I have run into a couple of sugar friends lately who tell me that they don’t enjoy doing cakes anymore. They have been considering giving it up. They feel burned out. They talked with me, not looking for answers, but in a private moment of sharing. They just don’t love cake the way they used to!
It reminded me of several times during my bakery career. There were days I thought that I would rather set myself on fire than do another cake. I still would tell people that I was “paid to play”. I still would smile and say that the bakery business was “awesome”. Inside, I knew I was lying.
Each time this happened, I stepped back and took a look at my bakery life. One truth kept surfacing. If I am in control of things, I am happy. Unhappiness occurs when it feels like things are out of control. No one tells you that you will have a serious LACK of control when you start a business. Everyone tells you it will be great to be your own boss. I found that I was often not the boss of my bakery life.
I would get myself into situations where I felt like I had to say yes to customers when my heart and head were screaming no! I would let them push me into taking too many orders. I would let them bully me in to mixing colors for hours trying to match an impossible color swatch. I would let them push me into designs that I did not enjoy.
I know many of you find yourselves in this same situation. You worry about saying no to a customer. You accept abuse from belligerent customers. You take every order that comes in the door, whether you want to do it or not. Today I am going to tell you to take back control. Right now, the customers have trained you to do their bidding. You can, however, train them so that cake can be fun again.
Let’s talk about notice. You need to decide how much advance notice you need to feel RELAXED as you work on that cake. Set that as your minimum notice and hold to it. It isn’t easy to tell someone they called too late this time, but isn’t it easier than going without sleep for two days for someone who called you at the last minute? You might think that they will not call you again if you say no. I beg to differ. The harder it was to get a cake from my bakery, the more the orders came in. People like knowing that your clients mean so much that you will not rush their cakes.
Let’s think about what you liked about decorating in the beginning. Have you moved away from that? I have friends who only do carved cakes. Others only do wedding cakes. Some refuse to do sheet cakes. Set the boundaries for what you enjoy. If you hate drawings or they stress you out, eliminate them. If color matching is your worst nightmare, show them the color guide for your fondant or food coloring and tell them these are their options. Get back to what you love and refer the other customers to someone who enjoys what you do not. When they say “why not? Why won’t you do it?”. Remind them that this is YOUR bakery. My favorite line was “Because it says Ruth’s outside on the sign.”
Let’s talk about the pushy customers…the ones who always demand the most, compliment the least and complain at the slightest opportunity. Fire them. Yes. Fire them. When I had customers that were creating a toxic environment for me or my employees, they would get a note from me telling them that we were sorry we could not make them happy and that we wished them the best at their next bakery. I have to say that firing a customer is one of the most empowering things you can do. If they throw a fit when they come to get a cake, tell them they do not have to take the cake – that you will take it to the children’s hospital. In this reality show environment, many people are just trying to get money off when the cake is perfectly fine. Beat them at their game and keep the cake. You must take back control, even if that means not selling the cake that day.
Last but not least, have some fun each day. Without feeling guilty. Play music that makes you sing or dance. Throw icing. Laugh. Take a day off just for you. Take back control. If you are having fun, magically, making cakes will be fun again. Best wishes in finding your inner joy!