For the past many years I have noticed a plethora of new businesses spring up, whilst privy to a number of reports from various sources that we're still in the shadows of recession. Encouraged and curious to see how these new initiatives were faring out, I visited and found these businesses (excluding a negligible percentage of which were pop-up's) had spared no expense. The majority of them, however were running at low capacity, a lean 20 - 30%, which I found shocking given their potential.
Why? Was it a question of small businesses being risk averse? The residual hangover from the recession that hinted cautiousness. Businesses of course don't just want to survive, they want to bring in healthy profits, a return for their hard efforts. So what was going on?
After some research I discovered new businesses were desperate to catch as much of the market share as they could. They were trying to attract all markets without considering what their real offer was, or the target market aligned to it. Businesses believed that they couldn't afford to do less than everything, without realising that they were reducing their market by even trying to, instead of specialising. Offering the same as everyone else may seem to be playing it safe, when really it’s diluting all competing businesses.
Every time I go into a cafe or restaurant or any other services I have to bite my tongue to be quiet. I want to help them see their business from the customer perspective - starting with understanding the wider customer experience and why this is so important. I want to encourage them to shake off the risk and take action to understand their unique space in the market place. But I've encountered the resistance too many times to even attempt anything beyond silence. At the close of my field research, it was clear to me that many small businesses could easily reach 60 -80%, but not without some strategic risk. And perhaps service design to navigate beyond what people say they want to their latent needs (often invisible) but that keep them coming back.