This weekend my husband Alex suggested that we watch a documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” Neither one of us are extremely interested in learning about sushi (although we both love sushi!) but we heard that it was an excellent documentary about the world’s greatest sushi chef. I’m always amazed by and interested in learning from people who are “the greatest” at their profession or skill. I’m SO glad we took the time to watch it because it was really inspiring and actually taught me so many lessons that are applicable to my photography business (or to any small business owner!). Here’s the top 5 business tips I took away from “Jiro Dreams of Sushi:”
1) Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight and It Requires a LOT of Hard Work
In our world of instant gratification and instant everything, it's easy to expect that our businesses will be an overnight success. It's also easy to compare our businesses to what we see on Instagram and to get discouraged when we don't instantly have the amount of followers, the beautiful pictures, or the businesses we constantly see before us. In "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" there was a quote that I really liked:
“A great chef has the following 5 attributes: First, they take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level. Second, they aspire to improve their skills. Third is cleanliness. If the restaurant doesn’t feel clean, the food isn’t going to taste good. The fourth attribute is impatience. They are not prone to collaboration. They’re stubborn and insist on having things their own way. What ties these attributes together is passion. That’s what makes a great chef.”
Ok so some parts of the quote are more applicable to photographers and small business owners than others . But what I took away from this description of what a great chef is, is that I must take my work seriously and consistently produce high quality pictures and an amazing client experience. It is extremely difficult to consistently produce great work no matter what the circumstances are and it requires a lot of learning and hard work. In addition, I must be driven and passionate about what I'm doing. It is imperative to, essentially, be a perfectionist and to never give up trying to achieve higher and higher levels in your business and your work.
2) Never Stop Learning and Growing in Your Craft
Even when he's in his 80's, Jiro is still thinking of new ways he can improve in his craft of making sushi. He says that he still doesn't feel that he has perfected his work or his restaurant. Even though he's world-renowned and recognized as the greatest sushi chef, he is still innovating, thinking, growing, and learning! That is pretty amazing and requires a great degree of humility and passion! I certainly want this to be true of me. I never want to stop learning, reading, growing, and striving to get better and better at what I do. Watching this documentary challenged me to be a better reader and so I just picked up How to Win Friends and Influence People and Selling The Invisible so that I can continue learning and growing in my business knowledge.
3) Simplify and Specialize
Jiro's restaurant only serves sushi. No appetizers and no other options. They focus on and perfect the combination of fish and rice that their customers make reservations for months and years in advance. Jiro also repeats the same routine over and over again every work day and he makes minor changes and improvements to his routine over time. I took a lot away from this. As a photographer, it's easy to feel like I should be a good fit for every person that contacts me and that I should be able to photograph everything and anything that comes my way. However, I think there's SO much wisdom in specializing in something and getting really, really good at it. This is something I really want to work on this year. I feel like this is a weakness of mine and that I need to do a better job of determining my specific niche and my ideal client and then simplifying and focusing on what I enjoy most and am best at.
4) Love Your Work and Be Ready to Make Sacrifices
It is clear throughout the documentary how much Jiro loves his work (I mean the guy is still working in his 80's and doesn't want to retire!) and additionally, how many sacrifices he makes for his work. Especially in the beginning of his business, it was not uncommon for Jiro to work 80+ hours a week and the only time he takes days off is for national holidays. Jiro sacrificed time with friends and family to create a successful business. I do feel the need to say that I don't totally agree with Jiro's view on work and how much work consumes his life. I would like to achieve more work/life balance in my life and I want to be sure to always put Christ, the Church, and my family before work. I never want work to become my idol or let the successes or failures of my business define who I am as a person. However, I do think that it is necessary to love your work, to be incredibly self-disciplined, to work hard, and to make sacrifices if you want your small business to succeed. Owning a small business is not really a 9-5 job and it's not something you can clock in and out of whenever you want. At the same time, I do think it's important to have balance so that you don't get burned out or neglect the things that are the most important in life. Just be prepared for some long hours and a lot of hard work (especially in the beginning!).
5) Create a Holistic Experience
This was a fascinating aspect of the documentary to me. Jiro and the workers at his restaurant do an excellent job of creating a holistic experience for their clients. They only have 8 seats at a bar in their restaurant and they plan the entire experience from where each guests sits, to a hot towl served at the start of the meal, to each individual course, and so many other details. The commentator in the documentary describes it as a symphony where Jiro picks each course of sushi to complement the one served before it. Each course builds and their are crescendos and peaks in the meal just as there is in a symphony. It was amazing how much thought they gave to each detail of the entire dining experience! I think this is also so important in business! It is essential to create an entire client experience and to put a lot of though into each aspect of your experience. I'm learning that my client experience isn't just about showing up on a wedding day and taking pictures, it's about everything I put into the experience before and after the wedding. I'm constantly learning and trying to find ways to improve my interaction and communication with my clients throughout their entire experience with me.
I hope you found this post helpful! If you own a business, what tips do you have? What are helpful books you've read or are currently reading?