FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM AUGUST 2008
I recently witnessed a great small business success story and thought I would share it here in these pages. It’s not about the DJ industry and it didn’t even happen here in the United States but it reminds me that some things in business and in life are universal.
I was on vacation this summer in Sweden. My brother-in-law PG is an accomplished Swedish chef (I’ll pause here while you do your best Muppet’s impression) so he was our tour guide. We stayed just outside of Stockholm (which is a beautiful city by the way) but one day PG drove us three hours away to a restaurant and inn where we ate and stayed the night. The restaurant is named Forshems Gastgivaregard and the building it is in dates back to 1564. Twenty years ago the building and the business were both in disrepair and so an eager young chef named Stefan Johansson was able to purchase it for a song. He renovated the building and revamped the restaurant business and slowly things began to change.
Word of mouth began to spread that this restaurant was doing wonderful things with local foods. They adhere to the “slow food” method of running a restaurant (check out details at slowfood.com) and so their meats and vegetables and of course their fish are all from local sources. In time, business picked up. It wasn’t a great marketing campaign or an early bird special that did it and it certainly wasn’t an overnight success. It was the slow and steady drum beat of referrals and recommendations. Locals and the tourists both began making the trek from miles away to see and taste for themselves. As business picked up, Stefan and his wife Mia purchased another building close by and established a Bed and Breakfast. Now they could give their patrons a place to stay for the evening. They also began brewing their own beer. We learned while we were there that the Johansson’s are also looking into purchasing farm land so they can start growing some of their own produce.
The day we ate at Forshems Gastgivaregard was a Wednesday afternoon. At 2pm the place was jammed. Not an empty table could be found. We met Mia who proudly told of us of her husband’s success and reputation. Business spoke for itself. I can only imagine how tough it would be to get a table on a Friday night.
So what does this have to do with us? I believe it has everything to do with our business. I believe that if you want to be successful over the long term, you need to have a product that is so outstanding, that people will go out of their way to experience it. The drive from Stockholm to Forshems Gastgivaregard was a long one. To say this restaurant is “out of the way” is putting it mildly. And to say that the Johansson’s took a huge gamble in establishing a business in such a remote area is also being kind. But they believed in their abilities, specifically Stefan’s talent as a chef AND they were willing to be patient and let it build.
Word of mouth doesn’t always happen overnight. I mean we all get that Monday morning phone call from time to time from the guest at your Saturday night wedding. But hopefully we all also get those calls that say, “I saw you 6 years ago at my friends wedding.” The brutal truth, however, is that not everyone will gain this kind of reputation. Unlike a glossy brochure or a cool website, which anyone with any level of talent can acquire or create, a company’s reputation is the most democratic thing in the business world. Like the old saying goes: “you either got it, or you don’t.”
The best part about “word of mouth” is that it is free. Most marketing campaigns come with a budget and an ROI. You begin with: What will this cost and will it make me any money? Those are questions I ask every time we do a Bridal Show or take an ad out in a banquet book. But direct referrals are free. You, or one of your DJs, just has to impress people. We just have to inspire them to come up and grab a business card, or go home and rave about the DJ they saw this weekend. And when they call, it shouldn’t be to find out how much you charge, it should be to find out if you are available. That should be their first and only question. Just like the business that Stefan and Mia have established. People hear about Forshems Gastgivaregard and they don’t calculate the drive time or look at the website for menu pricing. They call to book a table. And then if they are from far enough away they might also book a room at the inn. That’s the type of business I aspire to have. A self sustaining referral based business that can withstand the fickle nature of marketing campaigns. A business that is solely based on making people so happy that they rave about us to their friends and family.
I’m not sure when I’ll return to Sweden but with family there I’m sure it will be sometime soon. And when I do, I’ll be sure to set a day aside to make the trip to Forshems Gastgivaregard. I have no doubt that the Johansson’s business will be thriving. They may own most of Southern Sweden by then and if they do, more power to them! That’s the result of a having a great reputation.
Mike Walter is the owner of Elite Entertainment of New Jersey and a nationally recognized expert in the area of multisystem company development and staff training. You can contact Mike at email@example.com.
FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM AUGUST 2008