Proximity is overrated

Proximity is overrated.

Or rather, proximity to who you think is the market is overrated.

There’s a snack booth in my local park called Paula’s Deli.

I’m sure someone thought it was a good opportunity – a park full of kids, two schools nearby and a fairly affluent Hertfordshire town with a population of around 8,000. The thing is though, I’ve been there in all weathers and in all seasons and I just can’t see a pattern in the opening hours. I was once there on the hottest day of the year during school holidays – the park was full of kids wanting ice cream but the booth was closed.

In contrast there’s a restaurant on the Isle of Skye (population 10,000 spread across it’s 639 square miles) called The Three Chimneys. It’s been there since 1985 and you have to book months in advance to get a table. It has a helicopter pad so guests can fly in for lunch whilst island hopping. Starting a fancy restaurant in the north east (most remote part) of Skye seems like a very bad idea – there’s no one there.

The difference is though that The Three Chimneys have done the work. They’ve excelled from the beginning and people show up. Paula of Paula’s doesn’t excel and I doubt it’ll be there next summer, not under the current ownership anyway.

What works is building a strong culture, delighting customers and having the discipline to keep showing up knowing that your mission is worth it even if ‘your people’ haven’t found you just yet. They will.