When It Was Time to Stop Working for My Father

Last week, I talked about how to recognize when it’s time to leave your organization. If they’re telling you:

  • “Don’t try new things.”
  • “Toe the line.”
  • “Do what worked before.”

Then it’s time to go.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Of course, quitting your job never is.

This is the story of quitting my first job after college… working for my father.

I worked for my father for about two years, starting in the winter of 2008. It was one of the best learning and life experiences I could ask for.

In hindsight, we opened the first restaurant, Shogun of Delmar, at the worst possible time, given the economy.

The first year, I learned a lot:

  • How many details go into opening a restaurant.
  • How to set expectations.
  • How to hire people.
  • How to fire them.
  • How to treat customers — especially when you screw up.
  • How to build a fan base.

I also learned how to tend bar, and everything I know about sushi today (which still isn’t a lot, but more than the average dude, looking for his spicy tuna roll).

When It Was Time to Stop Working for My Father

In my second year, the learning naturally plateaued.

I could handle 80 percent of the front-of-house, on my own.

(Back-of-house was a different story. I studied it, but it never held my attention.)

I started offering my own ideas to grow the business: about marketing, about developing our fan base, and how to systemize certain operations. I’d pitch these ideas to my father…

And he’d give it some thought, but ultimately would say “no”…

Which would cause these, emotional gut reactions…

Anger. Embarrassment. Resentment.

But like I said last week, the problem with asking for permission: you’re looking for credit when things go right, and deniability when they don’t.

Who would take that offer?

Also, 90 percent of what I learned in the restaurant business, I learned from my father, or from operations that ran less effectively than his.

So what new experiences did I have to draw from that could benefit him? 

Looking back now, I have to admit I didn’t possess two things:

  • The maturity to do the work without permission
  • The experience to help grow the business.

The silver lining? I knew that I didn’t know — and the only way to grow and to learn, was to leave.

Which is why I left for Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Episa

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