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Anecdotes on failed small businesses Anecdotes on failed small businesses
by Joseph Gatt
2019-06-24 08:47:11
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If you want to operate a small business, there are a few basic rules. One, show up. Wake up at 4 AM, clean and put order in your shop until 6 AM, open your shop at 6 AM. Close around 10 PM, leave at 11PM. Get some sleep. Repeat. Pick a day of the week during which you will rest, and get plenty of sleep on that day.

Showing up is 70% of your job. Rule number two is be polite with everyone, but don't invade anyone's privacy or private life. Pay attention to what your employees are doing, but don't invade their private life. Pay attention to what the customers are doing, but don't invade their privacy or pay attention to their consumer choices.

smallbus01_400If you do those two things, your business is 90% guaranteed to thrive. Other factors involve pricing, quality of your products, listening to consumer demands, keeping it legal, and the overall demand for your product. I'll elaborate with anecdotal examples.

-One guy I know started an interior decoration business. He noticed he could make a lot of money by hiring a couple of his friends, who were freelance interior decorators, and by redecorating homes. Decorating ceilings, kitchens, bathrooms, balconies, backyards, the whole thing. 

The first day he opened shop he decided to start the day by celebrating the opening by taking his employees to the pub. They drank all day and daydreamed about striking it rich. The second day the owner decided to have a meeting with his employees to discuss sales tactics, and the employees suggested they discuss that at the pub. So they went to the pub. Eventually they were meeting at the pub every morning, playing cards and drinking beer or hard liquor all day. When he suggested they get some work done, his employees quit. He hired new employees and would take those to the pub and play cards as well. The guy blew about 200,000 dollars on rent fees for his office, employee salaries, bar tabs and advertising costs. And he didn't get a single client, and blamed it on the recession.

-One guy I know opened a café. Since I like sitting down in cafés with a good book I would go there. The owner had this habit of sitting with all his customers and lecturing them about politics. And he would take a lecture from anyone. So he would sit down with me and lecture me about politics, then he would sit at the next table and lecture them about politics. His café was nice, the seats were very cushy, and the coffee was just as I like it, strong-flavored robusta with low caffeine. Problem is he lectured me so much about politics I ended up opting for another café. I returned about a dozen times over the years and all dozen times it was empty.

If you want to connect with your customers, you can do what the lady at the fish restaurant I would go to did. I went to that fish restaurant almost every week day at one point. She would greet me either by praising how “handsome I was” or by asking me how I felt about the weather, or by discussing my haircut, or perhaps praising my choice of clothing. I would then sit and she would take my order and disappear from the radar. Then, when I was about to pay, she would ask me something about how school or work is going or whether I had any travels plans.

-One guy I know opened a grocery store. This was during my beer drinking days and he suggested I cut down on beer. Not once, but each time I would get beer. When I was waiting in line, he would also suggest that the lady cut down on meat and told a lady off for not having change. There was a grocery store not far from his, and I could get all the beer and cigarettes I wanted without getting stares. That other grocery store even had a sticker system for beer, where if you bought enough beer you could get free snacks.

-A very good friend of mine opened a pub. It was mostly a cocktail bar, but the main items were Jager bombs and Vodka tonics, and people would buy that by the bottle. People were allowed to have their bottle stored and keep it for next time they came, and as the pub had no kitchen, people were allowed to bring food from neighboring fast food restaurants.

The first few days there were lots of people and I made lots of friends there. There was a dart board, the owner encouraged us to get to know each other, and as the days went by I even had a reserved seat on the counter.

Problem is, a cocktail bar is a cocktail bar. After having a few shots, people would get loud, way, too, loud. People would sing and dance and laugh and scream like they were at a stadium. A few months down the road I was pretty much the only one going to that pub, and every now and then maybe you would get a table or two.

I suggested my friend change his business model from hard liquor to wine and beer or something, or that he perhaps sell cocktails by the glass rather than by the bottle. Don't know what happened to that pub.

-Finally, a good friend of mine had a shop that sold very cheap clothing. A lot of his customer base was immigrants who would buy clothes in bulk before returning home to visit their families, mostly in the summer.

As sales started declining because of the recession, my friend had an idea: sell cheap wedding dresses. 60 Euro wedding dresses.

My friend's a guy and knows nothing about women. He doesn't know that women spend a lot of their lives daydreaming about marrying a prince, and want their wedding to be royal. If you know anything about women, don't sell them 60 dollar wedding dresses.

There are a lot of other stories, but I'll leave it at that. I'll come back some day with more stories.

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