Jack Baker | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jack Baker

Background:  

Litchfield Distillery makes micro-batches of three premium spirits: Batchers' Bourbon Whiskey, Batchers' Double Barreled Bourbon Whiskey and Batchers' Gin.

The Mistake: 

When starting a business, the importance of time is always underestimated. You go into this endeavor with a lot of enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm is actually a tiny slice of what it takes to succeed, especially when it seems that you don’t have enough time to make it work, even if you are putting in long hours seven days a week. 

After launching, you are immediately dealing with legal concerns, capitalization, deciding how to develop the product, branding and, in our case, dealing with local zoning requirements. You also need to address all of the ancillary things: setting up a bookkeeping system, opening a bank account, dealing with all people that have regulatory jurisdiction over what we’re producing and so forth. There is a whole spectrum of things to consider and it can be so burdensome. 

Enthusiasm is actually a tiny slice of what it takes to succeed ...

The Lesson: 

The most important thing I’ve learned is never to put anything on the back burner. If you do, you can get backlogged. That’s not time management, and you can’t catch up when things become too onerous. Being efficient with your time means not leaving anything on your desk at the end of the day. 

You need to compartmentalize your day. It is important to have a good calendar, as well having the right temperament to multitask. But at the same time, you have to be able to put out fires. Sometimes things show up in the mailbox or in the voicemail that you did not expect, and you need to be able to deal with those matters quickly. 

I’m probably not the best time manager. Luckily, I have some people working for me that I can delegate to. Right now, I have two full-time and three part-time employees. But that creates other issues. In any startup, it always seems there are not enough employees to whom you can delegate tasks. After all, no one knows for sure how fast a business can grow. 

I have found that it is prudent not to have too many employees on the payroll at first, especially if your cash flow cannot support your initial infrastructure. If you build too much infrastructure too fast, you can run out of money very quickly. As a business owner, I need to have all of these factors in order if I want to make this business work. 

Follow Litchfield Distillery on Twitter at @LitchfieldDist.  

Photo courtesy of Jack Baker.  

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