Thursday, November 26, 2009

Profit or yield?

Happiness is working in a shop.

If you are wondering whether we are still enjoying what we do, the answer is a resounding yes. Apart from relentless days, weeks, months and years of working without a significant break, the life of a shopkeeper is a happy one with some surprises. It has been a transforming experience in more ways than one. 3 years ago we simply could not see how we could re-enter a working environment due to health issues until we realised that combining our strengths and working with our weaknesses as a family we could make a valid contribution to society. Family businesses are the oldest business model in the world and despite long working hours the rewards go beyond mere profit. Its an opportunity to try ideas, to involve all family members in business discussions and to get a broad view across the generations. It constantly amazes me how when we put a challenging situation on the table, many solutions arrive from all participants and we can then decide how challenges can be solved. If you want to know how to market toys to children, what better way than to take a 10 year old to the wholesaler and let him choose products for that market share. It also provides an educational tool to discuss how businesses work. If you want to understand the challenges faced by teenagers in their shopping habits, you only need to ask to receive an answer. Website design can be discussed with family members who grasp html..

When the going gets tough, we can work together as a team, each with our own individual roles to continue to serve customers. Each team member’s skills are valued and respected and their weaknesses offer opportunities for personal growth through mutual support and encouragement. A sense of humour helps.

What does the future hold in these uncertain and changing economic times? There are definite changes in supply lines as some suppliers go out of business, products are withdrawn and choice reduces but overall it is a never ending process of adaptation. We cannot anticipate completely what our customers want and when we fail , we see it not as failure but as feedback to consider change. We can see some of our suppliers struggling in this economy and we can see how that will affect our supply lines but by supporting local suppliers and by strengthening relationships with local suppliers we aim to create an interdependent local economy.

Someone’s output can become someone else’s input creating a circle of resources. Big businesses tend to rely on surveys and on secondhand information but to us having direct contact with our customers and suppliers informs us on their views on the products we offer which in turn can inform our business strategies.

As an example we recently were approached to market a new local muesli and before we agree to stocking a new item we take it apart and each family member gives some feedback. Is it local, what are the consequences of its packaging, what is the shelf life, where will be put it, what is the best possible price? Each team member has a view and brings some valid points to the discussion.

One of the best comments made by one of our sons was how lovely it was that work could be enjoyed. He had observed how many people are sad, stressed and unhappy at work and how he was not particularly looking forward to becoming a ‘groanup’. Seeing us smile, happy and contented in our work despite our challenges has given him a different perspective. That is simply a fantastic moment to remember and worth getting up for.

That is a bigger investment yield than profit.

1 comment:

ceridwen said...

A very valid comment there from your son - ie "that work can be enjoyed". Personally - I have had enjoyable work on the one hand and I have had paid work on the other hand - but the two have never coincided and I have given up hope by now that they ever will. So - envy you/pleased for you that you have work you enjoy. It seems to be the case at this point in history that many jobs that were, at any rate, bearable till recently no longer are even that. Employers are steadily imposing: health hazards at work (on people who never previously expected it)/antisocial hours working/micro-managing peoples time/cutting salaries in real terms or maybe even physically cutting them - and so a high proportion of extra people have been put in the position that the World of Work has now become unbearable. The "cost" many of us are having to pay to earn that steadily decreasing amount of money is becoming higher and higher - and too high for many of us to "pay" any longer.

So - since you have found "your place" then - enjoy.