16 February 2015

Time Management

  For people who know me in the cake industry, it takes a while before my temper flares up when it comes to caking but sometimes I need to rant too.
  When it comes to cakes, if something isn't going right and you've been organised ahead of schedule then you have time to step back and gain another perspective. If you leave things to the last minute, then there really is no fall back and you know it has to be done so just finish it to the best of your ability.
  It's been a while since I've had the time to sit and have a chat and as someone just commented on my lack of time management - which I believe to be quite extraordinary, I thought I should take an hour out of my day to write another addition to my blog and vent.

  Time management is a huuuuge part of hospitality. Food needs to be made, kept hot, kept cool, fresh and delivered to the client or we could make someone sick, late, disappointed etc.
  You want a well-done steak in five? Have you ever cooked a 1" thick steak before? Do you know how long it takes? Well, if you haven't I suggest trying it...if you have, then you know that this is impossible.
And it's the same with baking.
  Now, over the years, yes, I have had to deal with a few clients who haven't been too nice or haven't been happy with what I have created for them. Luckily, these are few and far between and hopefully, if you're reading this you've been one of the happier ones...the organised ones.
  Firstly, lets discuss the ones who come to me with the most insane suggestions. eg. I need a custom made cake for this afternoon...really? and how exactly do you expect me to create time? I'm a cake decorator - not a magician. 

  Okay so you need it for next week? Pretty much the same deal. Should I stop all other agreements with clients who were organised and start your order? Would you like it if you were organised and I stopped doing what I need for your cake to look after another client? No, I don't think so...Yes - it is just cake and yes, all up it may take me a few hours, to a day to put together but cakes need time.
  You need preparation for supplies, ingredients and time for baking. You need to be organised in extra's like the finish - is it store bought fondant or does it need to be made like buttercream? Then, the cake needs a day to 'settle' especially if it's a tiered structure as settling can be the difference between the cake staying beautiful and upright or cracking and sagging under weight. Lastly, you need to have at the ready any items (whether store bought or made) required to decorate the cake eg. sugar flowers, fresh flowers (florists need time too), novelty caricatures etc. Again - more time...

  So I normally ask that you book your cake in as early as possible. It's first in, best dressed and if you've left it to the last minute, there's only so many hours in the day for me to get what's needed finished.
Over the last 16 years, I have had last minute requests which have been do-able. Especially when working in a bakery, the managers' don't like to say no to customers (which I understand) so I've learnt a couple of tricks to ensure the cake still gets made to a certain degree of excellence.
However, this is also a situation where you have team members or other staff who can help out. I do need to sleep believe it or not, so someone else may take on the baking or the making of the ganache etc. 
In owning my own business, this isn't possible. Many of us cakers require help and we take it where we can get it. Sometime to the point of passing business on to another friend who doesn't have as many orders. We try and do what we can and our network is successful. If another cake has recommended me then I hate telling the client to move on...I will do what I can. (Here is where I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to all my wonderful cake peeps - you know who you are!)

  It still requires time management and for clients to be on the ball when it's a last minute cake order. When we say we need something done from a client, we mean it! It's not a flimsy request, there's usually a reason behind it. In this case - we need to ensure you're coming to pick-up your cake...saying yes without payment may mean we get burnt. Over years, I have learnt if the deposit isn't paid, the cake doesn't get made.
If I ask for a deposit to be paid by a particular date, then that's what I need to get started on your cake. By some strange coincidence you haven't been able to get your a into g then let me know. Strangely enough, telepathy does not come under my list of caking skills. Although I sometimes wish it did.
  When I haven't received that payment and I have a few months, then I may find your quote in among all the others I send out and realise I haven't heard from you and send you a reminder. And yes, I may sound big-headed but when we answer roughly 20 email enquiries a day, no - you are not at the forefront of my mind.
  A last minute request? - the payment needs to be made immediately. I have made it as easy as possible with Direct Debit, Eftpos and Credit facilities (more bills for me) for the client to undertake this small request.
SOOOO is it too much to ask that if you have changed your mind to let me know? Yes, I don't start a cake without a deposit but isn't it polite to use one of the many contactable details (with technology being what it is, I am available by phone, SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc....) and just say: "I'm sorry, I won't be going ahead." before the deadline of payment? or "I'm sorry, I can't pay you by Sunday night but I can call you Monday morning and pay then"?
  What on earth has happened to society that with all the ways we can remain in touch, this has become so hard to do? 

  I can't not deliver a cake - either on time or on the day requested and expect my client to be happy. Yet other businesses/people seem to get away with just that. We continuously receive phone calls of "my cake decorator can't make my cake"; "my cake decorator is sick'; "my cake decorator can't do it"...WTH?
In all the time I have been in business, I have yet to not be able to get a cake to a client (touch wood). I have been laid up in hospital and my caking friends have rallied 'round to help out. I have badly injured my hands and cakers have been there to do what was needed. That's why we do it. Without friends in our industry, we couldn't make it on our own. We already do long days of baking, decorating, accounts and answering emails without the needed stress of how little we earn. Most of the time, we don't charge for the time spent on a cake. We don't see family or get together with friends - and you can forget public holidays or weekends because that's usually our busiest time!
  I'm usually answering emails late at night as that's the only time I have left. Then people wonder why cakes cost so much? Although I haven't charged for the extra hour or two I decided your cake needed that extra special touch. Yes, time is of the essence - so any time to talk to clients is great. 
They seem to think so. I get SMS's at 6am and at 10pm so I'm supposed to be contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But then - hold on, I also get told I'm rude for sending an email after 11pm at night! You can't win.
  So if this is the case, don't you wonder how a particular 'cake decorator' (or so they think they are) can possibly pull out at the last second? Did you pay a deposit? Are they a legitimate business or a 'friend' making the cake for you? Or were they going to give you a cake wreck because they haven't had years of experience or the tools needed to make the cake you wanted to begin with?

  Well, I'm telling you, if they're a reputable business, they will make your cake no matter what - and it will taste awesome and it will look fantastic. If they have an inch of ethics in their bones, your cake will be there even if they have to deliver it. If you paid your deposit and booked it in, then there is absolutely no reason unless they are on their death bed that that cake did not make it to you (even then, you may still get your cake!).
  Seeing this is the case...please be polite to your professional business cake decorator. You may think they're time management skills are up the wazoo but if they have said yes, then they will kill themselves to get that order to you. And if you can't go through with the order then let them know - IMMEDIATELY!
Thanks for your time and apologies for the rant. I'm off to eat cake.