Can I tell you a story?
A few years ago I received a call from the owner of a local nursery. He was teetering on the brink of disaster and the bank, which held a note on the business, decided it was time to get involved.
They nursery sold flowers and vegetable plants; shrubs and trees as well as the equipment to go with it. His grand father founded the business at the tail end of The Great Depression. They had a great location, right next to a busy mall. He was a local celebrity of sorts. He had a weekly radio show where he dispensed wisdom on all things plants and shrubs. He had a five acre series of green houses a few miles from the nursery.
Everything went well until……….
(((Dramatic pause here.)))
Until a big box store opened about a half of mile away. You know, one of those places that sold in volume. Business went from booming, to slow to almost non existent. If I can buy three trays of flowers for the same price you sell one tray for, where do you think I am going to shop?
That’s when the bank decided to get involved. Banks do not care about how long we’ve been in business or all of our past successes. Banks care about getting the money they lent us repaid and they don’t care about “how.” They care about the “when.” There is one universal truth I can share confidently with you: You don’t want your banker running your business!
The bank hired a consultant to analyze the business and create a recovery plan. The consultant knew a lot about consulting. You might say they were famous. They knew very little about the nuances of a family run business and all the challenges that go with managing it. They analyzed, interviewed, and analyzed some more. They poked, prodded and nodded. They gathered everyone in the small conference area. With solemn faces they pronounced that while the business was in critical condition it could be saved.With their help.
By now the owner felt like he’d been hit up along side of the head with a four by four. He nodded his head pulled out his check book in ascent and the consultant told them that he would be back.
I am going to fast forward.
All of the information the consultant shared was valuable. Valuable in a “thirty thousand foot view” sorta way. You couldn’t argue with any of it. But none of it solved the problem of how the nursery was going to compete with the big box store down the road. No one asked:
What makes your nursery unique and special and how are you going to leverage that quality to stand out in your market?
What no one understood was there is no business like his (yours, our) business and that while it’s easy to throw a few MBA type solutions at an issue; situations, circumstances and markets are like the micro climates in southern California. They often vary from street to street and business to business.
No one asked the owner.
The owner was equally as culpable. He was searching for a magic elixir that didn’t exist. He wanted a quick fix. If it got the bank off of his back he’d have done just about anything.
A year later the shop stood empty. The bank eventually foreclosed and the property was sold. Today it’s a convenience store with a gas station.
It’s true. There is no business like your business.