Recipe, what recipe? Or how to use a lemon zester

One year a friend of mine who was helping prepare a meal asked where my lemon zester was. My response? “What’s a lemon zester?” I’m not a cook who typically follows recipes, I don’t emulate Martha Stewart, and I don’t own many kitchen tools. My friend, who does do these things, was appalled – and I now own one, thanks to her.

(By the way, when she asked me moments later where my pepper mill was I told her it was next to my lemon zester.)

Anyone who eats at my house knows you’ll eat good food, but it won’t be fancy and you may never have the same thing twice. I like to think of cooking as more art than science, adding things as I go based on whatever mood I’m in and whatever’s in the fridge. But even I know that sometimes you’ll get better results if you follow a recipe.

As small business owners, it’s tempting to treat the business as more art than science, particularly if the business data isn’t going to bear out what you want to see. I’ve reviewed many a business plan that contained no numbers at all, sometimes because laying out the numbers was scary and sometimes because the business owner wasn’t sure how to do it. I’ve seen new product plans that contained no market research or pricing analyses. And I’ve met with failing businesses that weren’t reviewing current financial results. I think they hoped that if they ignored those less-than-stellar results, they would go away.

Fact is, you can’t ignore the numbers if you want to be successful. Try baking a cake with half the baking powder sometime and see how that goes. Or add ten times the chili powder. Estimating and assuming can lead to unpleasant outcomes.

So look at the numbers. You can’t make good decisions without them and you owe yourself the reality check. If you aren’t comfortable with your own level of knowledge, get some help – there are plenty of professionals out there who analyze numbers for a living and can give you some insight. (Or for some ideas on how to do this, see the article,  Build Your Business by the Numbers.)

Oh, and that lemon zester? I finally found the perfect use for it. It’s great for shaving chocolate to top off an Irish coffee.

Have another creative use for a common  kitchen tool? (Keep it clean, please.) Send your ideas to – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

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