Sven and Svetlana have just opened a brand new coffee shop in the heart of the city. Months in the making, they’ve planned until their eyes have popped, they’ve double checked and treble checked the sub-clauses in their contracts and have finally opened an exquisite new unit, complete with stylish graphics, a cool interior and polished pine furniture to boot. They’ve also opened up 50m down the road from a Starbucks, with all its steam, froth and logo force bludgeoning customers off the pavement and into the darker recesses of their deep emporium.
The odds against Sven and Svetlana succeeding are surely massive. People are sucked through the doors at Starbucks whereas Sven and Svetlana look forlornly out of their newly painted shop front, at the trickle of people who find their cafe more by accident than design. They’re unable to compete with the 93 varieties of coffee, the 17 additional flavours, the 36 toppings and the consequent 56,916 permutations which the Starbucks industrial plant teases its customers with.
So faced with the heavy load of the articulated truck that is the chain coffee shop, why doesn’t the small time operator just get out of the road and save their skin, bank balance and reputations?
The answer to this partially explains the pleasure of working with new businesses in the first place. The small business owner is necessarily – although not always consciously – a force of opposition to the mainstream; a source of resistance to all that decides that resistance is futile; and they provide a course for action which is based on hope and optimism rather than the grim determination which says might is right, numbers are everything and there is only one monolithic way to live your life.
Whilst the bigger operators fake personalisation by waving the magic mirage mirrors of choice into the eyes of customers, it’s the micro-operator who commits their customers’ names to their memory rather than writing it on the bill. The micro-operator may suffer from cappuccino envy: but they can more than make up for it when it comes to satisfying a customer’s interests head on.