In a world saturated with scale, mass, multiples and sameness, the joy of finding a crafted, boutique, amazing business is like discovering a lost treasure. Our soul comes alive when we find extraordinary, exceptional, cared for, that food, design, events, coffee, customer service.

In my local town we have a wonderful coffee house. It was created because the owner wanted the best coffee. I am  a regular visitor to one of the establishments. But the cracks have started to show in the business. What I call little atrocities. And it always start small, with one little seemingly unimportant compromise.

They used to serve wonderful homemade muffins. They disappeared, despite the regulars complaining. It was too hard to get them from the place of making to the place of sale. (Or not cost effective. What many businesses do not take into account is the all-in-cost….when we see business costs and income through the single lens of money we are never going to create artisan business. The muffins created story, they created ritual, they made this a great coffee place. People came for the muffins as well as the coffee.)

Then they introduced a few other food items, all delicious. And even worse, put the menu on the wall for all to see. Problem is that you can no longer buy these food items. The barista’s have to tell many customers each day some story about how they do not have these items. As a consequence, the barista’s start to feel less inspired. As front line representatives of the company, they cannot keep the promise the business has made by offering the items on the wall. So the barista’s are not happy, and they leave. They lose their confidence in the excellence of the company and what it stands for, and they feel somewhat humiliated in their ability to provide the service offered but not able to be delivered.

One of the coffee offerings went from being highly crafted to not so highly crafted.

And on it goes.

Now this may not be a problem if this company is interested in being average and going to scale. Or, in other words, if this company wants to be the same as all the other coffee houses in town. Where cutting corners will do. Or maybe they want to have good coffee and be average at other things. But it actually doesn’t work like that. Start cutting corners in one domain and it is a slippery slope to cutting corners in all domains.

But if they want to stay true to their original ethos, the core intent they started with, if they continue on this path they are doomed to ordinariness.

The signs are always there. Unhappy staff, not keeping promises. (Putting an item on the menu and never having it is not keeping a promise.)

It breaks my heart. Something that holds the seeds of being great, moving ever closer to mediocre. Yet I see it time and again.

It’s like giving up just before you reach the peak.

Excellence is not a toy, it is commitment and a way of being. It is a very high task master. Which is why few businesses have it be a core value.

On the other hand you have companies like Misfit Inc, and AJ and Melissa Leon. The reason these Misfits have built a global tribe and audience so quickly is because they are unwilling to compromise. On anything. They are living breathing examples of commitment to excellence with no exception. They inspire me each day to do better, be better, offer better, raise my own standards. And in the process, we get to delight. And we are delighted.

The world is parched for delight.

What are you building, a business of delight or a mediocre business? Choose one or the other, because you cannot have both.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License Osamu Kaneko via Compfight





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