Premium Hotdogs: How to Craft a Novelty Life
By Warren Bujol 2/16/2015
Denim and Decisions
A "novelty-life". What a remarkable concept. When I heard this term, I realized that, essentially, we all desire such a life; one full of wonder, intrigue, and personal freedom. Most of us wake up every morning; get dressed in our 'school clothes', the ones with the least amount of grass stains and holes; comb our hair (not me, I never learned how); and tuck our shirts in... Yet somehow, we still get bitched at by our bosses. Why does it matter if I wear a denim suit jacket, with denim jeans? Who cares if the sleeves are tapered? Or if it was most likely made out of women's pants? Chances are, you can find a laundry list of things you hate about your boss, even the good ones. It's not necessarily the boss you dislike, it's the idea of having a boss. We are all smart enough to realize that bosses have, by design, a different perspective than the majority of their subordinates; and for the most part, offer guidance with productive intentions. My boss knows that, if I were to walk into a sales meeting, dressed as Billy Ray Cyrus, in 2015; I'd leave with an Achey-Breaky Heart. That being said, maybe I shouldn't be so upset with his/her interference. But we [humans] aren't known for separating emotion from logic and reason, adhering to dress codes, or letting go of fads... So, why don't we quit? Why aren't we our own bosses? Well, it's because we like money. Starting your own company is overwhelmingly stressful, and risky; you don't know if it will make money, let alone, not bankrupt you. Uncertainty, for many people, is a terrifying thought; it can be so powerful, we will rationalize ourselves out of our dreams. We'd rather find ways to look forward to the weekend, only to fantasize about burning the office down on Monday.
It's no wonder that only one, out of every ten, Americans (according to Google, and Calvin), are willing to accept the risks of starting their own companies to enjoy the liberal dress codes of entrepreneurship.
We recently had the privilege of speaking with one of Lake Charles's very own, speed-suit wearing entrepreneurs, Michael Krajicek; owner of Botsky's Premium Hot Dogs. After executing several pull-ups on the Exposure Magazine pull-up bar, he took a seat and offered us valuable insight into the world of business, and the mind of an entrepreneur. I must say, this interview was one of the most profound and resonant experiences I have endured at Exposure. I can only hope to convey a small portion of the impact of Mr. Krajicek's message to our community. But I will say, it is reassuring to see that we [Exposure] are not alone in our optimistic perception of this great city.
We Don't Always Know Where This Life Will Lead Us
"The whole universe is based on rhythms. Everything happens in circles, in spirals."
As if to validate my previous article, 'Counter Culture: Business', Michael is the epitome of the new entrepreneur. He is an aggressive combination of passion, creativity, and disciplined logic. A songwriter by night, Michael started his adult years in an unconventional manner; hitting the road at 17 for (damn near movie-worthy) adventure. Wanderlust carried him to the far stretches of the United States; living briefly in Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and a host of other major cities. Michael’s journey was saturated with hardship and introspect. He admits that, at one time, his idea of success was crawling into the bed of a pick up truck with his trusty air mattress; riding from New Orleans to Nashville. While living in the laundry room of a friend's cabin in Tennessee, Michael realized that he needed to do something more. He enjoyed the traveling life of a musician, but he was pretty sure his air mattress had begun to leak, and there was a good chance he was actually sleeping on the 'mud room' floor. It was time to get a job. At that point in his existence, he was not only unreliable and unaccountable; he was unemployable. So, calling upon a combination of the entrepreneurial spirit that built this great nation, and John Hartford (steamboat banjo-playing legend); Michael began to craft his very own novelty life.
Michael's thought process was that, since he was unable to find a job, he would need to create one for himself. After a montage of angrily tearing ideas off a storyboard, he noticed a faint glimmer in the wastebasket. He frantically sifted through the rubble to find a crumbled sheet of paper, which read, "premium hot dogs". It was destiny*. He packed up his air mattress, and headed for Lake Charles to become one of the greatest damned restaurateurs this state has ever seen (literally).
*Based on speculation. Montages are not naturally occurring.
It's Not the Product; It's the Process
"After you start learning about the mechanics of piloting a riverboat, you stop seeing all the pretty sunsets and you start thinking about the weather."
- John Hartford
Michael was not always the businessman he is today, snazzy dresser and creative, sure; but his business savvy is a relatively new addition. Michael often looked to his brother, Gabriel Krajicek, for guidance during the formulation of his business plan. Gabriel left him with two profound inquiries: 1. What do you wish to promise people (with your business)? 2. What is the one thing, that if not done, all of this was for nothing? Michael has taken those simple principles, and built an all-encompassing, user-friendly process to empire-building. I personally found his approach to be incredibly helpful, and have compiled (horrible attempt to paraphrase) a short-list for our entrepreneurial readers to consider.
Vision. Your vision can be very broad at first. We (humans) typically explain our dreams by listing millions of details about it. Just when you think we've finished, we will add a few hundred more. Well, turns out, it'd be much easier to set our sights on something as general as an industry. The details will emerge as you begin to eliminate what you do not want.
Define your promise. Establish the values, beliefs, and equities of your business. Do not compromise. If you promise quality, deliver it. The delicious hot dogs you eat at Botsky's are made from 100% natural ingredients (seriously, even the casings). It may not be cheap, but you can't build trust with your customers if you cut costs at their expense. Be realistic, and realize that once you've promised a service to the public, you have become much more than an individual. Owning a business comes with great responsibility, but if done correctly, also great reward.
Be willing. Never invest time or money into something, unless you are willing to give it your all. It's a simple concept, and one we've all heard before. Before you see Botsky's close its doors (never happen), you'd see Michael Krajicek running down Ryan St - in a speedo and cape - proclaiming that neither he, nor his crew, will go down without a fight.
Identify your 'Doomsday'. Determine the minimum level of production you must maintain to survive. If operating costs are $1,000/day, you may want to determine exactly how many customers/sales you need daily, to have a daily income of $1000. This isn't to determine profitability; this is more of a reference point to allow you to gauge your performance. If you are falling behind your production levels, refer to your business plan...
Build your business plan. Just like last decade, and the decade before that; business plans are absolutely essential to success. Once you have chipped the nonessential elements of your vision, defined your promise, and identified your doomsday; you need to conduct a SWOT analysis. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, I assure you, it is not complicated: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Internally: what gives you a competitive advantage? What are you lacking? Externally: what tools, trends, and technologies can you use to improve your business? What tools, trends, and technologies are trying to murder your dream? Use this analysis to create realistic goals. Identify your core values, and determine how you will integrate them. Be tedious with your preparations. You may not notice it, but Mr. Krajicek spent countless hours finding the perfect boat to hold your hand-crafted hotdog, and the precise decibel level to play music for you while you eat it. It is the small details, that, when combined, effectively superimpose a personality on your business. It’s more than a product; it’s an experience. Be creative, but remember, at the end of the day, your business and its limitations are very real (doomsday)*. Refine as necessary.
Yin and Yang. Find balance. Be aware. In the first several months of Botsky's operation, Michael was working 15+ hour days, and lost 15 lbs. (see Be willing). You will have to sacrifice, but at some point, you're going to need to find a sustainable work/life ratio. It's easier said than done (there is no AA program for workaholics), but recognizing the need is probably the first step. You'll also need to understand; when you have employees (not contractors, like Jack, our salesman equivalent of Wiley Coyote), your responsibility lies with them, and theirs to the customer. It's not the place, it's the people*. Customer satisfaction is directly related to employee morale. If your employees are well taken care of, they will want to maintain the core values you have established. You need to keep the backbone of your business (your employees) happy. Treat them well, and be genuine. Mr. Krajicek was very adamant about the importance of his staff; when speaking about his work, he spoke in ‘we’s’ and ‘our’s’, not ‘I’s’ and ‘my’s’. If one of Michael's employees suffers financial hardship, he offers zero interest loans to get them back on their feet. The Botsky's team is just that; a team. I wish Calvin would care that much... well, I guess he did sell me an awesome dining room table (which I still haven't paid him for). Maybe that was his version of a 0% interest loan.
*I can't cover everything in one article, so here's a link with more information about business plans.
*I'm only afraid of two things: sharks [in water], and tornadoes. You'd be naive to believe I'm afraid of a little cliche statement... or sharks... or tornadoes.
Write Your Own Song
“Challenge the status quo; the once common ideals. Push the boundaries of mediocrity.”
- Michael Krajicek
Michael referenced the Bob Dylan approach, when speaking of being unique: “Want to be a songwriter? Here's my [Bob] idea of song writing, what's yours?” It is the acknowledgement that, ultimately, we are responsible for defining ourselves, not our influences, or preferences. Michael states that, “If I am not exercising my creativity, then I am not existing.” We are all unique in our own way, but many of us fail to capitalize on it. The businesses-owners who value creativity in their daily lives, often find ways to translate that creativity into commercial application. Before you even reach the door of Botsky’s, it is apparent that you will be entering a world fueled by creativity; one that is unlike any other. Michael states, “You superimpose a personality on your business, but realize, it is separate from yourself.”
If You Can Make it Here; You Can Make it Anywhere
"We are standing on the shoulders of giants."
-Stephen Hawking (Michael Krajicek says it better)
Michael explains, “Socio-politically, Lake Charles is a tough crowd. We have been known to be rigid.” I have noticed that, restaurants in particular, fight an uphill battle locally. So why open Botsky’s here? Why not a more restaurant-friendly location such as Lafayette? Well, luckily, Michael believes this town is hungry, not just for hotdogs, for an experience. We, at Exposure, couldn’t agree more. It is hard to deny that our little town is on the verge of achieving greatness. Michael states, “It’s almost overwhelming when you think about it; what we’ve always wanted, for Lake Charles to be this awesome place, is finally here, and we are a part of it. It’s is up to us now, it’s do or die time.” We’ve been lucky to have people like Dave Evans, owner of Luna and Luna Live, who have single-handedly nurtured our culture over the years; but it’s time we gave them a hand. I am grateful to see businesses like Botsky’s, Pops and Rockets, My Place American Pub, Waitr, Walker Williams, and Go Go Grocer making their way into our community. These local businesses are forever shaping the personality of our city.
Like Michael Krajicek says,
“This is our home, and for the record: You can take a chance here.”
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