Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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Look up professional organizations in the Encyclopedia of Associations and you’ll have to go through quite a long list–some 23,000 national and international organizations. If you have a job or a business, it’s likely there’s a professional society or trade association you can join.

But why? You pay an annual membership fee and what does it give you? Most experts agree on six basics:

  • Industry information and professional development opportunities
  • Networking opportunities
  • Professional credibility
  • Mentoring
  • Job listings
  • Industry best practices
  • Scholarships

Not all organizations offer everything, of course. You have to read up on the organization you’re considering and learn what they offer and if that’s meaningful for your goals. And, you should try to talk to those who are already members to learn about their experience with the group.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, as one of those groups, we’ve worked with thousands of members over the years. As the profession of personal chef has grown and evolved, we like to think our perspective has evolved with it (not to mention what we offer). And while it feels like everything you need to know about your profession is available to track down online–that joining a professional association is irrelevant these days–in fact, we feel that it’s more important than ever. All of us are searching for community, whether it’s via Facebook or what we used to call chat rooms (remember AOL?). All of us are looking for critical business information–how to deal with clients, how to add a new service, what are the latest trends. Having a group of people to call on who are part of a community, who are familiar with the issues you’re going through, and who can help you grow in your profession is invaluable. So is access to information. The question is, though, is the group you’re considering going to be the right fit?

We thought we’d help you figure out this path with some questions for you to ask yourself that should help you decide.

1. What do you wish to accomplish by joining a professional association?

We know that membership in a national or international trade association can give stability and credibility to a new business and elevate the professional impression of that business through the strength and reputation of the association. There’s also strength in numbers. A solid membership base means more opportunities to locate and interact with peers who can contribute to your success. At a basic level it shows you have a certain level of expertise. At a deeper level it also gives you connections to tap into.

2. What type of benefits and support are you looking for?

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Some people join an organization just to put it on their resume or website. It gives that immediate credibility we’ve already cited. But others appreciate a specific list of benefits. These could be access to an online knowledge base, materials like business forms that help with better managing the business, the opportunity to attend continuing education conferences or webinars, support groups via online forums, business visibility through a website or mobile app, professional coaching, access to professional insurance, software systems, website construction, links to industry information sites… The list can go on and on. You need to evaluate what’s most important to you.

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3. What are your expectations of the group?

You have to dig deep for this one–especially since this is one of those things that tends to depend on how much you’re willing to participate. Most association members will say that the more they put into a group by using its resources, participating in events, and interacting with other members the deep their level of satisfaction and the more positive the impact on their businesses and careers.

4. What are you willing to give back to increase the value of the organization?

Initially, your expectations will probably run to “what can they do for me?” But in all honesty, much of those benefits comes from other members who feel such a close connection with the organization and fellow members that they’re doing a lot of the giving. Do you need advice to clarify how to respond to an uncomfortable situation with a client? Certainly whoever is running the organization can respond, but it’s just as likely if you’re asking this on a forum that a fellow member will help–or two or three or more. Perhaps members in your community are teaching classes or mentoring colleagues. In time, one of those members could be you–if that’s important to you. And you know the old saying, the more you give, the more you receive.

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

Member Carol Borchardt of A Thought for Food, who is generous with business advice and photography expertise

We’ve had this experience with many of our members. Our forums are filled with people who are eager to ask questions and eager to offer help and advice. Our conferences are populated with members who offer to teach colleagues in their area of expertise. Many of these members have bonded over the years.

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor

One business is A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef, whose chef/owners are Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson. The Lexington, Mass.-based duo is one of the longest-running personal chef businesses in the greater Boston area. They joined in May 1999 and, as Christine says, “Fifteen years later, when you look forward to renewing membership, that speaks volumes. We are home.”

Christine believes that even though she and Dennis aren’t “joiners” their APPCA membership has given them a wealth of support. “We’ve gotten business guidance in the form of education and support, peer support, access to special benefits like liability insurance, leaders who understand what we do and how it works.”

Christine and Dennis also have thrived on the opportunity APPCA has given them to share experiences so that “we can learn from each other. They’ve built a community to support its members–giving longtime members recognition and allowing them to help guide newer members. From minute one we were invited in to ask questions, compare notes, build the business, receive educational materials, get continuing education, keep up on business and food trends, and get to know colleagues.”

As an organization member, Christine advises people who are newly joining a professional group to make their presence known on forums, ask questions, and keep asking until you get the answer you need. “Get to know the people who do what you do! We’re an eclectic bunch but we really understand each other. Solitary business owners can be lonely. This is our office!”

Indeed, the pros call it networking–but with the right group, what you’re nurturing are long and warm friendships that are both professional and personal.

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So, what is it you’re looking for? If by answering these questions you locate a professional trade association that meets your needs–and you join–you could be embarking on a life- and career-changing journey that gives you the opportunity constantly learn about your industry and how to improve your business. Even more, it will provide the means to meet, interact, support, and enjoy a whole new world of people who appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish and are looking for the same from you.

What are you looking for in a professional association? How can we best meet your needs?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

This is the week we traditionally take a look over our shoulder to consider all that happened in the past year before we fill a glass with bubbly and toast the year about to emerge.

For us, it’s been a year of transition, with all the good stuff that accompanies change.

Earlier in the fall we debuted our first mobile app, Find & Hire a Chef, for iPhone. Just last week we launched the Android version. Now it’s even easier for potential clients to find you. Help yourself get found by making sure your profile in our database is complete and lists everything about you and your services that you want to promote.

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We’ve developed an active social media presence this year on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We have twin goals with our activity: to share interesting information with you and to promote what you do. We want to spur conversation, show off your achievements, and give you resources for helping your business. Okay, sometimes, we want to provide a smile or good laugh, too. Please like our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and join our Linkedin group—and participate! It’s fun and it’ll help you, too.

Along with social media, our Personal Chef Forums have been bursting with good conversation and useful sharing—as well as some needed venting and bragging. These forums are just for members so they’re a safe place to ask critical professional questions among colleagues or share successes.

We held a rocking Personal Chef Summit in Baltimore in October, along with a number of Personal Chef seminars in cities including Chicago, San Diego, for getting your business up and running quickly. Thank you to speakers April Lee, Bernard Henry, Mark X. Dowling, Randall Sansom, Scott Faber, Thomas P. McNulty, Dr. Fred Mayo, Lou Garcia, Carol Borchardt, Javier Fuertes, Jim Huff, and Cheryl Frazier-Trusty. And congratulations again to chefs Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor, who received the Personal Chef of the Year 2013, to Javier Fuertes of The Dinner Maker for Life Balance, and to Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist for Marketer of the Year! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

From left: Dennis, Christine, Candy, Javier, and Jim

This month I was the guest columnist for CafeMeetingPlace.com (the Center for the Advancement of Food Service Education). It gave me an opportunity to advocate why culinary teachers should consider operating a personal chef business as an adjunct career.

These are just some of the highlights of the year about to end. We’ve got plenty planned for the coming year, including more Personal Chef Seminars and a totally new website. All of this is to serve you, so if you have any suggestions or ideas for how we can do it better, let us know!

Dennis and I are your biggest supporters. We believe in the importance of the work you do and want to help you achieve your goals. Let’s lift a glass to the year we’re leaving and toast 2014! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

What were your 2013 successes? What do you want us to do for you in 2014? Please leave a comment and let us know. Next week we’re going to showcase, what else, New Year’s resolutions. Please check our Private Discussion Forum — General for Caron’s request for suggestions and tell us what your personal chef resolutions are and why so you can appear here.

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go personalchef.com to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership and join.

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