It's All Gravy: Part 2 - Thou Shalt Seek Criticism

Here we are, back again then. What’s been going on? How are ya? How’d the job interview/family event/dentist's appointment go? Oh that’s good, I’m really glad to hear it. Excellent small talk.


Seriously though, we hope the New year is treating you well and that you made it to at least mid-Jan before sacking off the morning jog and uncorking out the Cab Sav (in the evening, obviously, we’re not animals).


On to the order of the day. It’s time for part two in our as-yet-unspecified series of Commandments for new traders; a time where we proverbially kick off our slippers, sit by the proverbial glow of a warm proverbial fire and spout off advice to new traders as if we were seasoned veterans or something, the bloody cheek of it. These are, quite simply, “lessons we’ve learned in our first year that we’d like to have been more aware of before we started, but weren’t.” Catchy eh?. We want to share the love with those new traders on the block and let you guys in on what insider knowledge we have to date. After all, no man is an island (proverb).


So here goes nothing…



Commandment Number Two: 

Thou shalt Seek Criticism


As the old saying goes, you’ve got to have your critics.

For those that have never set up a business before, you can imagine how amazingly supportive family and friends can be when you’re planning the thing. It seems everyone is full of praise and they just know you’re going to succeed. It might be because Mum is a hard-nosed entrepreneur with an uncanny ability to foresee new trends. Or Great Aunt Betsy has crunched the numbers and thinks your margins are really healthy. Or that one Facebook friend from University you haven’t seen in years thinks your logo is going to have real traction with young Millennials. Now, I’m not saying this isn’t the case. You may have some Apprentice-style family unit whereby the weakest family member is struck off the family tree after a poor pitch at the dinner table. Each to their own. I’m no judge.

I would however err on the assumptions that:

  1. Mum is just happy to see you doing anything at all that generates an income and can try to find something slightly less foreboding to worry about on your behalf. (“You drive carefully on them motorways”.)

  2. Great Aunt Betsy thinks it’s wonderful you’re setting up a business as your Great Uncle Arthur set up a restaurant on the south coast after the war and he did well, until the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

  3. Your long-lost Facebook friend likes almost anything anyone has ever posted and sees it as an easy way to while away the time in the office. Immediately after liking your logo, they’ll show the same click of appreciation for an image of a mutual friend’s ‘delicious’ looking Spaghetti Bolognese from the night before.





No, no, no. This is not the way.


If you really want to gauge the opinions of your family and friends on the viability of your business, tell them not to pull any punches. Buckle up your big boy boots, put your ego on hold and tell them to tear into your ideas as much as possible. You might be surprised at what you hear. Dad thinks you’re spending too much money on that neon sign you think looks awesome. Your best mate Jack doesn’t get the tone of your social media posts. Your godfather Jean-Michelle (we’ve all got one) thinks your portions are too expensive. Nothing is sacred.


You may disagree with their opinions but it will definitely make you address them, even if it is just passive-aggressively in your own skull for days on end. The good thing about having people question your plans is that you will either agree with them and adapt your approach or disagree with them and become more assured in your reasoning. It’s win-win.


Dad’s right, we can make do without that pricey sign until we’ve sold a few portions. I see where Jack is coming from, we definitely need a more consistent tone online. My prices are fine as they are. That bastard Jean-Michelle is such a skint flint. Ya dig?


Write a business plan. Pick through your strengths and weaknesses with a fine tooth comb. Come up with strategies for overcoming weaknesses and then get people to pick holes in those. Get them to question your strengths and explain why you think you’re solid in certain areas.


Invite friends and family over for a tasting and cook everything on the menu. We did, and as a result of their feedback, we changed our whole approach; stripping back unnecessary dishes and concentrating on doing fewer dishes really well. It was pretty darn eye-opening.


Prepping for the tasting - ‘Best of Friends’


We’ve made many mistakes, honestly. The only thing worse than a bruised ego is falling into avoidable traps because you were too proud. It don’t taste great in the mouth. Plus, there’s always time to sob into the washing up later.


S’all we’ve got for now people.


As ever, check back on the regs for more Commandments/new trader tips or drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or via email (hello if you’re looking for advice. We love a chat. Again, good luck with your new venture.


Alternatively, if you’re just perusing the website and fancy having The Gravy Train roll into town, hit them links above or contact us here.


Auf Wiedersehen!

The Gravy Train Poutine