I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
The Parable of the Bar Owner
There once was a man who owned a large chain of bars – he was a demanding man, aggressive, ambitious and successful in all he did. One day a new land was discovered – full of people who had never even heard of alcohol, let alone tasted it. Sensing opportunity, the bar owner travelled to the new land with his team.
After some time of surveying the land, the bar owner knew that here was the biggest opportunity of his life, but having business to tend to at home, he gathered his team and charged them, “This is the biggest opportunity of our lives, I am leaving you with my resources and my instruction and I say to you – when I return to this land – may everyone be an alcoholic! And everyone drinking at our bars! I leave it with you.”
The team cheered, and as they waved the boss goodbye they began to plot amongst themselves how they would succeed. “I will open a wine bar,” piped up one, “it will be trendy, with sharp white wines and good music.” “I will offer only vintage wine,” said another, “vintage years in traditional settings.” “I too will do something different,” struck up a third “I will offer the cheapest plonk I can, in cardboard cartons – that will draw the masses.” The others chimed in one after the other, each with their distinct style of wine to bring to the crowds.
As the time passed, many of the natives indeed succumbed to the new intoxication that was on offer. Each of the team’s chains pulled in their own clientele, natives moved from style to style but never strayed too far from their favourite – usually the kind they were first introduced to. However, much of the population remained frustratingly indifferent to the wine craze.
Indeed, after some time, it was obvious to anyone who was brave enough to see, that the wine business had hit something of a saturation point. Occasionally one of the team would celebrate a new customer, or even a new franchise opening, but more often than not this was simply attracting customers from one of the other members of the team.
The years went by and the average age of the clientele rose. The team obviously made a big push for the children – everybody knew they were the future of the business, but all too often they grew out of love with the wine that had been watered down for them by the end of their teenage years.
A couple of times one of the team members came out with what they claimed was a brand new type of wine, and indeed it did win a few clients, but the march of the other businesses in the land was aggressive and it was a struggle for the master’s chain to simply hold its ground in the market place. Not many of the team seemed unduly concerned – they were busy running their chains, they had done their best, and the owner seemed something of a distant memory.
Just when they least expected, the owner returned. His business at home had been successful and he was looking forward to hearing news of his business triumph in another land. When he surveyed the scene, and saw the figures, he was bitterly disappointed by the news. He called a team meeting, “What have you done? Not even half the natives are alcoholics!? What went wrong?”
The team members explained their various strategies, how they had indeed done their best, and how distinctive their particular approach to wine was.
Struggling to control his temper, the boss responded, “The mission was to make the land alcoholics, not wine connoisseurs. Wine is great, but what about beer? How the men of this land would have lapped that up! What about spirits – the thousands of kinds of spirits? How many chains could we have opened with those? What about the Alco-pops? No wonder we’re missing a generation here! Few new clients to speak of, an ageing customer base, and increasingly fussy consumers. What have we done? This land was to have been ours.
“Wine is great,” he exclaimed, “but alcohol is so much bigger than just wine!”