If you’ve ever been interested in working for yourself, or starting a small business, you’ve heard the statistic that most small businesses fail within the first 5 years. Why is that?
The most common reasons given are:
- Lack of experience
- Being under-capitalized (running out of money before you achieve profitability)
- Poor location
- Poor inventory management (Not having enough of an item, or having too much which may suck up all your capital)
- Poor money management (poorly structed business loans, co-mingling of finances)
But I think the most basic one is lack of any business sense whatsoever!
I went to get a smog check for my car registration and I called up several smog check test centers within a 10 mile radius. I got quotes that ranged from $37 to $70. The fact that the highest quote was 89% higher than the lowest quote was quite interesting.
I decided that instead of driving 9.5 miles to pay $37, I could drive only 2 miles and pay $39.95. That’s a good compromise between time spent and money saved (especially in Los Angeles where it takes forever to get anywhere). However, I decided to stop at the first one I saw and ask if they’d do a price match, especially since the store was completely devoid of any customers. I asked them how much it would cost and was quoted a price of $65. I told them the store down the street quoted me $40 and the manager said that he knew the owner of that place and they indeed offer a $40 price, but he could afford to offer that price because they did a higher volume and made money on repairs too. The best he could offer was $55.
I tried arguing with him that they probably did higher volume precisely because the price was lower, and that his costs were fixed and the marginal cost of performing an additional smog check were significantly lower than $55 or $40 or even $20. When you consider that you have idle staff and idle machinery, the cost of running a machine for 20 minutes is just the cost of electricity which couldn’t have been more than a dollar. By price matching price-conscious customers, you’re engaging in a perfectly legal form of price-discrimination which allows you to attain your optimal profit levels. After wasting 3 minutes, I realized he wasn’t going to budge and he was perfectly happy to see me go 1/2 mile down the street to his competitor, which incidentally seemed to be running at 75% capacity.
So if you’ve ever wondered why some small businesses fail its because they’re run by incompetent morons who lack knowledge of finance, marketing, consumer behavior or sometimes just plain common sense.