They say “Don’t Judge a book by it’s cover”, and as an author I can tell you that 80% of the book buying public does. The fact is the cover sells the book. As a business builder and now consultant, I can tell you that businesses have the same problem.
The fact is that books and businesses have a lot in common. The first thing a book buyer sees is the cover. Normally that is true for a a business, and very muh so for restaurants. Landry’s CEO Tillman Fretita has this figured out. All of the Landry’s restaurants have a great cover. You know a Rainforest Cafe when you see one, and I bet the first time you did you wanted to go in.
The food and staff can be ok if the cover story of your restaurant gets lots of people in the door. If you have a great staff and world class food but no one comes in the only people who will care are the banks, investors and your landlord.
Disney has broken this code too. In fact across the board successful retail businesses have learned that the cover is the invitation to read the story. Apple’s simple clean lines and Apple logo aims squarely at Apple fans and whispers “welcome to the club”. A cover doesn’t have to scream like the Rainforest Cafe, but it does have to invite you in to try the story inside.
That brings me to a restaurant in Huntington Beach California. OPM. For quite some time the building sat empty, and after a long buildout, the “Tap House” opened. It closed so quickly that I didn’t even get to see it. By all accounts, the restaurant should have been a success. The few fans it had were shocked when it closed.
The problem at the Tap House is the same as the problem at OPM. The book has no cover. By the time you see the sign you are past the driveway and looking for the next watering hole. Given the name of the Tap House, the cover could have been as simple as cutting 50 kegs in half and glueing them on the outside of the plain white stucco building with Liquid Nails.
Everyone would see 100 half kegs from the 405 and know exactly what to expect and where they would find a good relaxed place for a beer. Instead you could only see the white box.
This past week I did stop into OPM I had to plan ahead otherwise I would have missed it and ended up at Wahoo’s again.
Dressed like a local (shorts, surf related T-shirt and flip flops) I went in and expected something like what I was told the Tap House was. Many smart restauranteurs, take over a good idea and fix the one item that killed the business. Sometimes the issue that kills a business is the owner, sometimes its the staff and occasionally even the food. In this case I was sure it was the lack of an attractive cover. In my perfect world I get there before close and help the owner find the path to profitability.
OPM didn’t change the cover and Tap House wasn’t gone that long. Since only the sign out front changed on the building, quite frankly I was looking for the old ale house interior of the Tap House. Ideally, I could present my proposal to consult on the exterior design. The white no window block of stucco remained unchanged.
When I approached the very narrow walkway that goes to the front door, it was blocked by the hostess who was chatting up a departing patron. The hostess was a pretty typical twenty something hostess in a black dress with a nice smile. I should have realized right there that ale houses don’t have a hostess in a black dress, but I was distracted thinking, this walkway has got to go.
When I entered I noticed a small bar to the left with only one person sitting there. The hostess quickly ran in and greeted me as did a rather casually dressed man. The two didn’t fit. If the casually dressed man was the owner or manager, he needs to dress up or stay in the shadows. He was confusing the story of OPM. If you read my blog or books you know that having a consistent story is key to success in business.
Looking around the inside, the story was a mixture of Casablanca meets middle east nightclub meets upscale east coast dining. Very different from the normally laid back lifestyle of Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach is one of the most popular surfing and beach towns in the US. With the headquarters of Huntington Beach’s first Billion Dollar company, BJ’s restaurants, just a few blocks over, OPM is a standout. Only on the inside that is.
In Huntington Beach most of the higher end (price wise) restaurants have a more casual tone than similar places in Newport Beach for instance. OPM didn’t get the memo on the Huntington Beach dress code I guess. More Vans and Volcom, less Tommy Bahama’s and Tory Birch.
Sitting at the bar, I was pleased to find a very nice Happy Hour menu with a $5 margarita and a couple of decent beers. To my wife’s dismay I neglected to look at the wine menu, so look for an update next month after I take here there for her thoughts on the place.
Eventually one of the Tap House regulars grabbed the seat next to me and he filled me in on the Tap House. He then gave me his thoughts on OPM. At the end he really didn’t know what to think about the changes.
As a business consultant I have to admit I was stumped. What cover do you put on an upscale blingy restaurant in a laid back surf town? More importantly what cover do you put on it to get those laid back surfers in the door? After all within a few blocks there is a Wahoo’s with a full bar, a BJ’s and a shopping center loaded with expensive places to get a good drink.
The rich in Huntington Beach are normally seen in flip flops and sweat shirts all over town. The only giveaway they aren’t surf bums is that they get into a Rolls, Bentley, Ferrari or some other exotic when they are done shopping or dining. OPM’s parking lot doesn’t look inviting to those cars. No Valet, no extra wide door ding avoidance spots, just a plain parking lot in front of a pretty vanilla office center next door to the white stucco block that houses OPM.
As I sipped the $5 margarita served in a short glass, I thought to myself, small price, small drink. Eventually I paid the tab and left, a little disappointed that I did’t have a plan for it’s cover nor did I have a plan to keep people coming back for more once they came in.
The staff was nice, the quality appeared to be there, I didn’t hear any music so I can’t comment on the true ambiance, but….
Getting in my car I looked at the blank white palette that is the outside cover of OPM and wondered what I could do to keep this place alive.
One thing there is not shortage of is advice. Everywhere you go there are people who have ideas, opinions and you guessed it, advice.
So how do you know what advice is good?
For over a year I took business advice from a guy who had all of the “trappings of success”. New car, wife didn’t work, she just spent all day in the gym, new house and all the toys.
24 months later he was out of business. Fortunately I figured out his advice was just regurgitated nonsense from business magazine articles written by people who’ve never run a business.
The truth is you don’t until you follow someones advice and you figure out it is good or bunk.
I have a simple rule now that has worked quite well. Be careful who You listen too. If they aren’t at least three times more successful than I am in a given area, I listen, file and move on. Now if I can’t verify the measure of success I ignore it.
When I wanted advice on writing better books, I sought out Brian Tracy, a best selling author of books similar to mine.
When I wanted to learn how to make more money in Real Estate, I went to a guy making millions of dollars each year in Real Estate and Millions more as a speaker and teacher. Most of those “gurus” make money selling information, not doing what they sell.
All of the easy guide books are the result of a process to get something done. If I couldn’t make it work easy, I didn’t bother to write a book about it.
So, next time someone is offering you advice, make sure it actually worked for them. It will save you a lot of time and money.
Are You a Trailblazer? And no not the basketball team, a real trailblazer.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. Yup that is a little while, and we talked about the differences in our lives. The conversation started because of a remark an african-american friend made. He said we were both granted a pass to start life “on third base” because we were caucasian.
I don’t really understand the analogy, because being born on third base is no guarantee of making it home, and starting on home plate (and being an american) doesn’t mean you can’t make it to home plate, even if the white guy on third gets tagged out. In fact the guy who made the comment is doing very well, and has been for a long time.
We started comparing our lives to each others and to the life of the guy who inspired the conversation.
My childhood friend is doing what he expected to be doing, basically working with 2.5 kids and surviving in the same area we grew up in. We live just 5 miles apart. Out of the chute we both went into the military, he stayed in the 4 year minimum got married and got out. He eventually divorced and re-married. A pretty typical scenario. Most of his life he didn’t make any waves.
I went a different direction. I stayed single until I was in my late 20’s. I almost made it to 30 as my Dad had suggested. I also studied military life and learned the rules so I could bend them. My friend had played by the rules, had one job and got out. I got on the base marksmanship team because that was a way to leapfrog ahead quickly. That was just the beginning. Sadly I wasn’t smart enough to follow that pattern at every turn in my life.
These days I am still a little stunned at the life that I am blessed with. I often wonder why others don’t do what I have done. Or try to do what I am trying to do. At the end of our conversation my friend made a very profound statement. He said “It doesn’t matter where you start, it only matters how you run the race. I settled for a spot very early and you kept running. I envy you for that.”
I don’t know if I kept running, but I do know that I never stopped moving. It wasn’t always moving forward though. For a while, I went in circles because my head was firmly placed where the sun don’t shine. I think I have done the “pop” maneuver and pulled it out. If I haven’t please sound off.
One thing I am pretty good at is seeing through the chaff and keeping a clear view of the target. I learned this at Ridgewood Military academy and fine tuned this skill at Army-Navy in Carlsbad and later in the Air Force. In life being able to quickly ignore the “chaff” and move to the target is a valuable skill. To some my ability to cut through the story to the essence quickly makes me a bit annoying or “anti social”. I am working on that, but I just don’t see the need to waste the time, I would rather go play. I have always been like that.
As a kid the chores I hated where the ones that were time based like watering the grass. 15 minutes for each area and my dad would time it. If I cut each area short by one minute, I figured I could go 5 minutes early to play. I only took that shortcut once.
My friend also said something interesting. He called me a “trailblazer”. He had never seen me fail or give up on anything. I have given up, and I have failed. Some failures were massive and expensive lessons. The conversation turned when he admitted that he wants to know how to latch on and catch back up or at least follow my trajectory.
The funny thing is that he might just be on to something. You don’t need to be a trailblazer to accelerate your life. The truth is I really am not. I do know how to find them so I can eliminate the time wasters and keep moving.
Early in my life I thought it was important to do it all myself. Now I know learning from the school of hard knocks sucks. You just need to know one trailblazer you can grab on too and follow. The truth is I didn’t do any of this on my own. As a kid, Forest Sherman and Grady Griswold took me under their wing, they were my early trailblazers. In the Air Force, Lester Esparza, Bob Silva and Emanual Jauquin kept me on the right track. They were my later trailblazers.
At Stanford, Apple and AirTouch other people taught me more about how to move forward quickly and overcome what looked like insurmountable obstacles.
While I lived in Texas I got ahead of myself and tried to run a company all by myself. I fell pretty much flat on my face. The school of hard knocks kicked my butt.
As I shared my biggest failure with my friend, he was confused. How did I recover so quickly from that failure. He said it would have devastated him.
For some reason people forget that we really do live in the land of opportunity. You can fail, and recover. That is the secret, you have to recover. Some can work harder to recover faster, others can continue to fall until they hit bottom.
The best rewards in my life are watching people get a direction and start moving forward. My nephew is not even 15 and is already a better musician than I could ever be. He plays bass in a band and is an up and coming rockstar. He has the potential to be amazing. Getting an email from a client after a Yelp! inquiry that said “I responded but we are booked solid until September” brings a little more happiness to my world.
Am I a trailblazer? I don’t know about that but I do know that I don’t take no for an answer, and most of the time I keep pushing even if it isn’t quite pushing forward. Giving in leads to giving up and that leads no where. I want to go somewhere even if I don’t know were “somewhere” is. Don’t you?
Your possibilities are endless. The question is, will you be a trailblazer or hire one so you can make your possibilities into probabilities?