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My Biggest Mistake: Assuming supplier had delivered all supplies

May 03, 2011|By Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times

Consultants, self-help gurus and moms agree: Mistakes are how we learn. Small-business owners tell us their biggest errors. Here is this week's:

Business owner: Don Myers

Company: Cha Cha's Tacos & Tequila in Brea

What I did: Failed to make sure everything had been delivered for a huge catering event

Background: In 1993, I was newly hired as the general manager of a restaurant directly across the street from Anaheim Stadium [now Angel Stadium]. They had the Freedom Bowl there. It was University of Utah against USC. I had booked 1,000 people in the restaurant and ballroom for USC and 4,000 across the street for Utah.

The mistake: I saw people lining up for the buffet and leaving with their food in paper cups. My chef said, "We're out of paper plates, and we're out of Coca-Cola too." I checked the invoice and it said, "One thousand paper plates delivered, 9,000 on back order." And then it said, "One thousand cans Coca-Cola delivered, 2,000 on back order."

What I learned: I called Smart & Final and had them get ready 10,000 paper plates and 2,000 cans of Coke. I get in the pickup truck and I'm racing back with my plates and cans of Coke. And the amazing thing was that the president of the alumni association and the president of the university were still in line when I got back, and they never knew what had happened. After that I had a complete checklist for catering and personally did the inventory of all items needed.

Have you made a mistake from which other small-business owners can learn? Please tell us about it at

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