I Witnessed A Death…
And have to talk about it.
And OK – it was the death of a very successful local business, and my subject line is too “click-baity” I realize, but this blog is very timely and interesting, I promise.
The business was the local Italian restaurant that I have been visiting frequently for over 25 years.
It was the classic family-style Italian place that you find in almost every neighborhood in America – huge portions; lots of free bread; Dean Martin, Tony Bennet and Frank Sinatra continuously playing in the background; friendly staff; photos of Italian landmarks and people on the walls; low lighting, no windows, and gallons of chianti flowing with every meal. And – I LOVED IT!
So – what happened?
- Competition. A competitor moved into a nearby strip mall and took many of the customers over the years – with innovations and an approach to business that the closed restaurant missed.
- Changing Demographics. When I moved into the neighborhood, the average house was about $300,000 and it now approaches $2 million. The people moving into the area now are much wealthier, much younger, more demanding, and more Instagram conscious. 😊 The closed restaurant probably needed to build a fancy bar and update décor like the more successful competitor did.
- Friendly Engagement. This is a dead horse I beat often but it cannot be overstated. The successful competitor was owned by a man who acted like the best friend of everyone who showed up. He was also very active in the local community, and everyone knew him. The owners of the closed place barely noticed their “regulars” and were not present in the local community. And, as business slowed, the lack of friendly engagement got worse and worse; towards the end, the staff often seemed resentful for even having to be there.
- Best Practice Consultants Came In. These guys have probably caused more “business deaths” than anyone else, and it was obvious when they showed up. Portions shrank; the unlimited bread stopped; and drink and food specials were pushed very aggressively – eliminating about 90% of the “charm” the restaurant used to have. Everything became too business-like, too stiff, too canned – and even less friendly.
- The Kids Took Over. This is the “biggie” and the most important point in this blog. I knew the kids and they were hard-working and great, but they lacked the “founder’s pride” and zealousness that their parents had. So, even though the kids were putting in 60-hour weeks, they were simply not as attentive as their parents, and everything slowly but surely started to slide. The food quality was less consistent, small messes and clutter started to stack up in corners, deferred maintenance became prevalent, the staff was less friendly, and service started to wane. This all happened over the course of many years, and probably went unnoticed by most everyone – with the exception of a few over-observant regulars who had been visiting for 25 years (and it was clear as a bell to us 😊).
This was just a great reminder to me of the importance of maintaining that “founder’s pride” in every aspect of JVM or any business, for that matter – especially when the competition gets tough (like right now). It is a great reminder too for every reader who is building a team or who might have slacked off a bit when times were booming.
I remember playing sports as a kid and how all the coaches (former NFL players) always insisted on “giving 100%” on every play – even in practice, even when the ball was nowhere near you, and even when you were up by 3 touchdowns. It was exhausting, but necessary. And the Italian restaurant closing is also a reminder that businesses require that same commitment.
Final point: I realize that many readers of this blog are extremely successful and hardly in need of “advice” from me. These blogs, however, are written as much for me and my own team as they are for everyone else. So, we will embrace the advice, and I just hope readers find this interesting.
Founder | JVM Lending
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