One of my favorite things to watch on TV, after sports, are food-related competition shows like those on the Food Network. Even though I don’t cook (unless you count the microwave), I love to watch the endless parade of amazing chefs and scrumptious food.


Surprisingly, I have found a lot of business takeaways from this engaging programming.  Here are a few important business lessons you can learn and apply in your own small business.



Do One Thing Well: In virtually every Food Network competition, one competitor tries to show-off by preparing a food item “multiple ways.” Whether the main ingredient is steak, fish, chicken, shrimp or even apples, when I hear the contestant say they are going to serve it two or three ways, I cringe.  By spreading your focus amongst multiple dishes, none gets your full attention.  And in every single case, while one of the preparations turns out well, the others are a miss.  Had the contestant just focused efforts on one preparation, they would have helped, not hindered, their chances to win.


You can take that lesson and apply it directly to your business. Trying to do too many things means you are doing none well and quality will suffer.  So resist the temptation to add new products and services or to have each employee wear too many hats.  Instead, focus on one blow-away effort.  This proves a winning formula – on TV and in the business world – every time.


You Can Lose a Battle and Win a War: It’s an emotional challenge to be an entrepreneur.  You have days when you lose clients or potential clients, find out a potential investor is backing out, have an employee quit or some other struggle that makes your business endeavors seem futile.  But perseverance is critical to entrepreneurship and you see that clearly when watching food competitions.


In many shows, a contestant will fall down on a particular challenge yet still end up the overall winner. Stumbling in an early challenge of “Next Food Network Star” may not earn you the advantage you seek in the next round, but doing well enough puts you back in contention to be named the overall winner.


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Also, chefs that have appeared on these competition shows but didn’t win often come back as revered judges on future programs. The element of having been there and done that gives the chef credibility and notoriety they can leverage, even if they weren’t the winner.


Losing a battle doesn’t mean that you can’t win the war.  You need to get back up and try again because staying in the game is one of the main ingredients for success (pun entirely intended).


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Being Prepared Allows for Improvisation: A large percentage of the Food Network Shows, from Chopped to Cutthroat Kitchen, involved twists thrown into the mix to make the challenge more difficult for the participants and simultaneously, more exciting for the viewer watch. Those who are able to maintain grace under pressure and innovate in the face of adversity are the competitors that come away as winners.


The same thing applies for entrepreneurs. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.


However, no matter how well prepared you are, there will be surprises along the way.  New products will take longer to develop than you expect. You will miss budgets or have a cash-flow issue. Your marketing promotion won’t produce the intended results or perhaps it will work too well and you struggle meeting demand. Regardless, you need to be calm in the face of chaos and learn to improvise.


If you prepare for what you can control, it’s easier to improvise when things inevitably go awry. And when they go haywire, don’t focus on the problems, focus on the potential solutions: fall back on your strengths and don’t fall to pieces.


As the food competition programs show, the ones who can’t stand the heat fail in the kitchen.


About Carol Roth: Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.


Web: or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


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