Go with your strengths and own your quirky
I have made return visits to a couple of West End icons in the last week. I am talking about West End Coffee House and The Bearded Lady, or
WECH and The Beardo, to those in the know. These are businesses that are known and loved by West End locals and are always busy, and this
week was no exception. The blues gig on Saturday afternoon at the Bearded Lady had a cover charge and was still packed with punters enjoying
the music and spending their hard-earned cash. Similarly, people were queued out the door for lunch at WECH yesterday when the places up
the street were empty. In these tough economic times when customers are cutting their discretionary spend to pay their bills, that is a
real achievement. It made me think; what are they doing so right that they maintain their legendary status in West End year after year
despite an economic downturn?
As always, the answer is most probably product and service. Both of them have found their speciality, are confident and own their niche and
deliver their product in their own unique way. Of course, cash comes into the equation, because if the price is wrong, they would not
survive. But to me, these examples are lessons in how to succeed in small business. If you have locked down and defined your product, and
you can deliver it efficiently day after day in a cost-effective way, your reputation will grow, and you will be a success. Getting to that
point is the hard part.
I meet so many new business owners who have a great idea. The challenge for them is always how to take that idea and turn it into a
profitable business when they have to plan for so many unknowns. And most are doing it without the safety net of a regular income. To me, it
is a lot like being a parent for the first time. You have read all the parenting books, but who knows how your kid is going to pop out.
Will they sleep? Will you be able to leave the house without carrying check-in sized luggage to manage all their needs. And how can you
afford them? There will always be sleepless nights but in both scenarios, success is all about being prepared, organised and flexible.
I think the hardest part when you are starting out in a new venture is defining exactly the kind of business you want to be. I am not
talking about some airy-fairy mission statement, although there are people swear by these. I am talking about a simple sentence that says,
“we do this.” For example, in WECH’s case, it may be “We serve fresh, tasty Thai specialties for lunch in West End.” From this simple
sentence they have defined their product, price, market, hours, and location and can move onto how to make a profit. Of course,
this does not guarantee success, but if you are focussed on the best way to make a profit, it moves you to the front of the pack.
So, my advice is get out there and become an icon in your own neighbourhood. Have a high-quality product, own your quirks, and make an
impression and hopefully the cash will follow. Me? It’s the weekend, so I am off to partake in another of West End icons; the Jungle