This weekend, I made my first big mistake in production for my startup bakery, Lexington Bakes. 🤯 Here’s what happened and how you can avoid making the same mistake, no matter your industry.
TL;DR When mistakes happen, and they will happen, you can’t solve them while you’re still in them. Step out of the situation (literally, step out of the environment where the mistake happened), control your breathing to get past the initial shock, assess the situation and make a plan with a calm and focused mindset, and follow through with control. Trying to fix a problem impulsively while still in it will likely make matters worse.
I had started my day with a plan to double my standard production output: a daunting and stressful goal necessary to meet the increasing demand for Lexington Bakes. Ultimately, I succeeded, but not without a mistake resetting the clock, costing me time and a ton of premium ingredients. (Ok, since this is a story about my bakery and weighing ingredients, not “literally” a ton, but it was a lot of expensive butter.)
Everything was set up perfectly in our commercial kitchen to meet this goal.
However, on my way to the kitchen, I took a phone call to discuss the business’s future. My mind lost focus on the new territory I was about to enter in production.
Instead, I was distracted by a flurry of ideas on business strategy and the pitch deck.
When I arrived at the kitchen, I began the first of four batches. I weighed all my ingredients and began to mix the first batch.
I planned to buy time in the schedule by re-weighting the ingredients for the next batch while mixing the first batch.
The timer went off for the first ingredient mix for batch one. I ran to the mixer and poured ingredient three, eggs, into the mixture. As I turned around, I saw a bowl full of sugar on my work table. I immediately panicked, thinking I had forgotten to add the sugar before the eggs.
I impulsively grabbed the sugar and dumped it into the mixture, trying to solve the problem.
I thought there was a problem. So I immediately try to solve it.
And I made it SO much worse.
Fact One. Butter and sugar must mix first to build air — adding sugar to a mixture of butter and eggs won’t work for the recipe. I KNOW THIS.
Fact Two. I’ve made this recipe enough times to know the subtle change in color of the butter/sugar mixture when it’s aerated. I KNEW THE COLOR WAS RIGHT.
Lesson One. Don’t go into uncharted territory without a clear and focused mind. You need to be alert, so carve time before you begin something new to clear your mind, set your intentions, and focus on your goal.
Lesson Two. When I thought there was a mistake, I should have paused to assess the situation before impulsively trying to solve the problem. Then, I would have realized there was no problem, except that my brain was distracted thinking about the business strategy to focus on the complexity of my new production goal.
Now, because of my impulsive actions, there was an actual mistake.
My panic grew more intense.
At that moment, I wanted to quit, go home, and try another day.
But I couldn’t afford that setback. There were far too many things contingent on completing this day’s production as planned.
The room was now overflowing with my panic and stressful energy. I had to escape those emotions to think clearly. So, I turned off the mixer and left the room.
Now outside, away from all the chaos. I was able to begin taking back control of my autonomic reactions.
I focused on my breathing to start and found a calmer mindset. I began to assess the situation from a clearer perspective and made a plan with the remaining ingredients while I waited for replacement ingredients to be delivered. Finally, I re-entered the kitchen with a clear mind focused on the production goal. I successfully doubled my production in the initial set timeframe as my goal (albeit an hour later than expected).
The overall lesson of this story is to avoid the trap of reacting to mistakes on impulse. We all hate mistakes and have an innate desire to resolve them the moment they happen because we feel as though we have failed.
But in failing to regain a calm and focused mindset and assess situations properly, we will most likely fail to resolve them.
Lex Evan is the founder, CEO & chef of Lexington Bakes, a luxury bakeshop serving up Consciously Baked™ Luxe Treats. From delicately rich fudge brownies to cheerfully bright buttery blondies and sinfully decadent cookies, our unique and extraordinary treats are handmade in Los Angeles with our guiding principle of Radical Ingredient Transparency™. Shop online for fast nationwide delivery at LexingtonBakes.com.