It’s taken us close to four years to build George Bowers Grocery. We’re still learning. One thing we’ve observed is how an indie business owner’s outlook impacts their businesses. There are winners and losers—and the losers quickly offer up these two excuses for their business.
1. So-and-so is out to get me/my business.
“It’s a conspiracy. [Fill-in-the-blank] Person/Business/Agency/Inspector/City/Department/Etc. is out to get me.”
Oh, please! You wish!
You wish this is true because it might hide the real reason — which is your failure to make the tough choices and figure.shit.out. When the going gets tough, the losers rush to place blame.
Whenever you hear another business owner complaining about conspiracy just roll your eyes. Here’s the truth (you can handle the truth): no one wants your business to fail. Not your investors. Not your lenders. Not your city/county/state tax collectors. No one. Not even your “competitors” (because, frankly, YOU HAVE NO COMPETITION if you’re doing it right) and certainly not your customers (you’re serving them, right?) or other business owners (hello? they’re busy with their own business).
If you don’t believe others want your success you shouldn’t have a business.
People want your business to succeed because it makes for a more vibrant and economically stable place for everyone.
Of course, you can get tangled up by your own stupidity or incompetence. That’s not a conspiracy – that’s a consequence. Big difference.
For example: right now there is road construction downtown. Common sense tells you that where there are roads, there will be road repair. Yes, a closed road can negatively affect business. This is a fact. This is not a conspiracy. Deal.
BTW: Roads, ugh! They cost more than sluggish business days. Yes, roads. For a fascinating read on why we’re killing ourselves, our economy, and our environment thanks to outdated growth models read this Strong Towns case study. Pages 16-20 break out the true costs of infrastructure. In short: road maintenance is eating us alive. Sprawl=great costs. Roads are one reason I’m so passionate about indie businesses in our walkable/bikeable micropolitans.
2. My business is ahead of the curve/more sophisticated/too awesome for people here.
“People here don’t get what I offer.”
Ha! Honey, please.
I first encountered this attitude from a young couple who moved here shortly before us. They started a business that never really got off the ground. We were friendly all of two seconds until we discovered that they were miserable, self-righteous people. (Trust me.) THEY MOVED AWAY – HOORAY!
They used a variation of excuse #2 to shield their fragile ego for their social and business failure. Part of their problem was their elitist attitude toward all of their potential customers. Also: asshole-ishness. That’s a real limitation.
It’s true your business might be ahead of the curve. A more likely reality — especially in a small market — is that there aren’t enough people interested in X to support X, so you have to adjust accordingly and scale appropriately. A strong dose of humility helps.
Sure, there are legitimate reasons why businesses fail. Some reasons are entirely out of your control. But most reasons for business failure can be directly traced to the people behind the business and the decisions, or excuses, they make.
It’s your job as business builder to a) respond to market demand and b) demonstrate the value you offer. If there is no market for what you offer, why did you think there was when you started? Why haven’t you adjusted the sails to appropriately address the demand that is there?
How to solve both: stop hanging out with losers.
Your time is too valuable to waste because building your indie business is bigger than your own satisfaction and fiscal stability. It’s part of something much more important: revitalizing your city. Remember this mission because it’s a serious one.
photo: Mister Snappy