Insights for Founders – Learning from Chefs

Published On: Sep 30, 2020Last Updated: Oct 14, 20233.5 min read

The Covid 19 Pandemic has struck every nation across the world and globally shows no signs of letting up. The immense changes that have swept the world are yet to be fully examined and analyzed. The global economy has weakened, with supply chains being disrupted and lockdowns being imposed. As economies struggle to cope and restart, businesses are trying every new trick they can for ensuring business continuity – and it is all the more difficult for StartUps. Entrepreneurship is one journey that is all about passion, risk, working hard towards your dream and growing as a person along the way. Much like every growth journey, the StartUp founder’s journey bears striking resemblance to most entrepreneur’s journeys. There is an idea, there are a vision and a spark – the rest is about trying, failure, success, learning, observing, growing and quite a lot of other things. These founders are hungry, hustling for the next growth hack, striving hard to look for that magic key which could ensure that the firm survives…

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A core trait I have observed is that Entrepreneurs are avid learners – from any source. Whether from a seminar, a colleague, or a competitor, or history or a movie – it just does not matter. They are quick to pick up a point and try and implement it. This is the trait that sets them apart, because they know that insights can come from just about anywhere.  It will be interesting to see what lessons can be learnt from a Chef:

Consider yourself a Shepherd

Your team will always be brimming over with ideas but of what use are they? Encourage open, communicative and sharing culture – often the greatest innovations in the kitchen are a result because someone shared an idea and the Chef executed that. Champion others, and think of yourself as a shepherd – guide others so they bloom, go in the right direction and build the business further.

Failure is a stepping stone

Chefs try and try again. They never let failures crush them – they approach it all over again. Leaders need to practice this – why should failure be a stigma or a full stop? Let it be a stepping stone as you learn from it, and an advantage for you. Your competitors will not have had the advantage of having made that mistake and going through that experience. They are that much behind you in the journey. Hence, Founders should relentlessly follow their dreams and not be afraid of or hide failures – they are part of the journey. Like Chefs, take failures in your stride and move on. Next time, you will be aware of and not repeat the same error.

Always keep on learning

Most Chefs are deeply into research and experimenting – they search for old, traditional recipes and keep on researching if someone’s trying something different or new. They study cuisines, spices, forms of cooking and other cultures…to see if they can learn something new and most importantly, apply it. They go back to the fundamentals. Founders often forget this – they need to go back to where their vertical or industry started – they need to know the history and reinterpret it to address today’s modern requirements. If the founder knows the history and the roots, they can almost always succeed because they will have a greater clarity.

Also Read: 4 Skills entrepreneurs can learn from Picasso

Hone & Heed Your Instincts

Some of the greatest dishes are cooked not by method but by instinct. After lots of practice and experience, top Chef are experts at their art – to an amateur it may seem magical, but the Chefs are doing several things at once – it is because their instincts are honed. They trust their instincts to take over and let the dish emerge. Often, it must be this way for Founder too. Too often, when they already know the answer, they get lost in a lot of noise and confusion – and all the while, they know the answer…all they need to do is heed their instincts. Instincts rarely lie and once channelized properly, will prove an enormous asset to the Founder.

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Swapan Dholakia
About the Author

Swapan Dholakia

Swapan Dholakia is a senior professional heading the Communications and Outreach at His current interest areas are trade diplomacy,building synergies, and leveraging Communications to impact society & audiences at large.