the Robot Coffee with the team – planning and teamwork is the key to us celebrating our second anniversary.
I always tell my staff that they own this business as much as I do. They protect our brand, take care of the establishment and take pride when they serve our customers. Without them, we won’t enjoy the success we reap today. Running an establishment like ours has its share of challenges and problems and I appreciate people in the team who go above and beyond to make it work.
Finding manpower in this industry can be hard, but finding the right people is even harder. I don’t care about a person’s qualifications and where they have worked before, as long as they can survive working a month without taking medical leave or giving excuses, and work well with the rest of the team, they’re hired.
I feel customers only deserve to be right if there’s mutual respect. Some customers feel that they are entitled to be right and do whatever they please because they’ve paid for a drink or a meal. But if they don’t have respect for the space or the people who run it, we have no problem telling them to leave.
When you first start any business, all you really have is some sort of goal in mind and the hope that you will make it there at some point. But the time between now and then is really terrifying with so many unpredictable challenges you will face. All I can say is that it’s important to keep calm, go with the flow, and evolve your ideas as you go.
Also, buy a money plant.
Beverly Yeoh has been using QuickBooks to manage Free the Robot since 2014. Find out more ways to build a successful business in Singapore here, and discover how QuickBooks Online can help you do just that.