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I started my business because I wanted to bring Italian food to the masses. I was living in India, so that’s where I started, opening my first restaurant in 2002. After a couple years, I learned the word “franchising.” India is mostly IT, so nobody was franchising in the food business. We ended up becoming one of the first few franchise restaurants in the country, with me opening more than 15 restaurants over the course of the next seven years.

I was working 15-hour days, seven days a week, managing multiple restaurants across different cities, and I was going nuts. I didn’t take any holiday for many years, and I was getting burnt out.

But by the time I sold the company in 2016, I had figured out a way to work just two days a week. My revenues tripled. My profits doubled. And the biggest benefit was I got my time back.

Over the years, all the way up to 2016, I built multiple restaurants, plus kiosks within malls, and IT parks. We diversified. We had sit-down Italian restaurants, but then when people started looking for more food on the go around 2007, we started a pizza-by-the-slice concept and opened up within most of the big cinemas. We soon became the highest grossing food and beverage vendor within cinemas across the country.

 I didn’t take any holiday for many years, and I was getting burnt out.

We adapted pizza for the Indian palate. It was a big hit. Indian and Italian cuisine both have the base materials of tomato, onion and garlic. And Indian food has a primary source of bread or rice, so pizza fit in perfectly.

Selling pizza by the slice was a very lucrative volume-based business. But my challenge at the time was introducing the concept of franchising to the country. It took a lot of energy, going to trade shows, taking out ads on local television and in magazines, just to build the name.

Over the years, I finally started understanding the right mix, the right size of the restaurant. I knew I needed to raise funding if we wanted to go big.

It was a tough journey. After 11 months, we were chosen out of thousands of business plans by one very big investor.

That changed everything. He sat me down and said, “If you want to take your business to the next level, you have to learn.” I was resistant, but he was right. I started reading a lot, going to webinars, seminars and conferences, and networking and meeting with people from all different industries. I started learning all these different systems, processes and techniques used by non-food companies and I thought to myself, “What if I adapt them, tweak them for the food business?”

 I knew I needed to raise funding if we wanted to go big.

There were three years of trial and error trying to find the right breakthrough technique for the food business that was also so simplified it could be done repeatedly and consistently, and tracked without the need of big management. How much can a restaurant owner do himself? You need your employees to do it, too.

It begins with getting management and employees on the same page so they can work toward your goal. But if you want everybody on your page, you need to have a page first. With my restaurant profit accelerator courses at my F and B Business School, that’s where we start. A lot of times, restaurateurs say, “Everything’s in my head. I know where I want my business to go and how I want to take it there, and I’ll train everybody on the job.” And that’s the thing. They tie themselves into the business so much they don’t give themselves an opportunity to step out.

If you want a better restaurant, and you want more money, and you want better revenues and profit, and you want more time, you’re also going to have to implement a set of habits and disciplines that keep your employees working together and on track toward your goal, like a well-oiled machine. Because you can’t be everywhere. You need a system that does this for you.

If you’ve made your business so co-dependent on you, what do you do then?

Right after I sold my business, I had a heart attack. I learned the word “priority” a bit too late. In my case, by the time I had realized I should make my health and my personal life a priority as much as my business, it was too late. My body had already taken a toll. If I was still running that chain, my physical abilities are not at the top of my game that I wish they could be. What about the chance that this may happen to someone else?If you’ve made your business so co-dependent on you, what do you do then?

Make the time now to do something about it. Learn how to grow exponentially so you have money on the side to put away. A safety net. The freedom to just take off and do what you want. Or the freedom to just stress less.

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Nandu Awatramani is the founder of F and B Business School, where he offers courses like Restaurant Profit Accelerator, which teaches restaurant owners how to grow their business exponentially and work less, leading to a balanced life between profits and personal life. Previously, he worked to build one of the first restaurant franchises in India.