Sometimes we overemphasize the theory, analysis, strategy, management, and implementation in small business. I see it all over the place. A business run reasonably well that lasts a while begins to accumulate a certain value over time, an economic power beyond the straight numbers.
I noticed this a few years ago with my wife’s sister and her hardware store in Mexico City. She didn’t develop strategy, she didn’t analyze the business, she found an available retail space for rent, she rented it, she bought a bunch of screws and nails and wire and small tools — financed from savings — and she spent a lot of time in the store watching things and talking to customers. She smiled, she gave change, she honed the inventory, she kept business hours, and she made money. After a year or so she hired a person or two to help her keep it open enough hours. And a couple of years after that she was able to spend a couple months in the United States, while the money kept coming in.
Of course this isn’t the glamorous business startup we dream about, or write about in blogs like mine. Business schools don’t talk about it or study it, it’s like the dull side of business. Still, she had a machine going and it had enough flywheel power to keep going, and generate a decent income, even when she left it for a while.
I had a friend who used to say “90% of success is just showing up.” This is a lot like that. Buy the stuff, put it on the shelves, price it fairly, and stay open on a reliable schedule. Give people value.
Obviously there’s a limit to that leaving idea, that is to say, leaving the business alone for a while. You have to know and trust the employees, but that relationship is one you can earn over time. The small business owner works hard and is, for the most part, a slave to the business; but then there is that accumulated value, accumulated income power, of the established local business with a place in the market and customers who make it part of their regular lives.
That is what I call “the slogging it out theory of business value.”