Monday, February 28, 2011

Think Twice. We really are different.

I clicked Seth's Blog today, just for a change of pace.

Once again, I find him insightful and interesting. But....

There's something off-putting about him. A little too glib, somehow. A little too certain of himself. A little too much guru all-knowingness.

I suppose I ought to just read it and take away what I can, seems too canned. (Of course, he probably has millions of readers....)

Anyway, he has an entry about the "right"size for a business:

"A local mom and pop store is just the right size for mom and for pop. The rent is low enough for the two of them to cover it. It's stable. They can't afford a $200,000 a year CFO. It wouldn't be a stable situation. This is backwards but here you go: businesses that exist exist because the marketplace allows them to function at the right size."

This is almost exactly what I've said in the past here. He goes on with some other very valid observations.

The only thing he leaves out, is that sometimes there is a proper size for a business -- in a specific community.

I speak of Bend, because that's what I know, but I suspect it's true everywhere.

What I notice most often in Bend is that people seem to build a little too big for us.

How can that be?

I think they probably do enough research to average out the size of a business for per capita. Or perhaps, they come from a town they perceive to be the same size as Bend, and decide we need the same sort of thing.

I've mentioned the problem of treating Bend Urban Area as the same as same sized Urban Area's elsewhere; the strange demographics, the lack of a four year college, the lack of an interstate, the lack of major industry and so on. But mostly, we are isolated, and we lack the proximity of other Urban Areas, or even moderately sized towns within an hour or so driving distance.

But I think it's more than that.

I was recently reading about the expansion of the Comic Book Shop stores in Spokane, Washington. Both stores are bigger than mine, one considerably bigger.

When I Google Spokane, I find that they have a 470K urban population, versus our 150K population. I couldn't tell if there were other comic shops, but let's say there is another one.

So: divide 470K by three, and it averages out to the same population as Bend, so maybe I should have a bigger shop!

Except: Shops aren't equal. One shop in a 470K area might draw 50% of the available customers; a second shop may draw another 35%; and the third shop may draw only 15%.

Whereas, 150k is 150k and no matter how good a job I do, that's all I can draw on. There is a numerical glass ceiling. (Oh, I could try to break it by drawing tourists, which I do, and by going online, which I don't.)

But there is also a town across the river from Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and if you add the two together you get 600K population. So even if you add in another shop, the draw is that much bigger if you do a good job.

I suspect there are very, very few Urban Areas in the U.S.A. that don't have similar situations. Either just down the interstate, or maybe mid-sized towns just across the river, something like that.

So if you come to Bend, and think we need a store just as big as that town you just came from that was the same population or maybe even smaller -- think twice.


Anonymous said...

How you can stand to look at Seth's blog, I cannot understand...

Duncan McGeary said...

Really? What do you think of it?

H. Bruce Miller said...

I had never heard of Seth's blog before. I just read the first few posts on it. He has a smug tone that can be a little irritating.

Duncan McGeary said...

No seriously.

I'm curious about your statement. What does Seth do that bugs you?

Anonymous said...

seth is boring, but I guess that's where dunc goes when he wants to bore his readers, ...
bob dylan would never admit where he got his material, now dunc has showed his bore-card.

Duncan McGeary said...

Well -- I don't get my material from Seth's --

--but...I have a feeling he gets his material....somewhere....

No one has that many insights and or observations, do I say it....

....skimming the internet?

Does he had a crew who seeks out concepts? Just wondering....

Anonymous said...

"How you can stand to look at Seth's blog, I cannot understand..."

That was based on a gut reaction. He reminds me of this business "advice" person:

They are 100% marketing, especially when they are pretending not to be.