I'm not going to mince words here: I'm not a great cook. In the world of Seamless, and Blue Apron, and other food startups, this didn't bother me much until recently. Recently, though, I decided I wanted to hone this skill, and I decided to approach it like a student.
To create my own curriculum, I've been watching a lot of cooking shows, trying to learn more recipes, increase my knowledge of ingredients, learn how to use kitchen equipment, and to internalize the habits of effective chefs.
But it didn't take me long to notice that there were plenty of entrepreneurship lessons hidden in all the kitchen chaos.
1. Conditions are never "ideal"
Most cooking shows come with challenges: shortened timelines, unexpected elements, equipment that's not perfect for the job, teammates you didn't expect. But you've got to make it work. As with entrepreneurship, you can't wait for the mythical "right time" to make a big move. You have to improvise, make substitutions and find a way to make due with what you've got.
2. Presentation is important
No matter how good your product actually is, you have to present it well to impress the judges. Whether it's plating a dish, making a deck look nice for potential investors, presenting your financial data for funding, dressing up for an important pitch meeting, focusing on user experience and design in your materials, or branding yourself well for potential customers, you have to put as much effort into the presentation as the product itself if you want it to be well received.
3. It's not about the tools -- it's how you use them
In the kitchen, maybe the knives are dull, the bananas are overripe, or the water isn't boiling as fast as you'd like. For entrepreneurs, maybe you're lacking an office space, don't have a big budget to decorate your store front or have to use some outdated tech. If you think creatively and make the best of what you've got, you can maximize your impact and mask your shortcomings.
4. Time management is key
Whether you're creating a meal in 20 minutes or trying to execute on your 12-month plan in your small business, the way that you manage your time can be a key determinant in how successful you are. There are endless tips for managing your time more effectively, and until you learn how to focus your energy and attention on the things that are most successful, you won't have the impact you're hoping to.
5. Everyone has their reasons
When you're watching cooking shows, everyone seems to have their own reason for competing, though a few common themes emerge, like "to prove to my parents that I made the right career choice" or "to show that even though I didn't study at an elite school, I can hang with the big boys." Few admit "I need the money," but that's certainly a reason too. Entrepreneurship is no different. Everyone launches their venture for their own reasons, and everyone is motivated by different things.
6. Sometimes your biggest competition is yourself
Time, financial and equipment challenges aside, the most common mistakes are the ones you make all on your own. Not managing your time well, forgetting the basics or overlooking a key detail can cost you big, both in the kitchen and when building your business. Take inventory of what you have, carefully plan your next move, focus on what's most important and always pause to re-evaluate the progress you're making to be sure you're not making basic oversights.
Sometimes, the world of entrepreneurship can feel a bit like Cutthroat Kitchen or a Cupcake War, like you're trying to make magic happen in Hell's Kitchen. But if you take these lessons from Master Chefs and avoid the mistakes of the Worst Cooks In America, you won't get Chopped, and you'll emerge feeling like a Top Chef.