No company, how great the idea can be successful without a great team. This being said as companies grow from start-up to established business it’s easy for women business owners to get very caught up in the growth of the enterprise, or any business leader for that matter and forget the importance of effective team building when it comes to effective leadership. MyCity4Her reached out to successful woman business owners and the mother and daughter team Terry Paulding and her daughter Tracy Paulding at Paulding & Co located in the San Francisco Bay area to share how they successfully built their company’s team as well as share some favorite recipes and their top tips for “Effective Team Building” whatever your business. MyCity4Her Media caught up with dynamic Founder and co-owner Terry Paulding and here’s what she had to say…
What is the mission of your enterprise?
Paulding & Company, a Creative Kitchen, is dedicated to providing hands-on culinary experiences as a means to interactive growth within our client body. There is an alchemy that occurs when you pair people with good ingredients, sharp knives, and hot pans. Relationships develop along different lines than might happen in the office, or among a group of friends. Our mission is to foster this creative interaction and assure that the end results are meals that amaze and delight, which of course validates the experience in real time. We are a complex business with many facets, from corporate team development events to kitchen parties and rehearsal dinners, to kids summer programs that bring the youth of the community, who often miss the chance to learn to cook in two-worker parent families, in to learn the skills that will serve them for a lifetime. On a survival level, we have also maintained a presence as a caterer — something that has helped us in economic downturns when corporate perks like team development events were curtailed.
What led you to partner up and pursue this path?
I started the business solo, and am still a sole proprietor. Build-out of the kitchen began in 2003 although I’d been doing the same thing on a smaller scale for quite a while before then, in a separate location. The concept grew organically over the years. My daughter returned to the Bay Area six years ago, and joined me. We work well together, and truly enjoy having a family company. Tracy conceived and runs the kids programs, and works with me on most of our adult events as well. My grandson Miles has grown up in the kitchen, as will the next baby, due in October.
When did you get the idea to found your company?
I was recruited as a teacher in 1988, at Piedmont Adult School, which, until recent changes in state funding, had a vibrant program of varied offerings for the community at large. My Basic Cooking classes were extremely popular — I taught between 24 and 48 classes each year, in 6-week quarters, and often had students return for multiple quarters in a row. When we sold out a section, I usually added a second, ending up teaching two nights a week. I taught for Piedmont for 20 years, and in 1993 returned to school to pursue a culinary degree. I had found my experience, which was all in restaurants, was not rounded; I’d never, for instance, done pastry work, but needed to be able to teach it. As I taught, my students started asking me to run events with them. These varied from catering weddings to hosting cooking parties. I found a rental kitchen to work in, and since the kitchen was empty in the evenings and had a dining area, I moved my classes from the school’s inadequate cooking classroom (which was a “shared” facility with science and alternative school), and started hosting events for corporate groups, as well. Most of these were referrals from my students, who brought in their teams at work.
When that kitchen’s building was sold (to Pixar, it’s now a model studio), I was faced with a dilemma: I was 53, loved the direction my work was taking me in, but had no place to work. I had been very lucky finding the other kitchen, which was used from midnight on as a bakery for a local café, and during the day was rented to small producers — but there was nothing like it around once it was gone. So, I decided to build my own.
What motivated you to do so?
I loved the work, and felt that growing the business was viable. There was no real competition at that time, and I felt that there was a need for my services, and that I could develop a good business. I had the enthusiastic support of my students and friends and my family, as well.
How do you ensure your team building classes go great for all involved?
I’d sum it up with the word integrity.
Seasonal high-quality ingredients
Warm interaction, and an inviting, well organized and clean space to work, makes every event begin well and go beautifully. Even people who didn’t come to build a team relationship find that inherent in cooking together, is the opportunity to get to know one another in a different way. A good example of this is the Pixar animators. I worked with all of them on Ratatouille, training them in hands-on cooking. They had lots of opportunities to watch chefs cook, from Paris kitchens to the French Laundry in Healdsburg, but in my kitchen they immersed themselves in the actual hands-on experience (see the Cooking101 video). Quoting one of the comments: “I think we had a great bonding experience as a team, during this cooking experience, just doing all this stuff we’ve never done as individuals.”
#1. Have a Clear Vision
Make sure that all team members hold the same vision, it will facilitate working together and help you get where you want to go better.
#2. Develop Common Goals
Ensure everyone has a voice and is part of the process. Sometime in haste good ideas are missed, or overlooked. By establishing clear common goals you increase buy in and ensure the exercise will be more productive for all involved.
#3. Clarify Roles & Responsibilities
Who’s on 1rst? 2nd, or 3rd is not just a funny Three Stooges skit – it’s important to figure out. When everyone knows their roles and responsibilities clearly – it facilitates progress, understanding and productivity.
#4. Take time to learn what your team members will need for success & have fun in the process!
Don’t forget to give importance to people having the tools, knowledge, training and information required to complete the exercise, project, or task successfully. Also remember to smile and have fun. Everyone will be better off for any positive team building experience if it is approached with candor, honesty, vulnerability (yes you read that right) and a positive spirit!
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
I love the autonomy to make my business the best it can be. Integrity of ingredients and process and having great chefs, keeping my kitchen up to my standards, making the decisions about every aspect of the business myself means that there is no deferring responsibility to others, no excuses, and that the measurable success is very gratifying.
What if you knew THEN what you know NOW – would you (if anything) do differently?
This is a long list. I would of course have started younger. I’m turning 65 next year, and really, I’m just getting going.
I would have taken some business courses. I am really a novice at running a business, learning as I go.
I would have been much more careful in choosing a contractor. I went for cheap — I had some pressure there — and got hosed. You can take the “tractor” off the word, really…the guy was a con. And the Contractors State License Board, which I relied upon for the guy’s integrity, was many months behind in updating it’s website, so he wasn’t even still bonded. I lost a LOT of money, both in outright theft, and in having to re-do most of the infrastructure of the project.
What do you believe, are the biggest challenges continuing to face women in business today?
In the restaurant business, back in my day at least, women had little chance for advancement. Now that’s all different, of course. I think women these days are limited by the realities of life. I watch my daughter, who has a 20-month old and another on the way and waited until she was nearly 40, struggle with the conflict of having to work and to find childcare. She’s lucky because there’s so much family around, but my daughter in law has the same problem and no assistance and support from family because they live far away. I remember my own desire to stay home with my kids, not have to leave the day-to-day raising of my babies to others. Women who wait for a long time to have families, often find they’ve sacrificed that achievement in favor of a career with a company that has no loyalty to them, and from what I’ve seen, many are ultimately unhappy with that decision. We’d like to think that we’re exactly equal to men, but this whole feminist push to erase the inequalities means that we don’t embrace our differences anymore. I know the reality of life these days is that it takes two working parents to support a family, and I am thrilled to find many companies embracing the idea of on-site childcare, so there is some hope. But as a very-small business owner, I don’t have those kinds of options.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given and why?
“If you build it, they will come” was what one friend told me.It’s proven to be quite true. He had faith in my abilities and vision, and this gave me confidence. Others have seen my vision too. Top Chef liked my kitchen enough to use it for season 1, so we were home kitchen to Top Chef SF. Clint Eastwood also found my vision appealing, and we ended up with 3 scenes in the movie Hereafter, shot in the kitchen and food-styled (what there was of it) by us.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love to play in the kitchen with enthusiastic people who are blown away by what good food they can create with a little guidance, and also, who enjoy tremendously the communion with their fellow guests. I meet a lot of really great people, and our business creates a lot of happiness. When I get emails like this one (from Anna Mindess, who celebrated her birthday in the kitchen Saturday night), it makes my day: “Just wanted to thank you again for making the best cooking party ever! The food was sooo delicious and everyone had such a wonderful time. The party exceeded all my expectations! Thanks for taking such good care of us!”
Do you ever get discouraged? If so, what do you do to stay enthused about what you do and stay motivated?
Of course I get discouraged! Sometimes the economy punches us in the gut – after all, when businesses are being cautious about spending, the first thing to go is often the perks like an outing to build team camaraderie. In 2008, we lost one major company’s business after the next…in one case, we had a dozen events cancel from one company all at once when they had word from above to curtail outside activities. There are times that are slow, and then, there’s the question of growth. It’s very hard to grow a business that is dependent on one person’s work, and yet that is precisely what makes our business such a success — our all-5-star Yelp ratings are the product of diligent care and impeccable standards, and it’s hard let down one’s guard for even a moment and still keep that kind of rating. The same can be said of our summer program — Tracy would be impossible to replace.
When things get me down, I put one foot in front of the next, a smile on my face, and sit down with my daughter and figure out how to bring new life into the business. I get involved with charities, community, the Chamber of Commerce, and do my best to reach more people, bring in more business by getting our name out where we are visible. Redesigning the website has been a tremendous boon in that regard, as we’re much easier to find on the internet, and our wonderful web designer, Rick Hawkins of Alchemy Design, made our site very accurately reflect our business in every way.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love having time to spend with family. My husband often gets neglected since I work long hours. My grandchildren are a delight, and I’m blessed with having two of my three children living locally. I walk, I do exercises to strengthen my torn shoulder muscle — which is satisfying as I’m making progress — and I like to read, watch a bit of TV, and of course, cook for family and friends. I’d like to travel more, but am often too busy, although I’ve gone to see my new grandchild in LA, and we met up in the middle for a long beach weekend on the central coast recently.
What are some of the best resources, tools, organizations you’ve found that have helped you grow your business?
Broadly, the internet is the most helpful tool out there. I can find anything I need, research recipes, get ideas, look at tools and equipment. I’m a member of our local Chamber of Commerce, and host mixers annually as well as often cater for other events. I meet all the local business people, which is great for getting the word out. In the beginning, I got great help from SCORE, where I teamed up with a retired businessman, who was very realistic and encouraging in the formative times. I’ve honestly not reached out to too many organizations for help, but I have a great group of people around me who are peripheral parts of my team, from a very experienced bookkeeper, to my accountant, and my web designer, who has been a great sounding board over the years. Friends in the business are also a big help, and I have some that I often collaborate with on large catering jobs, which is a great advantage for me.
Wow, that’s a tough question! I guess the answer is whatever seasonal, delicious one I just thought up. This week, there are two: I had two loosely tapas-based events, one corporate and one private. Each came with specific do-don’t instructions. Like the party people not wanting any fish or seafood, and the corporate group, an economical menu. So for the latter, I put together one dish I just loved — a grilled toast topped with a green olive paste that had anchovies and almonds in it, then some of our house-made tuna confit, and finally, the group poached farm eggs. We garnished it with some chives from the garden. The second dish, for the party group, was a lot of fun. Cherries have just come into the farmer’s markets, so we tea smoked some duck, pickled some cherries in balsamic, and served them over arugula. Simple, absolutely delicious, and a big hit.
To find out more about Terry Paulding and her company click here.