Just this past Friday was the last Friday of the month, which meant I was working Flashback Friday at the Theater. The movie featured was A Fish Called Wanda. I had never heard of this movie before so I expected a very low attendance but was pleasantly surprised when more and more people were walking through the door to purchase tickets.
A couple that are regulars to the theater came as well. We all know them fairly well because as business owners themselves they would often sponsor our special movies. After the movie I struck up a conversation with them and learned that their restaurant business had closed after just two months. Following some investigation, I think I know why.
1. Poor Planning (or none at all)
Business is a game of chess, and chess is all about forward thinking and strategy. Unfortunate for them they had neither.
From my understanding, they poured far more time and money into renovating the building than they had originally planned. They underestimated- which in these kinds of projects can be fatal for investment. It seemed that they hoped renovation would take just a few months and they would be open for business soon thereafter. Renovating the building actually took them a year if not more and opening took place between January and February, which in the midwest is a poor time for business. Road conditions are dreadful and couple that with the amount of effort it takes to go anywhere in the cold people just don’t want to go out to eat.
It also sounded like they were careless with their money. In my conversation with them, I was told of their odyssey to hang a neon sign outside their building. They wanted the sign, the city didn’t, and the business owners saw that the only solution was to sue them. The battle cost $17,000, but they won. At the cost of $17,000 worth of potential operations coverage which would likely have had them in operation for at least another 4 months.
2. Bad Reputation *Taylor Swift sings in the distance*
I’m always surprised by the amount of strong feelings and opinions expressed by the public whenever a business closes and this one was no exception. Many people were glad they were closing, taking to Facebook to vocalize their thoughts. As someone who works in customer service I was horrified by some of the things I read.
I read stories of people being turned away during business hours for absurd reasons. “Now’s not a good time”, was one reason that a customer said that she was turned away during a regular weekday lunch hour. Another customer reported that the owner would often yell at his employees in front of customers. Talk about an awkward situation.
3. They owned it, but wouldn’t own up
When you don’t have skin in the game you don’t feel like you have much to lose- because you don’t. In other words, if your own investment isn’t at stake where’s the incentive to succeed? Of course as with many things there are exceptions to this.
Sure they invested time, and effort, but they knew that they weren’t going to lose any of their own money if they failed, because they used parent’s money. Their retirement fund to be more exact. In our conversation, the way the gentleman talked about his handling of money subtly told me that he didn’t care about the money as if it were his own. I don’t believe that this would have been the case if he had used money they had worked egregiously to save, had investors in their startup, or if they had received a loan.
Aside from that, it seemed in every explanation of why the business failed there was always someone else to blame for it’s demise. Their competitor around the corner hired a chef that they had planned on hiring and gave him a boost in pay to incentivize him to never work for their business as a second job. Their employees were “unmanageable” and due to one employee’s actions they were supposedly forced to shut down early without advance notice to the rest of their staff. The employees learned of the business’ closing through Facebook.
Overall, I believe that this couple simply fell victim to the saying “If we serve it, they will come.” Success is so much more than that. It’s meticulous planning, it’s dedication, it’s having people skills, adaptability, and a willingness to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.