Lead the Slow Charge

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
June 2009 ~
Lead the Slow Charge


6am Double Tall Latte and Grande Drip

If you are a business owner, this recession may be doing you a favor. You may realize it in your head (albeit somewhat begrudgingly), but are you seeing it yet in the faces of your customers as you continue to collect those revenue scraps you are wishing will merge back into cash flow?

Why are they still leaving those scraps for you? Why do they keep returning? And what if it suddenly got crowded and busy for you tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that; would your recession-days faithful keep coming back?

I make a very good café latte

I’ve been thinking about these questions as I watch what’s happening at several of our island businesses and consider the state of Ho‘okipa, their customer service.

Let’s use my local Starbucks as an example, for as ubiquitous as coffee has become in our lives, most of us can relate to it. There used to be three of them within a 15-mile radius of my home, but two became victims of the recession and were recently closed down, theoretically consolidating the business of three into the profits of one.

Theoretically. You see, we customers do have another choice, and that’s to make our own coffee and not patronize that one remaining Starbucks at all.

Starbucks has always been the first to admit that their business is not about the coffee, but about their “third place experience.” Here at the Starbucks remaining in my neighborhood, the struggle to maintain this experience is clearly evident as the line snakes out the door and the stress is glaringly transparent on the faces of the ‘local joint partners and proprietors’ who have become even more efficient technically, but are far less gracious baristas and cashiers-in-training again.

We, the “slow days” customers, miss our local joint partners, and we can tell they miss us too. We’re all still there (new brains in old bodies) ”“ still there for now ”“ but we are losing patience with the transition period, and we are afraid that our “third place experience” might be lost forever.

I use my Krups espresso maker way more than I used to.

Brand this New Day as your Slow Charge

Our habits are changing. I have cautioned you before: Leaders Don’t Wait for Any Cycle. Think of this recession as the shift it is, and not as an “economic downturn which will swing back up if we’re patient.” Get impatient; patience is not a virtue in a recession.

Throw out the cautionary, politically-correct but clueless language before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for you: You don’t want to go back to the way things were, and your customers don’t want you to either. Neither do any of your partners and stakeholders ”“ even if they still think they do.

We, the people of 2009 have come to like being frugal and selective. Being green is being cool. Minimalist living is more mobile, and technology is helping us be more social and less material. The challenge of the day is about how well you can craft your life with
as little as possible, and we are discovering that we like being good
at meeting that challenge.

We are discovering that we like slowing down ”“ and we like it a lot. However nesting is anti-social, and connection is where it’s at. Communication is our Killer App. 

We like making choices which we feel better about, in that they are better for us, better for our communities, and better for our planet.

Aloha the Few, Say Aloha to the Many

So you get that favor I’m talking about, don’t you. The recession is forcing your hand with changing the quality of your business for the better. For the Ho‘okipa experience better.

If you are a still-surviving business owner, your Alaka‘i leadership challenge today and every day going forward is this: How do you lead the “We Like it Slow” charge within your business, and still be profitable?

You love the few and faithful, and smother them with Aloha and Ho‘okipa, and you leave behind the many for good. ‘Aloha the few’ as the value of Aloha, that unconditional love you give with the utmost of grace and sincerity. ‘Say Aloha’ (as in saying goodbye) to the many who might give you short-term dollars, but not long-term profits.

It may sound cold at first, but think about it: If you never see them again, why bother? What does your business feel like to them? Does it feel good enough to return to and stay with? Are you creating cash register jingles or faithful customers?

If my local Starbucks can still pull off their “third place experience” goal despite these new hoards of people crowding their small space, my Krups goes back in the box for good. I’ll still be having my tall café latte, double shot every morning. Chances are, I’ll pull up a chair and have a second one a half-hour or so later. Life’s too short to rush it. I like it slow.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?


Photo credit: 6am Double Tall Latte and Grande Drip by Rosa Say.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful post, Rosa, on two counts at least. First, yes habits are changing and there’s opportunity there, but it’s not likely to wear a big sign. Second, leaders do not wait. That’s what leader is about: not waiting to decide.

  2. says

    Thank you for your visit Wally and right you are: Waiting, wishing, and hoping are lousy strategies in business, and leaders create energy and action instead.

  3. says

    Great post, so encouraging.
    Leaders & Managers should always have “recession” thinking. Be creative (constantly) do it well, do it with quality, and always be sincere. So many corporates lost their “third place” experience so long ago, and the rest, as they say is history.

  4. says

    Thank you Connie. We certainly are being challenged to be creative now, however you also mention something that is timeless – sincerity. We have a mantra in SLC that “warmth trumps quality every time” with customer impressions. Better still, a relationship develops where the quality will be assured too.