Is being "real" important to you? How desirable is it in our culture?
The other day I had a brief meltdown. Inventory control and cash flow are hard to manage in any retail establishment. Big companies pay good money for lots of people to manage all of this because no matter how great of a product you have, bad inventory control and cash flow can take anyone down. Established companies have charts and history and brilliance to make educated guesses where I have none of this.
Wallowing in my momentary panic (let's make a mountain out of a molehill) I backed up and thought about what the point of this business is. The goal of any business is to make money - always. If it's not, then it's a hobby or a non profit or something else. But it has never been my life's dream to create the next retail giant. I don't need to be in constant communication with people (do a hear a quiet "tru dat" from all the introverts) and as a family, we're not banking on this business to put food on the table.
Penn Pantry was created through an unbelievable series of open doors we walked through to see what was on the other side. We're here because this is another step in God's plan for our lives and while I have no idea why, we will continue to walk where He leads. Even with this perspective, it's still hard and confusing with good days and bad days.
So if this wasn't my life's dream, the pathway to millions and I have no idea where we're going, what's the point? During the first year of potholes, mistakes, and sheer luck, how do I know if I'm doing anything right? I sat and started typing what was important to me ... in life in general. Three answers came to mind. Although they have nothing to do with a strong bottom line, they do outline a business culture that I can be proud to establish.
The first phrase was "I want to be real." In a world of reality TV (are you kidding me!), political promises that won't last a day in office, and people getting ahead through smarmy methods, it's hard to see the value of being real. But it's important to me. Once I hit my 30's and really started to understand who I was, it became more and more important. I want my kids to see me in good days and bad and know that I struggle just like they do (certainly struggling with selfies than they do). I want to run into people at the grocery store and have them tell me how they are really doing, not just a stock answer. I want to have real relationships with people who love me for who I am so we can pick each other up when we fall and celebrate the victories in life.
How does this fit with a store? It speaks to why we're here.
Real people - A small business staffed with real and honest people. When you ask our opinion on a product, we're going to tell you. We'll great you at the door with a smile, not with a daily sales goal but to welcome you to our pantry.
Real products - Local food or artisan products are created by real people who own farms, started a small business, or are continuing the family tradition. This food tastes better and is better for you than mass produced items. Artisan items are one of a kind, crafted by a human.
Real experience - This is not just a big box store that you run in to grab groceries and run back out. This is a local product store with real products, real people, and a real experience when you come in. Come sit, come sample snack sticks, come tell us about your day.
Where does this revelation leave me when cash flow is tight and inventory control is a mystery? Back to basics, I think. Remember that just like Cheers, you want to go "where everybody knows your name." In the insanity that is our lives, reality does matter. Come experience the difference that real people in a real store make in your home. Share with us in the journey to be real.