Small Business and Small Thinking
If you consult with small business owners, good luck. Usually, you won’t have to leave the owner’s office.
Small business owners are their own worst enemy, because they understand the CONTENT of their endeavor, but not the PROCESS of acquiring business.
There is a relatively new, upscale cheese shop on Main Street here. My wife and I procrastinated, but finally drove over to try it out. At 10:30 on a Tuesday morning it was the sole closed shop among everything on the thoroughfare! There was no sign of business hours, though there was a leaking air conditioner.
I called the store later in the day and the owner told me, “Yeah, we open at 10:30.” No apology, no offer to help us if we’d care to stop in and introduce ourselves, nothing.
We show up later, and here is what happened (WH) and what should have happened (WSHH):
WH: I asked for mimolette, and the employee says, “We sold out an hour ago.”
WSHH: “I’m sorry, we’re out at the moment, but can I order some for you that will be here in 48 hours?”
WH: The owner sits by a computer, shopping for car parts on Ebay.
WSHH: The owner introduces himself and says he’ll be happy to arrange for any special orders for us, and hopes we’ll mention the shop to our friends. (My wife’s Mercedes convertible is parked outside his door.)
WH: The employee is dressed very casually and doesn’t use gloves to cut or wrap the cheese.
WSHH: The employee conforms to common sanitary codes and laws, and looks clean and well groomed.
WH: Our choices are totaled up, bagged, and we’re charged and given our change.
WSHH: We’re graciously thanked, and the shop’s business card is handed to us.
Later, we found the store owner and employee both sitting outside the shop smoking. This place will not last through the year. The town really could use this shop—there is a high-end wine shop just two doors away—but the cheese shop is almost always empty. Small wonder.
I tell new consultants that this is really the marketing business, so stop telling me about your methodology, because no one cares. Small business is also the marketing business, and merely filling the shelves with merchandise is the equivalent of throwing your methodology in my face. The value is in the experience, not solely the product or service.
Only the “Soup Nazi” in Seinfeld could defy this rule, and he’s no longer in business.
© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.
PS: I’d encourage readers to hit “comment” and submit their worst small business misadventures and experiences. Don’t worry, I won’t compile them into another Turkey Gumbo for the Misbegotten.