Small Businesses Destined for Failure

by Mr. Cheap

Confucius says “Man without smiling face should not open store”

When I lived at Bathurst and St. Clair, in Toronto years ago, there was a steady stream of new businesses opening and closing.  It was great for me, as I loved to try new restaurants, but it got to the point where I could tell when a small restaurant or independent retail store was going to fail.  I wish there was some way to make money off of betting on a small company’s failure, but I was never able to think of a way to do so.

The common factor in the businesses destined to fail was that the owners were pretty sour.  One Turkish restaurant opened up and I ate there once or twice a week for months.  Every time I came in, one of the family members would take my order stone faced while other family members gave me malevolent looks.  The food was decent, and they did it to everyone so I didn’t take it personally, but I couldn’t understand how they expected to build a business treating customers that way.

Another family tried to open a Dollar-store style liquidation store.  Similarly, they’d act like they were doing people a favour selling cheap junk.  They used to always post misleading signs (like “1/2 price off everything”, and when you got to the cash it turns out whatever you were buying wasn’t part of “everything”).

In both cases I’m sure the families lost a ton of money on their business ventures, and probably console themselves with the old chestnut “most businesses fail in the first 5 years” (which apparently isn’t true).  I feel bad for anyone who fails at starting a business (I think it’s great when people try to start a business), but I really think they could have had a much higher chance at success if they’d been nice to their customers (it’s a wild and crazy concept, I agree).

This is fairly widespread, when I moved to Pape and Danforth I tried out a new Caribbean restaurant that was opening right as I moved in.  I ordered a meal, paid, and when he brought it out there wasn’t any coleslaw (which was listed on the menu).  I asked if I could have some coleslaw, and the guy (who I *think* was the owner) told me “Sorry, we’re all out.  I’ll get you next time!”.  There wasn’t a next time.  If you’re going to list something on your menu, charge full price then not give the person part of their meal, you aren’t going to get repeat business from Mr. Cheap.  I haven’t checked since I moved away, but I’m sure he’s shut down by now.

It’s painful to admit as a techie, but businesses need to be sales driven, especially at the beginning.  It’s crazy to do your initial marketing, have people from the neighbourhood coming into your store out of curiosity, then treating them badly and making sure they don’t come back.

Some people might object to forced friendliness to all their customers and say “I’m opening a business to be my *OWN* boss, not to suck up to everyone who walks through my door!”  If this is someone’s attitidue (viewing being friendly as “sucking up”) they definitely shouldn’t try to run a restaurant or retail business (and should probably have someone else deal with customers if they open another type of business).

Be Sociable, Share!