Thought No. 13: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

"The grass isn't always greener."

“Hi! This message is for Jennifer Wisniewski. May or may not remember me, we went to Regina together – it's 'Susan'. I'm sitting in a waiting room and ran across some intel on Bread & Wine. Realized your co-owner, and wanted to say congratulations on a fabulous place. I live in the burbs and have actually had a few good meals there – crazy I didn't recognize you. We actually talked at length in the bar one night – you'd had a flood in the place the night before. I guess it is a small world. Anyway, hope all is well. I remember you being a good soul. You must be having a blast. What a cool life!”

I get these adulations on occasion. They are more frequent, as we go into our fourth year of business. This particular note forces me to stand outside of myself and say, “See Jenny? You’re doing well. You're worrying all the time for nothing. You should be more grateful for what you and your business partner have built, instead of fretting all the time about losing what you have worked so hard for.”

I think everyone already knows that owning a restaurant isn’t an easy life. There has been enough media attention on how grueling the long hours are, but that’s not the difficult part for me. The work I can handle. The fact is I don't really have anything better to do. The difficult part is the sway in revenue. One week your business is making money and the next week: it isn't. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but your personal life is directly linked to it. When it's slow, as owners, you can't pay yourself and the psychological effect is slow torture. You're still putting in serious hours – but not paying yourself. Just like anyone else, you would like to get paid for the job that you do. You would like to, and it's essential to survival.

I have found another revenue source recently and it’s been helpful for my peace of mind. The best part of that isn't necessarily the money, but that my thoughts can concentrate on a positive action – instead of obsessing over what I can’t control. We’ve been very busy these past two weeks, due to Restaurant Week. I was having a recent discussion with our chef on how much easier it is to be busier – because I would rather work, than worry, any day.

I am blessed to get these reminders – these markers of validation. To remind me that what I do for a living is “cool” and not to be mired in the worry. If someone asked my advice on if they should open up a restaurant. I would ask them this”

Are you ready to be on call24/7?

Are you ready to work constantly and not get paid?

Are you ready to give up your personal life?

Are you ready to hardly ever see your family? Never take a vacation? Invest every bit of your life savings into your dream?

This sounds harsh, but I feel like I need to be, because I know what the public perception is.  (We’re successful and we have made it work and it looks like so much fun.) On occasion: it is. But, I’d be doing a serious disservice, if I didn't tell the whole story. Which is: when you own your own business, you are working without a safety net. One wrong move and the fall is a long way down.