The difference between a "reason" and an "excuse"

As a consultant, and someone who talks to business owners on a daily basis, some who are clients and many more who are not, I've heard an incredible number of reasons why restaurant owner's businesses are struggling or failing. 99 out of 100 times, that "reason" really isn't a reason at all, it's an "excuse". There's a big difference, and I'll tell you what it is.

A "reason" is an explanation for why something is the way it is, with everyone involved taking accountability for their part in a situation. An excuse is an explanation for why something is the way it is, that always involves the blame being put on someone or something that isn't involved in the conversation, and not able to share their side of the story. What's the difference? The accountability.

Let me give you some examples. Common excuses for why restaurants, or other businesses, fail include:

Our employees were stealing from us
Our purveyors were cheating us
Our concept was too progressive for the market
The market didn't appreciate good food
Our landlord was unreasonable
The list is endless. There are as many excuses for failure as there are failed businesses. If a person were to take accountability for their decisions and their actions, those excuses could be seen as the real reasons for failure, and they would look more like this:

We didn't have a reliable system for evaluating good help, and we didn't supervise our employees as effectively as we could have, so we lost a lot of money from theft
We didn't know anything about negotiating purchasing, and ended up paying prices we couldn't afford to pay
We didn't research our market well enough to find out what the market wanted, so we ended up giving them what OUR idea of good food was, not theirs
We failed to communicate what made us special compared to the competion, and the market didn't respond - or - We didn't realize that our market doesn't have the same ability to notice quality that we have, and we were really banking on them realizing our food was better
We didn't negotiate a good lease
You probably notice a trend here. For every excuse that an owner can give for a business failing, there is a real reason that points back to something THEY did or didn't do.

I'm sharing this information not to make anyone feel bad about their struggles or failure, but to help owners and managers realize that they are the only person that controls the destiny of their business. For every mistake someone else makes that affects your business, there is a procedure or a system you could have had in place to increase your chances of avoiding it.

Accountability. Until you learn to take it, you'll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, everyone does, but only those that admit their responsibility in the mistake learn from it. Those are the people that can keep trying and eventually taste success. Those that only want to blame someone else for their failures are dooming themselves to a life full of them.

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Author:. Brandon O'Dell is an independent food service consultant and owner of O'Dell Restaurant Consulting. O'Dell Restaurant Consulting offers general consulting services to restaurants, colleges, private clubs and most other food service types. Our focus is on helping business owners create operational systems within their businesses that help them become more profitable and earn more free time. Work to live, don't live to work. Areas of specialty include teaching owners to price by gross profit... Go Deeper | Website