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My Biggest Mistake: Didn't realize suppliers hadn't brought supplies

May 2, 2011 |  6:02 am

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

Don Myers cropped 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 big catering event.

Background: In 1993, I was newly hired as the general manager of a restaurant directly across the street from Anaheim 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 more across the street for Utah.

The mistake: Everything was ready to go. Then 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." I thought I knew a lot, but I didn't know to check the order that day.

What I learned: I was freaking out. 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

-- Sharon Bernstein

On Twitter @sharonbernstein


Start-up lessons learned the hard way