What Big Businesses Can Learn from Small Businesses
I think about business—and business models and how to grow a business—before dawn every day.
The dog and I are out in all weather every morning at 5, and the action—and inaction—on the streets of South Philly is fascinating—small businesses showing the best American tradition of entrepreneurship.
Every place of business that I come in contact with—or see from the street—is a source for new ideas.
On the corner of Third and South streets is a Starbucks, which moved in when a rather disreputable, grungy pizza place moved out. The facilities are always clean and neat and in the very early morning you will see young associates—attired in green aprons and caps—scurrying around getting ready to open at 5:30 a.m. Customers throughout the day know that the coffee and pastries will be fresh and delicious. Starbucks is projected to have more than 14,000 stores worldwide by the end of this year. Maintaining absolute top quality—brand excellence—everywhere in the world is one of the toughest business challenges. Some places don’t live up to the standard. Just this past week the Chicago Tribune reported that the Windy City Department of Health shuttered the local Macy’s food court for violations that included an infestation of fruit flies. Talk about embarrassment!
Our walk takes us past Chef’s Market, a retail gourmet food store that came within a whisker of leaving the neighborhood when the rent went up, but decided to stay, because its catering business is so profitable. Not only does it cater office and private parties, Chef’s Market is also one of the few recognized purveyors of in-flight gourmet fare. The catering kitchen, just below street level, has a huge plate class window where passers-by can watch foods being prepared by a hard-working staff in pristine surroundings. In the pre-dawn hours, frequently four or five white delivery vans are parked curbside waiting to deliver the goodies to the gleaming private jets at Philadelphia International, Trenton Mercer, New Castle and Philadelphia Northeast Airports. A world-class operation with an interesting Web site—fabulous menu, but no prices listed. When 19th century financier J. P. Morgan was asked how much it cost to run his yacht, Corsair, he replied: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”