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Everything I learned about running my business…

It’s hard being a large and in-charge lady running a business, whether you’re a small-business owner or a high-powered CEO. Ditch those running-a-business books and tune in to BBC America to learn lessons from the master of telling it how it is.

Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay certainly doesn’t mind dropping an f-bomb here and there, and he has a multitude of colorful things to say to managers and employees alike. But it’s hard to hate him when you know he’s right.

But his advice doesn’t just apply to restaurateurs. As a freelance writer with restaurant experience, I’ve found that almost everything he says applies equally to my business. While the lessons you could learn from the feisty Brit are endless, these may be the most important for any business owner… even if the staff is just you.

“Look at the size of this bloody menu!”

It never fails that the restaurants in the worst shape have the most items on their menus. Instead of doing a few things well, the chefs think they have to cater to every possible demand a customer could have. The flaw in this logic is that you can’t get really good at anything if you’re trying to do it all.

Take a hard look at the products and services you’re offering and decide what really needs your focus and what you can leave to other companies. Decide what you want your focus to be and focus on it. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer special services if your client needs them, but carefully consider how well you can really do it, how much time it will take away from your focus and whether or not you can outsource it to a colleague.

“You call that a pudding!?”

Speaking of products and services, are they really as good as you think they are? Ramsay spends a lot of time during every episode on quality control. Just as Ramsay is disgusted by a chef who’s willing to serve customers gritty mussels over mushy pasta with watery sauce, you need to take an honest look at the products and services you’re offering and decide if they’re really up to market standards. If not, where do you get off charging market prices?

If improving your offerings can’t be done without raising your prices (which Ramsay repeatedly proves is untrue), then you may not know what you’re doing. Take a class, learn to do quality work faster and practice, practice, practice to hone your craft or product.

“Get out of the f***ing kitchen!”

Chefs belong in the kitchen, managers do not. If you’ve hired someone else to do a job that you don’t know how to do, get out of their way and let them do it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate or that you’re not in charge, but it does mean they need some space to succeed. If they don’t succeed after giving them space, you may have hired the wrong person.

“This place is a bloody rat hole!”

Sometimes, part of relaunching a restaurant means a dining room makeover. If you’re trying to improve your image, an updated wardrobe goes a long way to making people see you’ve changed. Clients and employees will take you more seriously, but more important, so will you.

“Why won’t you shut the hell up and listen?”

This is going to be hard to take, so brace yourself. You’re not perfect, and you’re not always right. Listen to what your customers, employees and colleagues are saying and really consider what you could do to improve. Most people aren’t just trying to hurt your feelings, they’re expressing their feelings, which are most likely based in fact. Treat every person with the same respect you’d like to be treated, even if you don’t like what they’re saying. They’re probably right.

“You’re 51? The website says the chef is 22.”

Ramsay understands the importance of an accurate web presence. These days, you don’t exist if you aren’t online. And even if you don’t buy that, it doesn’t mean other people aren’t writing about you. Set up and maintain the right kind of online presence for your business, whether that’s a website or a LinkedIn page. If you’re not sure, look at what your competition is doing — then up the ante.

“£15 for fish and chips?!”

Probably the biggest sin any freelancer or business owner can commit is not knowing how much things cost in contrast with fair market value. If you have to charge more for your offerings to make money, don’t hide behind the classic “because that’s what it’s worth if you get it from me.” The reality is, you’re not controlling costs. If you have the best $1 taco in the world at your food truck, you’ll sell more than the guy who serves mediocre ones for the same price, and you’ll still make more money.

But beware of the opposite problem, too. Cost control also means not overspending on hard and administrative costs and not undercharging just to undercut the competition.

More lessons from Ramsay

The list goes on, but that’s a book, not an article. But you definitely have enough to work on with these. If you want the rest, tune in to Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on BBCA.

Tell us

What’s your favorite business lesson from Gordon Ramsay? Tell us in the comments below.

More tips for business owners

The work-at-home alpha mom
Chasing the dream: How getting an assistant helped me
Working Mom 3.0: Time to outsource

Photo credit: Fox

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