If running a successful startup business is a feat, running 11 successful businesses is a modern-day miracle. But that's what Julien Moussi does. If you're a Melbourne food lover, you've probably eaten at one of Julien's establishments (including Temperance Society in Hughesdale, Penta in Elsternwick, Tinker in Northcote and most recently, Bentwood in Fitzroy) and enjoyed the fruits of his entrepreneurial labours without even realising it.
We teamed up with MYOB to get to know the people who are doing business right and had a yarn with Julien to learn how his venues manage to thrive in a city so inundated with hospitality talent. Turns out, it's a healthy mix of hard work, trust and not sweating the small stuff. And, whether it's your first startup or your eleventh, it doesn't get easier, but you do learn a heck of a lot along the way. Julien gave us a rundown of his best tips for small business owners.
RUNNING A BUSINESS IS LIKE RAISING A CHILD
"You have to put all your time into it. Forget about your usual sleeping patterns, hobbies or routines," Julien says. The first few years can be tough as you learn the ropes of running a business. You'll make mistakes and more importantly, you'll have to make sacrifices (forget everything you knew about work/life balance — you're a business owner now). If you ever doubt yourself, remember it's not forever. When your little business baby ages out of the terrible toddler years, you'll both be stronger for it.
"Those sacrifices have paid dividends," Julien says. "I get to travel a lot overseas and have a very flexible schedule. I can also catch up in the middle of the day with my mum, dad and friends for a coffee — things that just weren't possible in the first three years."
YOUR PEOPLE ARE YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET
If your business is a baby, then choosing who to co-parent with is the most important decision you'll make. It's scary but important — sharing the load is the only way to prevent burnout and actually have some fun with it. "Nothing can really prepare you for business. I had no social life for at least the first two or three years and did nothing but work," Julien says. "[My] mentality was 'if it is to be, it's up to me', but then finding fantastic people to work with is key. Staff are the most important part of any business. Now, I'm happy for us to make mistakes in order to give people experience and growth."
BE DIFFERENT OR PERISH
There's a lot of sameness and copy-cattery happening in the Melbourne cafe scene, but there's still always demand. It's crucially important, no matter what your business does, to put your own spin on things. Carve out a niche for yourself however you can and make sure that niche is incomparable.
"[With Bentwood] our aim was to make a space that was very different to the typical Melbourne cafe scene," Julien explains. "We wanted an environment that was sophisticated but not over-designed, so the interior has grand but honest and raw finishes. The biggest statement is the steel boxed ceiling which was very challenging to get sign-off from structural engineers." The bottom line? Don't scrimp on standing out.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
In the early years, many small business owners end up wearing a lot of hats. You become the accountant, the operations manager, the social media intern — you try to do it all, and it's a double-edged sword. Getting involved in every aspect of the business in the early days is a great way to understand what makes it tick, but it's probably not a sustainable reality.
"Understand your model," Julien says. "Measuring benchmarks and reviewing your financials weekly is the reason we grew so quickly...MYOB helps us get a quick snapshot of where the business is at any given time, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly...I knew what everything cost, how much profit we were making and what I needed to do to keep evolving and growing. I always looked ahead and wanted more."
If trying to do it all sounds intimidating, Julien's final piece of advice might help: ask questions, no matter how dumb they sound; never stop questioning and learning. "That's what's helped me grow my skill set which has made our business more powerful."
Planning to open your own business? Whether it's the first or eleventh, consider MYOB to help sort out all your accounting needs.