Who Really Cares That This Business Has Now Closed?


I live in Brighton on the South coast of England. In December last year a new café was opened by a husband and wife team. The UK was just emerging from recession and the last thing that Brighton really needed was another café. I remember dropping by during the opening weeks and talking to the owners. This café was on the way to my favourite café, and I was curious to know more about their future plans.

What struck me about the conversation with these enthusiastic new business owners was that in focusing on getting the business open, they had neglected to really think about its core purpose, why the business was needed, and the difference it was going to make to Brighton residents. It served pretty good coffee, but I knew cafes that did better; the ambience was pleasant, but I knew better. Whichever way you looked at this business it was just ok; it was mediocre, and mediocre is a very dangerous thing to be in a world of abundant choice. ‘What are you going to lead on?‘, I remember asking the owner. I was trying to subtlety probe into what the café was going to eventually be famous for. It was a very important question that he did not really understand.

Four months later and the café has now closed. I feel sorry for the owners because I know what failure feels like when a project does not fly.

So what can we learn? Well, if you’re in the health and fitness club business and think that it’s all about the ‘tangible’ experience (the great swimming pool, the 200 pieces of fitness equipment, the tennis courts), then think again. These matter, but they will not determine whether the business becomes extraordinary. Perhaps, these things should just be viewed as props; it’s the magic that the club weaves with those props that really matters.