How is Your Business Model Working?

Fulcrum Associates - Leadership Training and Development, Team BuildingTo celebrate our 27th anniversary, Linda and I took a two night trip out of town. For the “big dinner” we chose a restaurant attached to an historic country inn that was built way back in 1797. The facility was a terrific piece of the past (as in stepping back into it), a perfect atmosphere for our meal.

We arrived without reservations. The greeter–who turned out to be both the inn owner and our server–advised us that a server had failed to show up and hence the food would be a bit slower than usual. But, she assured us, “we’ll take good care of you.” The restaurant was maybe one third full.

She seated us at a corner table, explained the menu and its “colonial” specialties, and took our drink orders. Fifteen minutes later she came back for our food order, including their specialty, Spoon Bread, which we were informed took about 20 minutes and would come out when it was ready. We barely saw her for the next hour, at which time (the 75 minute mark) the Spoon Bread dish arrived and we downed it, by this time famished. It was both intriguing and tasty.

At the 110 minute mark I had to track her down to insist upon delivery of our meal. With profuse, repeated apologies, she delivered it twenty minutes later. The potatoes were overcooked, the turkey bland, the pork loin passable. The green beans were superb. The peanut soup, another inn specialty we had ordered, never came.

There were only the owner and one other server, running everywhere. We were not the only ones who waited a very long time for their meals. At bill paying time we experienced a good deal of tension as we expressed our strong disappointment with the service. She shared with us a litany of problems about how hard it is to find and keep good help.

I suggested that if this was true for the area’s labor supply, maybe her business model wasn’t working. Here was a woman who was stressing herself into the ground trying to offer a premium dining experience without the ability to hire the quality, reliable staff needed to make it a success.

Wearing the lens of one of her customers, I’m sorry for her but it’s not my problem. Yet, it got me thinking about the times during our twenty four years of running this training and facilitation business we have spun our wheels operating the same way as in the past but no longer getting the results we needed.

Two particular times come to mind:

  1. Around the year 2000 revenue was dropping and only a few of our offerings were in demand. We shed most of the programs and services we offered (i.e. just about every type of workshop and topic you could imagine) and concentrated on building our brand around two areas that most affected our expertise: leadership development and team building.
  2. In 2009, at the nadir of the recession, nothing we did to maintain and grow our business seemed to be working any more, despite our solid reputation. We hired a marketer we couldn’t afford, build new robustness into Fulcrum’s website, started a leadership blog and newsletter (this one), grew a newsletter list, established a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, and goal-set for my first book.

When our business model was no longer working, we had to restructure and invest in the enterprise. It was painful (letting go of programs we loved in 2000) and risky (home equity loan in 2009) but, since we wanted to succeed, it had to be done.

It may be that the inn owner doesn’t have the cash to make the investment needed to turn her inn and dining room around. Maybe she is too immersed in just keeping her enterprise going to realize the reality she faces. I don’t know. All I can do is share with you her reply to my comment about her business model:

“May I remind you that this inn has been operating successfully since 1797!”

Ian CookBest wishes,

Ian Cook


Terra Nova In the Spotlight this Month

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Ian Cook, MILR, CSP, is a presenter, facilitator and executive coach. He works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: Ian Cook.