Don’t say you don’t know


I listened to a podcast yesterday that made the point that saying “I don’t know” is an attempt to be confused when what is needed is to simply dig down deep and answer the question.

The podcaster wasn’t talking about not knowing the answer to a math question or where your son’s socks are – she meant the answer to questions like,

  • Where should my next store be?
  • What should we use as capital?
  • Should the next store have an oven or be a satellite store from a store with an oven?

These questions, the podcaster suggested, can only be answered  by the person asking them.

For a long time, I believed that there would be someone out there who has the answers to my questions about starting or running a business. Usually this was a person who had done whatever I wanted to do, like start a bakery or later, franchise  it.  So over the last 10 years, I’ve had lots of coffee meetings with people – all of whom who have been helpful and sharing- and come away disappointed that I still don’t know what to do.

I see now that the problem is that no two situations are ever alike and what worked in the past for someone else is unlikely to be a cookie cutter guide for me, now, in my business, in my situation.

I’ve concluded the only way to know what to do is to do stuff. Sometimes this is expensive and painful like when I decided to investigate franchising. Thankfully, Carly and I realized after spending money on legal agreements that PGB is not a franchisable model and we put the brakes on before signing any agreements.

But here’s the thing: even though it wasn’t right for PGB, based on many coffee conversations, franchising “should have” been a good way to expand.

[Readers’ Digest version to why not:  I came to believe that franchisees would soon want to use shortening instead of butter, for example, and then I would die a long and painful death either watching that unfold or arguing about it].

Here’s an example of how I answer questions now. I decided last May to take the business to more stores than it was then. I didn’t know where, how many, the timeline or the financing. Realizing there was no one out there to tell me those answers, I thought about what made PGB successful downtown and concluded that businesses like banks, CA firms and head offices are a big part of our customer base so we needed to look for commercially vibrant locations. This seemed to point to Mississauga or Markham and then a unit became available in Markham.

So now we have a store in Markham without ever really answering the question, where should the 4thstore be. It was more like, let’s just think about this. Now in its 3rdmonth, the Woodbine store is both fantastic and really challenging, and all in, was a good answer to the question: where should the 4thstore be?

I wish I had a more sophisticated answer for making decisions as a business owner but as Charlie Brown says, the answers are not in the back of the book, they are somewhere deep in your own mind if you keep pulling on the thread.




About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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