For my day job I am fortunate enough to work outside the Sydney CBD. Every day I spend 25-30 minutes driving to work in south Sydney. One of the nice things about working outside the CBD is that you get to know the other businesses in the area - like the bread shop, the supermarket, the Chinese Restaurants, the computer shop, and the chicken take away.
Over time you get to watch them change too. For example the local supermarket actually use to be a run down old Jewel with a tiny entrance, barely any range and about 20 customers a day. Now its a bright, thriving supermarket with people going through it all the time.
But the one that I want to talk about is the humble local chicken shop. What has happened to it over the last 12 months still leaves me scratching my head.
You see 12 months ago, the chicken shop was this small quiet take away. They seemed to do enough business a day to pay the rent and keep things going. It was run by this older married couple. One of the highlights of ordering from them was the joy of getting back to work and discovering you'd got something entirely different to what you'd ordered.
One day though, things started to change. There were these new people in the store being showed how to run the shop. It wasn't too long untill the old people who ran the store were gone, leaving these fresh, energetic people in their place to run the shop.
The new people transformed the business entirely. They extended the menu. They brought in a coffee machine. They put tables and chairs outside. Soon the chicken shop was an entirely different place. It was thriving. It was loud and busy. On some days you'd wait 15 minutes to get your food, they had that many customers. They even won a local small business award.
But then the strangest thing happened. One day the shop was closed, and the next day the original people were back. It turns out that they'd gone overseas and left their friends in charge of their shop.
How great would it be to come back home after being overseas for a while and discover your friends had made you the place in Bexley to buy lunch. That's the kind of success that's worth sustaining, isn't it? Well at least you'd think that'd be the case.
However, rather than continuing with the excellent changes that their friends had made during the 6-9 months they were in charge for, they put everything back the way it was. They reduced the menu to what it was originally. They removed the coffee machine. They even took away the tables and chairs outside. They literally restored everything to how it was prior to their holiday and as a result the patronage has also restored itself to the way it was before.
Needless to say, I and my work mates were gobsmacked. What sort of person deliberately kills a runaway success? Why didn't they just employ their friends and get them to continue their excellent work? Why didn't they just learn how to use an espresso machine? Why did they get rid of the static tables and chairs that sat outside, demanding no attention apart from the occasional wipe down?
I guess they enjoy mediocrity - which is a shame, because I always enjoyed the occasional portuguese chicken burger.