I never imagined that 47 years after first meeting John Cleese I’d be writing a rather different version of a Cheese Shop sketch. But that’s the crazy world we live in – and businesses do seem to have a habit of doing crazy things from time to time.

Do You Believe What Your Staff Are Telling the Boss?

There’s a really good cheesemonger near where I live. They sell great artisan cheeses and Pauline, the manageress, has become something of a friend over the years. Not surprisingly the shop has also changed over time, introducing a few more appropriate non-cheese items like oatcakes, chutneys and some charcuterie. However it has always been a cheese shop at heart.

So imagine my surprise the other week when I entered the door to find the whole place apparently shrunk! My immediate reaction was to ask “Didn’t this used to be a cheese shop?” It was never a big shop to begin with but now about 20% of the overall floor space has been sectioned off at the back with a glazed partition. Apparently the owners think that having a space for cheese and wine tasting is a great idea even though the new space will only accommodate about 8 people.

The problem appears to be that they didn’t want to listen to anyone else before implementing the changes and run the risk of crashing the business as a result.

The Bakery Across the Road

There are lots of good artisan food outlets in the area and the bakery across the road underwent a revamp a couple of years ago. Their manager actually spoke to the owner of the Cheese Shop before the recent change and pointed out that they had spent 5 whole days with their architect looking at how the staff and customers used the existing space before finalising the design for the bakery revamp. As a consequence it works for both staff and customers. Their revamp included a neon sign in the window advertising “Donut Repair”. Quirky but it gets customers in the door!

Not for the Cheese Shop man though. He knows everything (apparently) and ignored pleas from his manageress and has (to coin a different metaphor) butchered the cheese shop as a result. The amount of cheese on display is about 1/3 of what used to be there. Customers are already complaining that the shelves devoted to other groceries are pointless given the plethora of other stores around. What they (and I) want is cheese. Lots of it and from a wide variety of sources.

I’m Sorry – It’s Run Away!

I truly expect to hear that as an excuse next time I’m looking for a piece of Ossau Iraty, aged Gouda or some Gorgonzola. Except it won’t have run away – it will simply have been squeezed out. The refurbishment has halved the size of the serving counter and there’s virtually nowhere to put anything. The next logical step would be just to have labels of what cheese is available “under the counter” – oh, I forgot, that’s not big enough either!

The Conundrum

Would YOU have gone about things in this manner? I sincerely hope not for everyone’s sake. Staff deserve consideration and respect as well as customers. Moreover spoiling a USP just to broaden a business offering isn’t necessarily a good idea. So instead of encouraging things to run away maybe you should be looking at keeping the good.

What’s Your Great Idea?

We all have great ideas from time to time but it does make sense to check them out with an objective listener before cracking on. We’ve worked in transformations at every level – from global corporations to micro business so we understand that things may not be quite as they seem on the surface. Instead we help to ask the difficult questions and get the focus in the right place. So contact us to get the conversation started on how you can learn to deal with the challenges facing your organisation.

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The author Rob Wherrett can be contacted at https://robwherrett.com/contact/

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