This one has been on my mind for a while – I’m not quite sure about it [Are you allowed to say that in a blog? Surely you should present absolute certainty! Ed]. It’s certainly the business/economic koan for the C21st. What do you think?
Marsh Ruby is a great cafe/restaurant in Lower Marsh near Waterloo station in London. They do:
Fresh & healthy, home cooked Indian food. Served fast!
… so they have sussed out the need for a “tweetable” encapsulation of their product/service 🙂 And it is really fresh and un-oily and unlike almost all Indian food in this country. People like it who “don’t like Indian food”.
So what is the relevance to this post?
Well they have been there for years. Very similar and short menu every weekday lunchtime (not open any other time). Occasionally they repaint the small interior. More recently they started adding cute little hand-written messages on the walls (along with some cool pictures). Very popular and very busy.
So what would the archetypal (20thC?) advice be? Well “grow!”. Open more restaurants! Become like Jamie’s. Get a profile, get some PR, get media placement. Etc. Etc.
Growth has been the dominant paradigm in the west since the 60s [before then it was more cycles of creation and destruction due to millenia of warfare with occasionally technological leaps]. Even in the 1980s the stock market still had a real concept of “value stocks” which were never expected to grow but which “just” (ha!) paid a healthy dividend. But as we can all see we are running out of planet. We are running out of hours in the day to do yet more things. Growth has become a greed-fuelled, fear-driven engine of madness destroying the planet and our lives.
For most of history Ruby Marsh would be a typical business. Proprietor-run, family business, doing it’s thing and making enough money for the family to live on. And hey why would one need more than that?
Here is a story which is well-known. It’s good to remember at this time of year as we head towards a New Year.
How much does this parable echo some/much/all of what is going on in your life?
An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.
“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.
“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”
“But what then, senor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”
The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”