We ate out a couple of times over Christmas – and I started asking myself some questions. Not the obvious ones: ‘Why does what your wife ordered always look so much better than what you ordered?’ And ‘Wasn’t it wonderfully cheap when both the boys were on the Happy Kidz Menu?’
No – a rather more important question, at least as far as business is concerned.
Why do I pay the same price for my meal on a Tuesday night as I do on a Saturday night?
We can go to a restaurant on a Tuesday night. It’s quiet, no problem booking a table, eat when you want to eat, all very civilised…
But when I ring up to book for Saturday night it’s a different story. “How many for? Two?” (That’s ‘two’ as in, ‘is that the best you can do?’) “Well maybe we could squeeze you in. We’ve a table at six or we’ve one at ten-thirty…”
Both of which are, of course, entirely unacceptable.
You drive past the restaurant a little later. Yep, fully booked. In fact they’re queuing out of the door. But inside people are still paying the same price for their chicken stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon as you paid on Tuesday.
Why? Whatever happened to the simple laws of supply and demand? Why on earth should a meal cost the same on a Tuesday – when demand is moderate – as it does on a Saturday, when demand is spilling over on to the pavement?
Because it’s unthinkable. “I came here on Tuesday and my steak was £15 and now you’re telling me it’s £20 but next Tuesday it’ll be £15 again?? Are you insane?”
Yes, of course the restaurant owner is insane. How can you possibly run a business that way? Except that some American restaurants are running their businesses that way, and they’re doing it successfully.
As I wrote in one of the last blog posts of 2013, what was once unthinkable – my entire music collection in my pocket – has now become commonplace. That trend is only going to accelerate in the coming year.
So may I once again commend to you a business practice that is traditionally held to be unthinkable, but which is nearly always profitable; not as painful as you thought it was going to be and which will definitely have you saying, ‘why didn’t I do that ages ago?’
Sack some of your clients/customers.
It’s a well worn cliché that 20% of your clients will account for 80% of your business. That doesn’t mean though that you can simply get rid of the remaining 4/5ths of your client bank – not least because some of them are going to be in your top 20% next year. But buried in the 80% will be clients who cause you grief: who don’t pay on time: who make unreasonable demands: who simply don’t bring any joy into your life. And so on…
I think 2014 represents a major opportunity for all of us. There are clear signs that the economy is recovering and the evidence – both analytical and anecdotal – points to a year where significant growth is possible. But you can’t do that if you’re wasting a lot of your time dealing with unprofitable clients – or profitable clients who simply suck the life out of you.
So January could be the month for some early spring cleaning and pruning. It’s not just you that needs to be leaner after Christmas; it’s your client bank as well. Think the unthinkable and sack some of the previously unsackable. And then treat yourself to a good meal to celebrate.
On a Tuesday night, obviously…