My Business and Homemade Liqueur

Sunday evening I decanted a couple bottles of coffee liqueur which I had made several months earlier. It’s been 18 months since I made my first batch, and I reflected on the fact that my business is quite similar to the process of making a bottle of homemade liqueur.

Experiment

First, there’s the fact that making the liqueur involves a significant amount of experimentation. I started off with a recipe, but when making each batch, I try something a little different, to see if I can get my recipe even better. I taste a batch, and find it too sweet, so in the next batch, I reduce the sugar. Or maybe there’s not enough vanilla, so I add a small amount of extract to each batch.

Business is like that too. You can take a formula for a successful business, but then you tweak it. You try a different advertising campaign, and measure the results. You stock different products, offer different specials. Eventually, you’ll find something that works for you. It may have started with a recipe, but the end result is far different from the description in your downloaded business template.

Iterate

Each time I make my liqueur, it takes between 3 and 6 months before I’ll know how it came out. After I make each batch, I wonder if I got it right, but I wait to see how it came out before trying something different. Occasionally I’ll make a couple batches at the same time, each slightly different from the other. But then I wait for them to be ready before trying something else.

In business, when you experiment, there’s a period of time before you’ll know whether your attempt was successful. While you may be tempted to try different things at the same time, you need to be able to measure your success with each experiment, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Wait

After making each batch of liqueur, I need to wait until it’s had a chance to settle, for the flavors to blend properly. I’ve tried sampling it too early, and it can spoil an entire bottle by opening and decanting too early. Trying something in business is the same – sometimes you need to let things run their course before trying to measure their success. Measuring the success of a 2 year plan after 6 months won’t get you accurate results.

Document

How do you know what works? As I bottle each batch of liqueur, I write on the bottle exactly what I tried in that batch. When I open the bottle several months later, I make sure to copy those notes so that I can apply what I learned from that batch. Last, I include my tasting impressions with the notes on the recipe so that I can reproduce a particular taste.

In business, if you don’t write down what you did and what happened, you’ll have a hard time reproducing certain results. Not only that, but you risk deluding yourself later on into thinking that a particular experiment had better results than it actually did. If you try to reproduce the event, you’re more likely to end up running a new experiment rather than doing something tried and true.

Summary

A business can be started with a recipe, but like many things homemade, the recipe gets changed to suit your personality. You’ll also try things, and, if you do it right, will have other people asking you what your secret recipe is for success. Why not be able to give it to them?