I admit, I watch alot of reality-type TV (yea, yea) , and some of these shows and their “stories of inspiration” have inspired me to think about how such concepts can be extended, without the economic rent extraction implicit in the concept of “reality TV”. The other day I was at a small local sushi restaurant in North NJ that had been open 4 years, but didn’t even have a website. No twitter account, no facebook page, no yelp or citysearch presence. This is not east gibib North NJ; this is pretty affluent, close to NYC North NJ. This was my first time there, and the food and customer service were so delicious/friendly, I volunteered to not only develop their website, but to get them set up on facebook, twitter, etc.
The managers/owners didn’t accept my offer. I’m a damn-good bullshitter so I doubt my “salesmanship” was the issue. I think it was more the fact that many small-to-medium size business owners are just totally out of it. You don’t need a Ivy League MBA to run a business, not hardly, but you’ve got to “get it.”
Perhaps the ultimate inspiration for me is chef Robert Irvine’s “Restaurant Impossible” wherein he and his team are given $10,000 and 2 days to renew local, failing restaurants to success. Of course what you see on TV and what actually goes down is markedly different, but that’s neither here nor there. There are tons and tons (and tons) of local/regional businesses that impact our communities that could use help, whether its just a quick talk with the owner/manager or a real sit-down meeting or more. I have little against multinational uber-corporations; its business, but I have a particularly affinity for entrepreneurs and for those who – despite the often poor odds in their favor – still start and run local/regional businesses.
My father, about whom I’ve wrote before, is an good example. He’s an amazing (if not renowned) Dental Surgeon, but despite being far smarter than me, is not exactly the best businessman. This, of course, is a function of several things, such as being preoccupied with the job at hand, and the fact that his significant training is in surgery/etc, not business management let alone accounting, finance, marketing, etc. This is not the fault of my father (nor other students/graduates), although in almost ever field I think more practicality would be of great benefit (I’ve got a very long post criticizing my b-school experiences for another time).
But look, if there’s a local Chinese food joint, or Beer Bar, hardware store or whatever that you like, and you know business, why not offer to help? 100% the business owner/manager is going to tell you that you’re an arrogant shit, but that’s just denial and insecurity. If you’re a real customer and you like the food/service/atmosphere/service/whatever, but know the place can do better, keep freaking trying. You’re a regular, as pissed/drunk as the manager/owner may be, repetition pays (for both of you). Eventually, you will get a conversation with The Powers That Be.
If you like this place, whether its a hardware store, skateboard shop, diner, bar – it matters not – once you get The Powers That Be to listen and trust you, good things will happen. You’re incentive is to make sure the place you like stays in business. If you get anything else out of it, that’s awesome. They’re incentive is to listen to someone who might know a bit more about business than they, and that their business’ performance (i.e profits) will increase once you analyze and improve their processes/pricing/marketing/etc.
Maybe I’m out of my mind, and this is all BS, but I don’t think so. Most local/regional businesses I’ve encountered in my life are staffed by people who are great at their trade, but can’t manage shit. If they’re in my town/area, and they’re good at that trade/job, I’ll pay to keep coming back, in fact, I’ll work for them, for free, to not only keep them in business but to help them thrive. It’s in my and their best interest to at the very least talk about it.
Think about it.