In the midst of the recession, we seem to be doing pretty OK. I mean, lots of stuff happening with the business. [This is where I should say "not sure why"] but not sure why would indicate that we are lucky, and it is not about luck at all. It is because we spend an insurmountable amount of time planting seeds. Everywhere Kevin and I go we plant a seed, tell our story, what we do, how we do it. We have it down pretty good, we tag team our people. Things could always be better,I reckon, but at a time when nobody reaches too deep into their pocket to purchase anything, we are staying on track. We are frugal America now. Is this the way its gonna be? I noticed that sales are down in a lot of retail business, those relying on the disposable dollar spent, restaurants are discounting down to bare bone margins. I saw a hand written scribble on a flip chart touting a $5.00 "any sub" special. It also said, "no questions asked". By the way, how much are those guys paid who stand on the corners with the signs in hand? There seems to be lots of them now.
This is where I get a little concerned. The poor small business owners who are trying their best to stay afloat. They are the ones who truly need to decide when and if they need to toss in the towel or not. Many of them live on the bubble during good times. I spoke with John Daley about this. When is it time to give it up? When is it determined that spending all of your nest egg to try and hang on to your business ain't such a good idea. Why not close the doors and cut your losses? So many people, out of principal keep the business going, reaching deeper and deeper into their pockets to sustain that symbolic red neon sign that says "open"--that which signifies success or failure--this when months ago, during the good times, it should have likely been turned off.
When asked how the Lone Wolf Coffee Company is going I always give the reply that it is going well. Because it is. Our catering is out of control, each day is busier than the prior. We are now planning expansion using a unique licensing concept that can be doled out by means of our current "institutional model" and for others interested in locating the concept within certain co-branding criteria. In other words, we seek to grow in this economy, but not in the traditional "corporate" sense of the word. I say this for a few reasons. First for my family and friends, bankers and constituents who think it is nuts to position a multi-unit brand development as part of our mission, today, in this climate. To the naysayer I say, dude, take a peak at our process. It is not your typical dynamic. The old paradigm (understanding) of they way business works is old school. Our business is different, indexed, dolled out like a hand of cards in multiple markets, indexed, like a mutual fund. We dollar cost average our penetration in the markets, using our commodity, food and the labor who prepares and serves it.
I get asked. "What is your connection to senior living?" You are in the food business aren't you? I say yes, I am in the restaurant business and I do some of my business by contract, and yes, some of my contracts are in senior living. Then I get asked, "but how come you are involved in the seeking out of land and development, how come you are involved in the building of these communities?" It is simple, the more back doors I can create to have my food vendor send food, the more food I can prepare and sell back to the building owner as part of his residents amenity. And living there means rent is collected and rent collected is where my fee comes.
Same thing goes for the private education sector. "How come the schools you are involved in are the most successful?" Because we are part of the team, we work hard to deliver a community outreach by means of the hospitality department. We spend a lot of time giving our clients what they deserve from our abilities; teaching classes, starting programs in Hospitality Management, Business Dining Seminars, Entrepreneurial Studies. There is much more to our "building of the back doors" than anyone knows. It is different, multi-dimensional and prudent. We are specialists in business development, raising money, cause marketing. It is a b-product of our emergence from an idea and a mission.
A balance between retail development, non-commercial multi-market penetration and logistics management is what makes us successful. It is the common work day for us. We have been doing this for 10 years now. I would like to take credit for the understanding of it, but most of my contemporaries have given me the skills; bits and pieces of poor performance through the years helped sharpen our pencil.
So during this down time, when so many are counting the days when the switch gets turned off, we are hiring people to fill the demands of our growth--that which requires a new understanding of performance--that which is re-defining the process by which our clients evaluate the industry leaders.