Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Waiter Project Part 2

So I have completed my training and I have my first day as a waiter on this coming Thursday. If you are new to this project click here.

Training is minimal for a server in a restaurant. For those who have never worked in a restaurant before, I will explain that the hours you are supposed to get will be most likely cut in half, unless you are in a restaurant that is consistently busy. This includes training. So the trick to being a successful server is to get what you can, while you can, as fast as you can.

The first thing I learned (and each restaurant may be different so don't take my 4 days experience as law) is that the tables are divided into sections. Each server is assigned a section. I like that because it lessens the contention between servers. Guests are seated according to a rotation. So if Server A just had guests seated in her section then the next guests go to Server B and so forth. The only time I have known this to change is if a guest decides they want a certain table or booth. The hosts try to keep it fair though.

The server then goes through this process more or less:

  1. Greet the guests.
  2. Offer drinks and appetizers.
  3. Put drinks and appetizers in the computer.
  4. Serve drinks.
  5. Take orders.
  6. Place orders in the computer.
  7. Serve appetizers (if applicable) and garlic biscuits.
  8. Check for drink refills.
  9. Serve food.
  10. Check for plates that need to be cleared and drinks to refill.
  11. Offer Dessert.
  12. Present the check.
  13. Process the payment.
  14. Report your tip.
  15. Thank your customers.
  16. Clean and set your table.
It's not too bad with one or two tables. But with five or more guests in your section, challenging is an understatement. The whole time you have to smile. Generally, I am a friendly person so I don't mind smiling, but I can't stand forced smiling, it feels fake. However, I learned that the staff I work with are all comedians in their own right, so it's kind of hard not to smile.

In studying the performance charts I learned that most servers on the floor generally make $2-$3 per table in tips. So the real money comes in how many tables you can serve in your 4 hour shift. I have only seen one really busy shift but I calculated that 20-25 tables is reasonable; maybe even 30 if you're that good and the restaurant is ever that busy. So in a 4 hour shift it is reasonable to expect between $40 and $60. With a base salary at 2.13 per hour, that makes your actual earnings roughly $12 - $17 per hour. Not bad for a part time gig.

In a perfect world, this would work just fine. However, you aren't generally scheduled for a 40 hour week, or even a 20 hour week. Your hours, for the sake of efficiency, are determined by how busy the restaurant is. So if you come in on your scheduled hours you will most likely work half of them.

But there are some servers who still manage a good living at the craft. I found out who the top server was at my restaurant and picked his brain. The qualities he exhibited were straight out of Napoleon Hill's lessons (which is why he makes twice as much as anyone else). The one's I could readily identify were that of a Definite Chief Aim, Initiative, and Imagination. He probably has more, but I recognized those right off the bat.

I learned from him the secret in boosting the hours that you work: Just show up. He explained that many times he has shown up to work dressed and more times than not somebody who was scheduled wanted to go home anyways. Therefore, he gets more hours and more tables.

My Definite Chief Aim is to double his numbers. I plan on showing up whenever I am available and making at least 50 dollars a shift. If I can pull off 40 hours (10 shifts) then I will gross $500 a week in tips as well as 85.20 in salary. That will place me at a yearly earnings of  $30,000, possibly more since I also learned that top performers get base salary increases. At any rate, 30k a year places me in the top 10% of servers in the nation (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Then I will use the flexibility of my work schedule to finish school and work on my blog.

Day 1 is coming up in two days, I'll let you know how it went.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Prove Your Haters Wrong!

I love that movie. Happy Saturday everyone! Today's post is about naysayers, pessimists, downers, prophets of doom, kill-joys, and defeatists. So to all the haters out there listen up because you may learn something!

I chose this clip to lead off the post for a few reasons. Yes, Land of the Lost is a hilarious movie. But beyond all of the comedy, there is an important message to be gained from the movie. Don't let anyone, I mean anyone, tell you what you can't achieve in life. I hope my conviction is seeping into my writing because you must understand that the biggest obstacle for most people achieving their dreams, is the fear of what somebody else might think.

Haters come in all shapes and sizes. There are people out there that hate you just for being you. These people will not change their opinion of you no matter what you do. You will always be the object of their ridicule no matter what. There are people that just hate everyone and feel they are God's gift to the world. These people are generally easy to ignore. However, there is a type of hater that is not so easy to ignore...

I know this may be a bit hard to swallow but its true. Your family and friends can be your biggest haters. I'm not saying that they are the enemy. In fact these people don't actually hate you at all. They may "hate" your ideas though. Let's face it, conformist living is popular. So popular in fact, that mom, dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, and friends all live conformist lifestyles. So when you come up with an idea that goes against that, peoples reactions tend to change. So in "your best interests", your own loved ones try to steer you away from your dream into something "safer".

My dad had many people that told him he was crazy whenever he set a goal for himself. When he said he was going to one of the best vocational high schools in Chicago, everyone said he couldn't do it, but he did and eventually was inducted into the Hall of Fame. When he went to the Marine Corps, people said he couldn't hack it, but he did. When he wanted to work in television, people said he couldn't do it... He won an Emmy. My dad always followed his dreams and never let anyone stop him.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder before anything else. After winning all sorts of bodybuilding competitions, an interviewer asked him what was next. He stated he wanted to go into acting and the interviewer laughed at him. 20 plus blockbuster hits later he stated he wanted to go into politics. Many thought he could not do it. To date, Mr. Schwarzenegger has been Governor of California for 7 years and has been re-elected once.

Some may recall the story of  Oscar Pistorius a.k.a. "Blade Runner" or "the fastest man with no legs" (if you watch Katt Williams you may know him better as "po' little Tink Tink"). Jokes aside, Oscar had both legs amputated at 11 years old. He went on to play high school rugby, tennis, water polo and Olympic style wrestling. After a rugby injury, he went into running. He went on to set a world record in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, running the 100 meter dash in 21.97 seconds and beating single amputees. Did I mention he had no legs?

When you cease in listening to critics, you have taken a major step in achieving what you want in life. Stop letting other people dictate your life, even if they mean well. At the end of the day, they will have to live with their decisions and you will have to live with yours.

Make a promise to yourself today and for the rest of your life to prove your haters wrong. Wipe the smirks from their faces. Use their taunts as a pedestal to step upon. Make your enemies your footstool. In the end you will be able to look back and say "I did it, even when no one thought I could". Don't let anyone steal your dream, mock your passion, or put out your fire. Remember for every person that gives up, another keeps going, and that person will wind up living your dream.

I was going to only quote a portion of this song, but I realized that the entire song is appropriate:

"And now, the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain.
My friends, I'll say it clear;
I'll state my case of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full -
I've traveled each and every highway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets? I've had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course -
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried,
I've had my fill - my share of losing.
But now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way -
Oh no. Oh no, not me.
I did it my way.

For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself - Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.

Yes, it was my way. "

-Frank Sinatra

Friday, December 10, 2010

Think Like an Accountant

I decided to take a moment and just share with you a good money management technique that I feel a lot of people (myself included) would do well to follow. Think like an accountant. Why? If you think about it, the world's richest people all have accountants working for them. If you're thinking "that's because they have more money than they can keep track of", you're wrong. You have to be able to manage a little before you can manage a lot.

Accounting is defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as "the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof". In other words, accounting is recording where money comes, and money goes, and then analyzing the results.

If you have ever used Quicken, Microsoft Money, or even Excel you may already be familiar with some accounting principles. If not, there are thousands of websites on the subject. However, I will save you a little time and give you some pointers on how to start using this concept immediately. (A quick disclaimer here: this will not teach you accounting but more accounting theory. Therefore I will purposely leave out otherwise crucial details).

1.) Calculate your net income/loss. This is simple. Take your income and subtract your expenses. Expenses, for the sake of clarity, are bills: period. Everything else is going to be factored in later. Overall, a company wants to get net income as high as possible because that is their spending money for necessary items they call assets. So far I am stating the obvious right? Moving on.

2.) Factor in your supplies and equipment. Supplies are anything you need to function however they run out so you have to consistently buy more. Food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. Supplies are closely linked to expenses but are considered an asset because they benefit the company (you and your family). Equipment is anything that is purchased that has some sort of a lifespan and can be sold (think: can I sell this at a garage sale?). Clothes, furniture, cars, cell phones, computers, microwaves, dishes, toys, and most other tangibles, are considered equipment.

3.) Keep an inventory.  While on the subject of supplies and equipment, it is good to keep an inventory of these things. First, it will give you a great idea of what you have and what you don't have, how much you use, how fast you use it, and what you don't need (and could possibly sell). Secondly, you have a more accurate concept of your total assets. Accountants keep track of inventory in terms of money. So if you bought 3 bars of soap for $4.50 and one is used up, you now have $3.00 worth of soap (think of it like the dad in Everybody Hates Chris).

4.) Track your Depreciation/Appreciation. Part of an inventory is tracking the depreciation/appreciation of your assets like equipment and land. Depreciation is basically what you paid for something, minus what it is worth now. Appreciation is the same concept except the item in question is worth more. You mainly hear about depreciation with cars and appreciation with land. Thanks to the internet, you can track the current value of pretty much anything accept clothes. You have to come up with your own numbers for clothes.Knowing the actual value of all your stuff helps in determining net worth as well.

5.) Establish a Payroll. Yes, a payroll. This is your allowance and the allowances of everyone in the household for one purpose only. To blow it all. Do whatever you want with it: buy junk food, drink it up, smoke it up, gamble it away, all guilt free. I wouldn't even track this money.  Keep in mind after that money is gone you have to wait until next pay day. Also keep in mind that your gifts to others will come out of this money as well. For the record, payroll counts as an expense. Make sure it is a set budgeted amount (though that amount may change from month to month).

6.) Established Retained Earnings. Retained earnings is the business term for a savings account. In business, retained earnings serves a few purposes. It increases the net worth of a business. It also makes up for any net losses that you might incur during the year. Finally, if the retained earnings account grows large enough, you can buy more assets. Businesses usually worry about retained earnings after everything is said and done (which technically goes against every personal finance guru out there which states to save first and spend later). The key to retained earnings is discipline. Money left over does not mean extra spending money (that's what your BUDGETED payroll is for). Throw it right into savings and keep moving.

7.) Determine your net worth. This is the end all be all number financially. Most people don't know their net worth. Others are scared to find out. Anyone else is most likely rich, or about to be within a matter of years. The concept is simple. Assets - Liabilities = Net Worth. The actual execution is a little more involved depending on what you define as an asset (remember earlier I mentioned keeping an inventory). An asset is essentially anything you can sell or use for a benefit. So this includes Cash, investments, clothes, food, furniture, your 300 pairs of shoes, your library of DVD's, your baseball card collection, your video games, and anything else you have possession of that you can find the current value of. Look at it this way, if you sold everything you own and I mean everything and combined it with the cash you have now, that is the value of your assets. Liabilities is just a fancy word for debt. Loans, mortgages, and past due bills are pretty much the only liabilities you have.

A quick note on liabilities. Many people would have you to believe that if you have a car with a car payment, that car is a liability. Wrong! The car is an asset. The car loan is a liability. You have to treat them as two separate beasts. Same thing with your house and your mortgage or your furniture and furniture payment.

8.) Analyze. What is the purpose of all this work? What do you do with all this data that you have organized and compiled? You find ways to improve the numbers in front of you. If your net worth has a minus sign in front of it, find out ways to make it a plus sign. If you have no retained earnings or even enough money for payroll, find out where you can cut back, and where you can make more money.

It's a lot of hard work and it wont happen overnight, but if you keep at it, you will master this concept and ultimately be able to better manage your money. The key is organized thought and effort towards managing your money. Here are a few more tips:

  • A great way to manage your inventory is to keep all your receipts and build your lists from that. Take stock of inventory weekly or monthly. Daily would kill you.
  • Ebay.com is a great way to estimate the value of your belongings. 
  • Keep a log of everything that you spend (except your payroll funds, remember, that is guilt free).
  • Keep track of your accounts and their values (e.g.: Cash, Clothes, Cars, Furniture, Technology etc.)
  • If you're married or share finances with anyone (room mate, live in girl/boyfriend, etc.) then let them in on the info. Have meetings regarding the numbers and think up ways to improve them.
  • Just like past due bills are liabilities, pre-paid bills are assets. Keep your bills paid a few months in advance.
I will create a spreadsheet that will make all of this info a little easier to manage. Let me know if you have any questions.