I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but some years back, Barnes & Noble replaced their numerous comfy chairs and sofas with a few rigid wooden benches scattered throughout the store. Maybe they thought it would encourage more people to actually buy books and magazines or maybe they just needed to make more space. Either way, I still head there on occasion when I find the walls of my home office too confining and I crave the background noise of a busy bookstore. I do my best work surrounded by strangers. Do you?
As luck would have it, my local Barnes & Noble has a small café with two totally comfy arm chairs in one corner. It’s the perfect spot to sip a latte and catch up on emails (or peruse the latest self-help books). When I arrived the other day, I noticed an elderly couple had taken up residence in the comfy chairs. He was reading a best-seller and she had a stack of magazines in her lap. I was resigned to grab a nearby table in the café and wait for my turn in the comfy chairs.
Over the next hour, I worked as they lounged, drank coffee, conversed, strolled around (one at a time while the other saved the seat) and read. It was when she pulled out her knitting project that I realized these folks had settled in and planned to spend the rest of their retirement days in the comfy chairs!
Fine, I can be patient and I had plenty of work to do, so I kept my eye out for any stirrings that would indicate their impending departure. Finally (after what seemed like hours), the couple packed up and slowly rose to leave.
As I stood to gather my stuff and move to a comfy chair, a funny thing happened. Suddenly, there was movement all around me! Several people closer to the couple rose from their seats. One lady tossed her handbag into one of the chairs from about four feet away, claiming her “comfy prize.” A young man actually leapt over the low railing to beat a slow-moving, cane-toting old man to the punch!
And then it was over. Less than a minute after the elderly couple’s departure, the comfy chairs had new occupants. The cane-toting old man hobbled away with a defeated expression. The young man kicked off his flip-flops, assumed a lotus position and perched his iPad on his knee. The lady pulled out a paperback and took a sip of her latte.
And me? I stood there transfixed with the realization that I wasn’t the only one with an eye on the comfy chairs. They were a hot commodity in this little book-loving microcosm of society.
This whole episode got me thinking about business and being prepared for success and I want to share a few suggestions with you:
- Get an early start. Ever wonder why people stand in line at 3 am the day after Thanksgiving? To get the best bargain! They are willing to endure a little pain to walk away with the prize. If you have a great idea, don’t wait for someone else to monetize it. If you’ve always wanted to start your own business, do it now. The earlier you get started, the sooner you’ll realize success.
- Do your homework. If I had bothered to ask any of the bookstore employees, I would have found out that the best times to grab a comfy chair are right after they open in the morning and between 2 pm and 3 pm when parents leave to pick up the kids at school (and its nap time for my retired couple). Conducting thorough research will save you lots of time in the end. If you’re starting a business, don’t even think about doing it without a business plan! If you don’t have a clue how to write one, your Small Business Development Center will help you for free. For the center nearest you, go to www.sba.org.
- If someone gets there first, relax. There will be other opportunities. Sometimes when the so-called “perfect opportunity” slips out of your grasp, you feel defeated. I once spent months planning to put a business into a retail center only to be derailed by outrageous build-out bids. Good thing though! The center went bankrupt and the other tenants had to relocate. If your plans are disrupted, take time to regroup and review. You’ll often find that your original plan had flaws or wasn’t fully developed in your rush to get ahead.
- Be considerate of others and share. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should give up the comfy chair to the first person who makes an impassioned plea but it is always good business to “pay it forward.” Would it have really hurt the young man with the iPad to let the little old man have the chair for a while? Jack Be Nimble got a phone call five minutes later and ended up leaving anyway. Share ideas. Share resources. Team up with other entrepreneurs. Helping others on their path to success creates more prosperity for everyone.
- Leave the world a better place. Once your business takes off, it’s time to give back. Hold free informative lectures or demonstrations to educate your community about what you do. Public speaking makes you an authority and your expertise will bring you customers. If the idea of speaking in public mortifies you, join the local Toastmasters Club to get practice and gain support. Consider donating gift certificates, products or services to a local charity or inspire the next generation by mentoring a disadvantaged teen. Whatever you choose to do to leave the world a better place, you can rest assured that your hard work, dedication and sacrifice will eventually earn you a spot in the comfy chair. Enjoy!
To your success,
P.S. In addition to our awesome Passions, Profits & Possibilities Facebook group, I have started a new group for women who are passionate about travel! Here we will share travel stories, tips, photos and more to inspire you get out and explore the world. While there are other groups that cater to younger women, this group is intended for women over 39. Ask to join the Women Passionate About Travel Facebook group here!