This is an unusual page. It explains why we created Year One Solutions - by exploring why businesses succeed or fail. So whether you are interested in our service or not, you should get something out of this anyway.


ON CRICKETS AND UNIVERSAL TRUTHS

Contents

INTRODUCTION

PART 1: TRIANGULATION OF BUSINESS FUNDAMENTALS

PART 2: THE TRIANGLE OF EXECUTION

PART 3: FAILURE WITH PROPOSITION

PART 4: PEOPLE: HARDEST PART OF SUCCEEDING

PART 5: THE PROBLEM WITH PROCESS

SUMMARY

 

INTRODUCTION

Just imagine:

Every retailer has experienced the tyranny of the empty shop. Those times not a single customer is in sight. You sit on the stool and look around the store. Then go to the door and look up and down the mall. No one around. Half an hour later, a customer walks past. They don’t even look at your window or in your general direction.

Crickets.

Fear carves hollowness in your stomach. What if no one comes today?

Or the web-entrepreneur that pushes ‘publish’ on the brand-new website that you spent months conceiving and designing and building. Twenty-four hours later you have had three hits, and no activity. And more of the same the next day. Doubt and angst make it feel like you have swallowed a giant bag of marbles. The traffic graph is a flatline.

Crickets.

Success and failure have many causes. Luck (more than you think). Lack of planning (less than you think.) If everything depended on luck, no one would bother trying. If everything depended on sound planning, no one would fail.

What follows is a five-part series that identifies these important fundamentals of having a viable business proposition and addresses the salient questions that make the difference between success and failure.

If you are not interested in my musings on this topic, you can skip to the summary to understand why I am writing on these topics, and how that relates to my situation at the end of this post.


PART 1: TRIANGULATION OF BUSINESS FUNDAMENTALS

Firstly, there are three presuppositions that we must agree on in order make the case for what constitutes the ‘fundamentals’ of a market place in an open, capitalist economy.

ONE: The NEED exists. That is, there is a market that has ‘needs’ which are met through a supply of goods and services.

TWO: Entrepreneurship is the arbitrage of the gap between demand (market need) and supply (offer).

THREE: We assume the person who wants to play this game is equipped/resourced to do so.

If you can accept these three presuppositions, read on.

 Figure        SEQ Figure \* ARABIC     1 triangle of Fundamentals

Figure 1 triangle of Fundamentals

 

The three elements in the illustration above are ‘capstone’ ideas – or the pillars of the market economy, represent the triangle of fundamentals. A brief explanation of these assumptions is in order.

THE FUNDAMENTALS

In this section I will outline the following three aspects of the business model

·       Is there a real market need that I can address?

·       Do I have access to a product or service address that need?

·       How will you resolve the gap between supply and demand?

These seem like simple questions – and they are - and I hope you agree that they are ‘givens’.

But it needs explanation; because they are so common, they are also commonly misunderstood.

ON DEMAND

Technically speaking ‘demand’ represents the amount of some goods that buyers are willing and able to purchase at various prices, assuming all determinants of demand other than the price, such as income, tastes and preferences remain the same. At the root of ‘demand’ is the notion of ‘human needs’, which are universal and relatively stable – read this to understand Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, because (trust me on this) few people understand it correctly.

Demand is simply the socio-cultural expression of these needs. Everyone needs food, so there is a demand for curries and a demand for hamburgers. Consumers usually express this as a ‘want’. (The common view that ‘needs’ are fundamental and ‘wants’ are luxuries is simply wrong.) Technically the ‘need’ becomes ‘demand’ when there is money and a willingness to spend it to satisfy the need. That is why demand is usually expressed in $.

So, practically, the market demand must (already) exist. You can’t create demand because you can’t create $ (that is illegal) and you can’t create needs, which are innate.  

A simple heuristic is this:

Need + Culture = Want

Want + Dollars = Demand

You can satisfy needs in unusual/unexpected ways by responding to socio-cultural or technological shifts for instance. To all intents and purposes, you cannot even ‘boost’ demand or ‘stimulate’ demand. To think that you can create demand is to think you can alter human nature.

A hostage taker does not create the demand for freedom but exploits the need of the captive (and loved ones). McDonalds does not create the demand for food.

Some may want to argue that a product like the iPod created the demand for music players. This is not true. The iPod satisfied the demand for convenient, perpetual access to music and entertainment – something that has always existed even back when Kings and Queens would keep the travelling Troubadour at their beck and call. The iPod is merely a specific technological manifestation of an innate want or felt need.

The entrepreneur should be very sure that his/her particular ‘offer’ taps into a real, existing need = there is demand for what you want to sell.

A question that VCs (apparently) commonly ask is: what problem are you solving? This is the correct question, as it identifies what needs to be done – especially where the ‘need’ is a service.

Furthermore, if the opportunity exists, then it is furthermore given that the entrepreneur must understand the nature of the opportunity = be able to see what the opportunity really is. How this is resolved pragmatically, is addressed in a following section where I cover the idea of your retail ‘proposition’. For the moment, suffice to say that this idea must be understood properly.

Finally, the entrepreneur must want to attack the opportunity = have the motivation and commitment to address the gap. The size of the opportunity is important relative to their personal goals; it must be big enough to satisfy your own motives for addressing the opportunity.

Why are you doing it, or why do you want to do it?

Will you keep at it when it gets tough? Is it all about money, or is it something more sustainable?

How does your motive for doing this influence the work you do / should do?

It is self-evident that a successful execution requires that the entrepreneur is capable of the envisioned execution and is equipped (resourced) to execute the plan (time, capital, labour).

ON SUPPLY

Not much need be said about this. It stands to reason that a successful business relies on the entrepreneur being able to source a sufficient supply of product/service providers etc at a certain price, with acceptable risk for a long enough period of time in a reliable manner that will enable them to build a business.

Having ‘stock’ to sell is a no brainer, but the supply chain risk profile is rarely properly investigated and understood.

A point worth noting for retailers in physical stores is trying to understand the supplier/ wholesalers’ strategy regarding online sales directly to the consumer. Your business can be wiped out overnight if your supplier changes strategy in this area.

ON ARBITRAGE

The execution (of the proposition) requires that the entrepreneur identifies the desired way in which arbitrage can be realised, profitably, and then commits to one of those as an abiding point of difference to communicate.

The following four ways seem to cover most of the approaches to differentiating your offer. A proposition is rarely unique – at least not for long enough and the open market. The entrepreneur will pick the way in which business is done (proposition delivered) and attempt to build some differentiation around that that can be defended at a profit.

1.      Timing: First or Faster

An example would be Zara that aims to bring the latest fashion (from the catwalk to the store) in less than six weeks – and if anecdotal reports are to be believed have done so in a matter of days. Or you can be the Concord. Or the movie house that shows all the premiers.

2.      Leverage:  Add value, minimise cost

Someone turns raw meat into patties, someone solves the challenge of distributing fuel to every town in every country. Someone is the cheapest, someone figures out how to make things smell better, work differently, last longer or taste better. We are limited only by our imagination and the possibilities of innovation are endless. Of course, any particular innovation can be made redundant in a flash.

3.      Change:  Adapt, Transform, Improve

More than simply adding value, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to transform products completely. Old tires can become road base. Cars can be turned into supercars or transformed into vehicles for mobility impaired people and clothes can be altered to fit. Wind can be turned into electricity.

4.      Access: Exclusive or Convenient

Businesses also exist on the premise that access to the product/ service is exclusive or particularly convenient. This is a very typical ‘advantage’ that many smaller retailers rely on, and it is most often also their weakness. E.g. to be the only menswear retailer in Yepoon or the only newsagent in the shopping centre, or maybe even the only convenience store on that particular side of that particular city block leverages ‘access’ as the method of arbitrage.

Most small, product-orientated retailers tend to rely on the ‘access’ angle to create a POD. Retailers tend to be resellers, so innovation is not a primary focus. The only value-add lies in the bulk-breaking activity. These SME retailers are content to be ‘the only shoe shop’ in the mall as their core proposition.

This has been a legitimate approach to ‘capitalise’ on an opportunity. There has always been limits as to how far people would travel to gain access to a product, so geography-based retail propositions have been viable since forever.

But, reliance on this particular approach is the reason why the technological shift in the market is causing serious competitive pressure. And being blind to the change that has occurred is the cause of many retail failures.

There may be more categories to consider as a source of a competitive advantage, but you get the idea. There are limited ways of arbitraging an opportunity. It is wise to ‘pick and stick’. It serves as the point of difference and focus of business communication and marketing and trying to be all things to all people results in dilution and confusion.

In summary:

Given the above overview of the fundamentals, prospective entrepreneurs must/can ask themselves the questions and must be able to answer them in the affirmative:

·       Is there a real market need that I understand?

·       Do I have access to a product or service address that need?

·       Am I sufficiently equipped (skills, resources, motivation etc) to address this opportunity in a particular way that provides me with a competitive advantage or at least desirable point of difference?

If you can’t answer these questions in the affirmative, just stop, for failure lies ahead.

It may seem like I am starting the obvious, but almost every example of retail failure, can be reduced to this flaw in execution. I have seen in hundreds of times – a foodie opens a restaurant because they love cooking, the florist who opens a store because they love flowers. You can’t blame them because the media and self-help gurus have sold them on the idea of ‘following your passion’ when that is the worst possible advice. It is much smarter to follow the money!

These fundamental facets of business must be addressed first, and if you honestly believe that have these fundamentals working in your favour, you can focus on how you execute to make it happen. That raises the question: HOW?


PART 2: THE TRIANGLE OF EXECUTION

Like the triangle of fundamentals at the macro level (where the opportunity exists) there is also a triangle of execution that describes the three facets of entrepreneurial execution.

 Figure        SEQ Figure \* ARABIC     2       Triangle of Execution

Figure 2 Triangle of Execution

ON PROPOSITION

The way in which people in systems come together is through the delivery of a particular ‘proposition’. An organisation exists to serve its constituents and the proposition is delivered by people employing systems of doing the necessary tasks.

This challenge is addressed in Part 3

ON PEOPLE

Firstly, any business of any scale relies on people. More about that in a subsequent section. Managing people is a crucial aspect to the success of a business. The plethora of books/ gurus on ‘engagement’ and ‘leadership’ should be indicative of the centrality of this facet of execution.

This challenge is addressed in Part 4

ON PROCESS

Any business needs to be systematised to the optimum extent. Again, advisers will advise that you should be working ‘on the business’ and that the way to do that is to set up the systems so that the business will run efficiently and productively. It is not the (only) important thing despite what people say; but it is nevertheless important to the extent that failing to do so will lead to a business that cannot scale and cannot compete thought sheer unproductivity.

This element is addressed in Part 5.


PART 3: FAILURE WITH PROPOSITION

Different retailers (obviously) pick different facets to focus the execution on. Zara focuses on being first. Dior focuses on exclusive. Target focuses cheap (minimal cost) and the corner store focuses on convenience – and so on.

Some businesses have a defensible proposition. There is only one that can be first. But there are countless ways of being ‘exclusive’. It does not matter that Dior has a thousand other boutique brands that also aim to be exclusive in some way, because you are limited only by your imagination and the laws of science how you can be exclusive.

If the fundamentals are wrong, no amount of marketing, or planning, or anything else will matter in the long run. (I have always termed this the (retail) proposition – to capture the idea, and explained it as the ‘offer’ = product + price, wrapped in the “brand”).

The most fundamental question for any retailer is therefore: Is the core proposition viable?

There is a risk that, when talking about fundamentals, that one is also telling someone how to suck eggs, to use a common Aussie expression. But articulation of the core principles – those are the basics that often get lost in the noise buzzwords buzzing - should always be top of mind.

It is important to understand the difference between the core/actual product in understanding the arbitrage opportunity. It’s the old ‘drill bit’ vs ‘hole in the wall’ thing; or the ‘perfume’ vs ‘sex appeal’ thing. Do you know what you are REALLY selling? Because that is the core product that satisfies the felt need of the customer. I.e. what do people really want, when they say they want “your product”?

How does your business model respond to this felt need? Is it explicitly addressed in your marketing and selling efforts? Or is your marketing nothing more than shouting from the rooftops? In a world where everyone is shouting ‘perfume’ and ‘drill bit’, only those who are instead communicating ‘sex appeal’ and ‘hole in the wall’ will be the successful marketers

This must be resolved because it influences every facet of a business. The pet store does not sell dogs, they sell opportunities for people to express their love and to be loved. Or maybe the alleviate loneliness; or help strengthen the buyer’s identity as a ‘nice person’, or they sell childhood memories. If you sell a dog, you are selling an obligation that will last a decade and more. If you sell a ‘companion animal’, you are providing countless moments of contentment over a decade or more.

A problem arises when a retailer focuses on price/convenience, which is how the geographical proposition is presented to the consumer. I.e. this pair of trousers is available in this location at this price and it will cost too much (time & money) to travel any further to get access to the same or similar product.

If that is the ONLY thing you have going for you, then the business is vulnerable to market fluctuations and competitor actions.

And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that you have limited options to respond to threats at your disposal. You can only cut prices to a point. Your location that provides your ‘convenience’ is relatively fixed.

Dior is incomparable. There is only one. Any boutique can sell a silk blouse, but only Dior can sell Dior silk blouses. But there is always someone who can be cheaper than Target. Or more convenient than your corner of the street.

Too many retailers rely on the fact that they are ‘the only’ café on the strip, the only menswear retailer in a suburb, the only servo on that street.

If you only rely on being the only store in a particular geography, the internet obliterated that point of difference because on the internet geography hardly matters.

Everything that is for sale is in every customer’s pocket. And the time delay (caused by delivery requirements) are (a) offset by cost saving and (b) becoming shorter and shorter. In metropolitan areas, many eCommerce providers are providing same-day delivery and food delivery businesses do it in a matter of hours.

This leaves traditional corner-stores an ever-shrinking market comprising mostly of emergency shoppers or impulse buyers.

That is why Amazon poses such a threat to retailers – suddenly there is a competitor that it is more convenient and cheaper than your shop on your corner, and you can do very little about it.

Geography is irrelevant on the internet.

The only appropriate response is to change your execution. You need pick a different propositional dimension to differentiate.

Many consultants are now peddling ‘service’ and ‘customer experience’ as the new magic bullet. You don’t have to change much OF YOUR FUNDAMENTALS, except smile and be nicer and tolerate more exorbitant customer behaviours.

This is complete bollocks. Lipstick. Pig. And all that.

Creating a customer experience will ONLY work if, and only if, it is about focusing a different facet of execution and that is a form of value adding. It is easy to add value to a product if you use technology, but adding value through people is incredibly difficult; and that is what the delivery of customer experiences typically require.

Creating customer experiences is a new way of doing business; it is not service with a smile.

It is a legitimate response, but a difficult one to pull off, as explained in the next section.


 

PART 4: PEOPLE: HARDEST PART OF SUCCEEDING

The hardest thing about building a successful business is: PEOPLE. Whether you want to scale your business or whether you want to add value by creating customer experiences that people will pay for, you will have to rely on people. And especially if you want to re-set your business proposition, you will need people.

And the human being is the most complicated entity in existence.

Some forms of arbitrage can be more or less scalable than others. If you want to scale, you will need people and technology in some combination to enable this. To some extent it always requires people. Getting people to do what is required, consistently and well is what requires superior management.

Take the hospitality sector for example since it is an environment that requires people interactions to deliver the ‘experience’. There is a reason why it is easier for businesses that relying on highly systematised processes, highly mechanised environments, very narrow skills-sets and low margin, high volume sales = McDonalds and the like to scale successfully. Upmarket restaurants don’t scale easily because they rely on initiative, customisation, flexibility, broad skills sets etc – the opposite of a fast food chain.

If you scale with people, you have a whole set of challenges that makes or breaks the execution:

Do I have the right people (who want to be there)? Do you understand what ‘right’ looks like and are you actively screening for that?

Are they equipped to do the job?

Do they know their job – what they should be doing?

Do they know what they are allowed and what not?

Do they know why they are doing it?

How do you get (and keep) everyone on the same page, and motivated? (I.e: Values)

How do we talk to each other?

What do we talk about?

What is acceptable behaviour and what is not?

How do they relate to each other? How is work organised in terms of human interactions?

What gets rewarded?

What gets praised and what gets overlooked?

What gets punished?

Is what the leader does/says congruous with what are expected of staff?

How an entrepreneur (business builder) solves the people problem is the key to scaling a successful business. (Assuming the assumptions about the proposition are met, of course.)

In retail, this problem is particularly intractable. Most retail employees fall into retail be default. Retail is, for a significant majority, the employer of last resort. This means that the people who will build the business lack motivation, since ‘this’ is what they are doing while they figure out what they want to really do. In some retail sectors it is even worse – hospitality being one of those. The work environment is tough; with unsociable hours of hard, physical work. Delivering great ‘service’ in this environment often feels like an insurmountable challenge.

All the guru-talk about ‘engagement’ and ‘leadership’ in this context is just that – talk. Just the first article that pops up when you search ‘advice to manage people’ tells you to ‘have compassion’ and to ‘default to trust’. When the employee routinely arrives late, or when they arrive/ leave strictly by the clock, never takes initiative, gossips incessantly, constantly makes excuses not to work and when they do, routinely make mistakes that cannot be attributed to lack of skill; ‘trust’ is not going to be the default response.

(The author’s solution to the challenge is that you should ‘build your leadership library’. What does that even mean? Seriously!)

Some people reading this may be indignant and inclined to proffer examples of someone who is not like that or at least claim that ‘they’ are not like that. Anyone who has actually owned and managed a small business will tell you differently. The average employee is exactly like that, and it takes years to assemble a team that has even a semblance of reasonable efficiency. To do this across an entire organisation is very difficult – I’d say impossible – and the cost of having people who are less engaged and unproductive is an enormous cost to the business. The silver lining is that all businesses in the same space suffer from the same problem – so the people problem is a cost of doing business.

Let me be very clear on this:

This ‘problem’ exists at all levels of the organisation, including the CEO, who may be more interested in hobnobbing with celebrities, playing golf, or increasingly, dabbling in social engineering via various social justice causes, freely spending other people’s money on their pet projects. This is not an indictment of the ‘worker’.

And, the entrepreneur starting the business most likely also dabbled in a side-hustle or planned/dreamed about their future business while they were supposed to be working for their employer.

In theory, the friction (and concomitant cost) that exists because of the nature of the employee base represents a massive opportunity for any organisation that can solve this challenge to a greater extent than their competitors. There are numerous consultants around to attest to the fact that this is a ‘market’ in itself, and these people are most likely the ones that will take most issue with my core message as they need to ensure their endeavours are seen as legitimate.

I am not suggesting that creating a viable, vibrant culture is impossible, or that it should not be pursued. I am only claiming that it is extremely hard, takes a long time, and never succeeds fully. And of course, that ever-increasing HR Departments is not the answer.

Small business owner should not be despondent thinking that it is only in their business that these ‘people issues’ persist. Employee engagement is necessary and important. Building strong cultural values is a crucial building block in creating a sustainable success. It is just that there are no silver bullets.


 

PART 5: THE PROBLEM WITH PROCESS

Let’s say there is a real, existing market demand. Let’s say you have a proposition that satisfied that need and you are equipped and motivated to execute on it. Let’s even say that you used to rely on your geographical differentiation to offer your value proposition, and have chosen to craft a new proposition that seems to be working.

Now, the rubber hits the road: you need to get people to do the stuff necessary to get you where you want to be.

THIS is the real grind. The hiring and firing. The training and the support. The discipline and the empathy. Walking the fine line between having people doing the work and delivering the service, and being able to afford having people to do that. Walking the fine line between trust and naivety, between being in charge and being part of a team. Balancing empowerment and motivation, punishment and reward.

There is no ‘one way’ of doing things, just better and worse. There are no answers, just options. It is lonely, even if you are not alone. Doubt is an ever-present companion. Even if you are successful, you may feel luck has had a big part to play.

The closest thing to an actual statement of truth you can get to is this:

you do the best you can with what you’ve got, where you are.

There are better (and worse) ways of running a business. There are ways that are proven to be positively correlated with successful, growing enterprises.

When you put together people & resources to perform a series of tasks that is aimed at an objective of arbitraging a market opportunity, you fail or succeed.

One such sine qua non is systematisation.

By systems, I don’t mean technology, but a holistic approach to organisation. A way of doing business that has been thought through and designed and implemented to achieve as many optimised outcomes as possible.

Having KPIs and getting updated data on them is crucial as it serves as an early warning mechanism. Good metrics inform better decisions, and success is built on making better decisions than chance would permit.

You can only know if you succeed or fail if you know what the indicators are revealing. You can only know what must change and what must be maintained by virtue of hard facts when available.

These indicators must:

-          Monitor the right actions

-          Measure the right Outcomes

-          And do so timeously

There aren’t many people that would argue the benefits for they are clear. Yet, so many small businesses don’t have good systems and are effectively hamstrung in their efforts to scale the business. Small business owners are on a treadmill of being busy with urgent stuff that they fail to attend to the important stuff. Why this is so, is one of the great unsolved mysteries of management. I suspect personality has something to do with it, and of course fear of failure. There is often some justification due to environmental circumstances that prevents full embrace of systematisation – and it is often sufficient to prevent it altogether. (And not to forget the Tax Office and red tape.)

But, it is nothing that can’t be overcome by force of will and some extra effort. And these two aspects are within your control.


 

SUMMARY

Running a business is hard.

Running a successful business is harder.

Running a struggling business is hardest.

Failure is a complex beast to deal with; more like five thousand shades of grey than fifty.

When a business struggles, there are rarely one cause, and there is almost never a silver bullet.

Consultants make a living telling what THE problem is and that they have THE solution.  That just happens to be the business model of having a hammer and looking for nails.

What this paper proposes, is that you look long and hard and the fundamentals – those elements of the business that are often assumed, and usually ignored. Check and test those assumptions to assess the fundamental viability of the business concept before seeking to find and fix any faults. No amount of engine tuning will make a car with square wheels go faster.

Then, having ascertained fundamental viability, there are three key areas that should be considered. It is not the only aspects of running a business to address, but the Pareto principle applies – these three focus areas will give you outsize returns in terms of turning a struggling business around, or indeed setting up a for success.

THE BIRTH OF YEAR ONE SOLUTIONS

For the last decade in Australia (and another five or more years before that in South Africa) Moonyeen and I have been running a consulting business. We have usually focussed on retail/shopping centres because that is the domain we know best, and our ‘solutions’ at Ganador has always been centred on people – engagement, skills training, culture change etc. I like to think our POD was that we did it with due recognition that our solution was only part of the bigger picture and we usually insisted that other aspects be considered and be implemented as part of a more holistic approach.

Despite building a viable business with a list of Blue Chip clients, we have never been satisfied with the quality OR quantity of the change we effected in the organisation – even if our clients were.

Eventually, we decided to give away the consulting game, and to focus on Year One Solutions. We are still tweaking our own proposition, but we went back to basics and decided we needed to go and be hands-on retailers first and to sharpen our own skills and experience the reality of retail in 2018.

A simple scan of social media will confirm that it is filled by people pretending to be consultants when in fact they are filling time between jobs, and simply adept at re-hashing ideas from other consultants and all sprouting the same non-sense; and worse, re-cycling those ideas years after they had been first mooted. (I saw a presentation that sprouts - in March 2018 -  the hot idea that ‘Technology gives people control’, and that the answer is ‘more innovation’. That is a WOW insight, right?)

Eventually I just couldn’t do it anymore.

So, we went back into retail and we are sharpening our saws.

Year One Solutions will offer a service to NEW hospitality retailers (cafes/restaurants etc) a way of avoiding the franchise trap. Many aspiring business owners lack the ability and the confidence to open up a shop and spend big dollars buying into franchise system to acquire the skills and systems and support.

That is a smart move on their part. There is just one problem; they must pay for that for the rest of the trading life of that business, when in reality they need those services for a few months – maybe a year – before they have learned what they are going to learn, and created the business. The basic value proposition of a franchise system is unbalanced. The most recent saga with Retail Food Group is a clear case in point.

That is not the only problem, but it is one of the biggest.

Year One Solutions (Y1S) will address this by acting as business setup advisor service during the first year of trading. We help hospitality entrepreneurs bring their idea to life, create the brand they want, and a retail proposition that has a high probability of success – with the right skills training and the right systems in place like they would get with any franchise system.

The difference is that they don’t buy in to an existing franchise, but will create their own business that is operationally equivalent to a good franchise, and with support and the training to mitigate the risks of failure.

All of this at a fraction of the cost of buying in to a franchise, and with no ongoing fees and no ongoing obligations. The entrepreneur will choose the aspects they need help with  - everything from ideation though to site selection, concept formulation, branding, systematisation, recruitment, leasing, technology set up etc. (We don’t offer finance or financial planning advice, and don’t sell any add-on services like insurance etc.)

Y1S is not a consulting service. We will offer concrete outcomes, communicate best practice and equip you to run a successful business. Our support and tools will not be based on theory, but a deep knowledge of retail that comes from not only studying it for thirty years, but by doing it today.

Hospitality entrepreneurs will get the best of both worlds; the minimal risk of a franchise system, but at a fraction of the cost.

Right now, we are still fine-tuning our own ‘retail laboratory’ – and we have plenty to do. (It will never be ‘done’.) We haven’t even started the marketing yet; and we are already +15% on what was already a successful business.

Funny story on the side: Our own advice as consultants (previously) was that you should never buy a successful business, because there is limited/no upside – only risk that you don’t it as well as the previous guy. We did not follow our own advice, and did exactly the opposite. In the process we made mistakes, and there are definitely things I’d do differently, but all up we are happy with our little ‘laboratory’.

So, some five thousand words later, this is the final observation/request: we know retail inside out, upside down. We are not consultants, but we will show you how it is done. If you were thinking of doing it, or know someone who does (and does not deserve to waste their money or fail miserably) then we’d be prepared to help.

We can afford to be picky, so we have no intention of working people who have crap ideas or crap attitudes, because I don’t need that in my life, and I don’t have to do it for money. But I would love to work with people who deserve success, are willing and able to learn, and are prepared to do the hard work to get there. If you want help me help them, you know what to do.

If you have read this far, you deserve a medal. I don’t have any of those, so you can have free copy of The Beat of the Mall.