Why David Hated Tuesdays!
By Bruce Freeman
Amilya Antonetti has had an entrepreneurial spirit ever since she can remember. Her childhood lemonade business covered a four block area and she started her own construction company at age 17. After being profitably bought out, she started Momma Amilya’s, a New York deli style restaurant that offered different styles of fresh pasta and sauces cut and prepared right in front of you. Located in Southern California beach communities, Momma Amilya’s restaurants were furnished like homes and gave the elderly and college students alike a great place to eat and hang out. As time marched on, however; she felt like she had proven herself; it was time to shift priorities and start a family.
After her infant son developed respiratory and skin sensitivities, Amilya found herself searching for hypo-allergenic products to protect his skin. She educated herself and was amazed at the number of unevaluated and potentially hazardous chemicals in every product commonly used in our homes. At a loss as to where to turn, she called her grandmother and asked for advice. Amilya’s grandmother explained that she made her own cleaning products and laundry soap from common household ingredients. Amilya asked her Grandmother to help, and together they made soap and laundry detergent the old fashioned way. To her surprise, the clothes came out clean and soft, and more important, free of the chemicals that were toxic to her child and others who are sensitive. Working at home, she formulated a blend of the old and new to create a line of human-friendly household products available at a price competitive to the chemical-filled products already on the market. In 1994, Amilya’s Soapworks Inc. was formed.
Today, Amilya’s Soapworks has 38 employees and maintains offices and brokers nationwide. Amilya’s Soapworks products are sold in well-known grocery stores including Safeway and Albertson’s as well as specialty stores like Trader Joe’s. The current line offers eight household cleaning products; health and beauty products will be added later this year. Amilya has also written a book, Why David Hated Tuesdays (Crown Publishing) which chronicles the experience of having to rush her son to the hospital on Tuesdays after cleaning her house with standard household products over the previous weekend. It also offers practical tips on how to reduce the number of chemicals your family is exposed to at home.
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
Amilya’s success as an entrepreneur is remarkable, but what you haven’t heard yet are the sacrifices she made to reach this point. For most entrepreneurs, starting a business is financially stressful and hiring relatives seems like a good idea. The problem is what to do when the relative doesn’t work out. Firing a relative is a tricky business and can ruin family relationships, not to mention your business.
When starting a business, you should implement a management strategy for decision-making. Decide and agree upon a procedure to solve any issues between principals if there is more than one clear decision-maker. However, it helps to remember that a successful business is, in some ways, also a consensus of people working together. If you, or a relative, act autocratically or in a high-handed way, you will pay with high employee turnover and instability in your business. When you do hire, look for people who have complimentary skills and who know things you don’t. Create a policy and procedure manual and add job descriptions as you hire new people. This helps make expectations clear, reinforces good practice, and reduces training for new employees.
In Amilya Antonetti’s case, the relative she hired was her husband, and the stresses of building her business tore their marriage apart. Amilya is on the right track now; she sets expectations for departments, but also listens to other’s opinions. She asks administrators to suggest raise amounts for other departments on a rotation basis and together they decide if she merits a raise as well. She now knows that you must find the money to pay outside people in the beginning or you could end up paying a very high price in the long run.
Create a management structure with a clear decision-making process that also considers other’s opinions.
Could This Work For Me?
Every business, even long term success stories, can benefit from clear expectations and the inclusion of employee’s opinions.