Starting a business is a breathtakingly easy thing to do. Keeping it going and making it a success is an excruciatingly difficult thing to do.
Over the years I’ve had clients who came to me wanting to start a business, and usually I try to talk them out of it. The more determined they are, the more likely they are to succeed and if I can easily talk them out of their pie-eyed dreams, then I’ve done them a great service, though they usually don’t see it that way.
My favorite story about this was the guy who just knocked on my door one day wanting to start a restaurant. Sitting down he says, “I want to start an Italian restaurant.” That’s reasonable. It’s one of the most popular foods on the planet so we’re going in the right direction. Then I ask how much money he has to start with. “None, but the bank will give it to me.” Not likely, unless your last name is Morgan or Stanley. How much experience do you have in the restaurant world? “None. But I love people.” A really bad sign. Last question: How good a cook are you? “I can’t boil water.”
OK, so three up, three down, he’s out of here. I told him to go get a job as a busboy and work his way up. I never heard from him again.
For an example of what it takes to start a new business and really keep it going you could look to Ken and Kathy Lindner. They did the seemingly impossible in this day and age, and are still fighting battles to keep their company growing. Lindnerbison.com is the website for these two workhorses who gave up the corporate world to become ranchers. Not just any kind of rancher mind you, but bison ranching. The original American red meat.
They chose one of the roughest roads in ranching; a completely undomesticated animal that there is no large scale demand for. The meat industry is not set up to handle the small provider of a quality product like grass-fed bison. The story of their conversion from suit-and-tie people to ranchers is documented in their book, “Standing Into The Storm,” which I downloaded from Amazon and read while I was on vacation. It’s a great exploration of what it takes to get a business off the ground today.
The title comes from how the bison handle winter storms. They huddle and keep the little ones inside, while the bigger bison form an outer ring to shield the weaker ones.
The Lindners have been put through the proverbial wringer from day one and that is what proved to me what amazing people they are. From the first time they met with their mentor in bison ranching who made them go to a slaughterhouse and witness the killing and dressing of an animal, to their latest battles with local bureaucracies that are intransigent in their rule following, the Lindners have faced the storm.
Currently the Lindners are engaged in another battle that could be detrimental to their survival. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has decided that after years of the Lindners storing their meat in commercial-grade freezers in a local garage, they must use an “approved cold storage” facility. This after 10 years of problem-free sales in our local Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets, the Hollywood Farmers’ Market and others in the county.
When I reached out to the health department for a comment they wrote back to me that the regulation is: “All food shall be manufactured, produced, prepared, compounded, packed, stored, transported, kept for sale, and served so as to be pure and free from adulteration and spoilage; shall have been obtained from approved sources; shall be protected from dirt, vermin, unnecessary handling, droplet contamination, overhead leakage, or other environmental sources of contamination; shall otherwise be fully fit for human consumption.”
Well the ribeyes that I bought on Sunday were vacuum packed and frozen, and they were delicious, so I don’t see what the problem is there. The bison is grown, slaughtered, packed and frozen in Northern California. If it was shipped direct from the ranch to the markets, it would be fine by county standards, but if it stays in a commercial-grade freezer in the Lindner’s condominium in Santa Clarita it’s not OK.
This is the sort of over-regulation that causes companies to go out of business. For 10 years this bison has been sold to the public problem free. It’s just one more storm for the Lindners, and I’m hopeful that they will weather it like all the others. Until they are cleared for sale in Santa Monica again, I guess I’ll have to order online and have it shipped to me.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra