Blocking and tackling
September 15, 2018
Never attribute to an exciting cause what can be explained by a boring one.— Paul Graham (@paulg) September 1, 2018
I live in an area with a lot of development going on. A few months ago, I noticed two stores were about to open, and wondered which would open first.
One was a bagel shop. They were moving in to a space that used to be a sandwich place, and had to a lot of remodeling. They'd been at it months, the sign was up, but it seemed they just couldn't get it across the finish line.
The other place entered the race about 6 months in—that's a long head start for the bagel shop. It was a chain coffeeshop (Peet's).
Given the six month lead, the smart money was on the bagel shop. I made a one-cup-of-coffee bet on Twitter; surely it was bagel before coffee.
I lost. Peet's has been serving coffee two months, with no end in sight for bagels.
This got me thinking about chains and nailing the basics.
Big companies didn't get big by being incompetent. I've been inside that Peet's numerous times since it opened and every time I'm in there, it's open, the floor is spotless, and they have what I want. It's actually impressive and I've had many chats with the management about how well they run the place. One specific thing they do is a written shift checklist with perhaps 50 items on it, detailing every little thing that has to get done from cleaning the pots to taking out the trash, and whose job that is.
I'm still waiting for the bagel shop to open.
I hear a lot of cockamanie stories explaining how big chains conquered their markets; they usually involve some combination of abusive vendor relationships, labor exploitation, all sorts of borderline conspiracy stuff.
When the reality is, if you just nail the basics—starting with getting the place open—you'll do OK.