The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Success Comes In Many Different Forms

On September 16th, 2013, posted in: Uncategorized by

I regularly encourage our leadership team to have an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s fairly natural that some would rather claim that they don’t have that gene than to stretch themselves to new levels of discovery. Human nature is a real deterrent to success. Ever since we were first criticized in our early childhood years for coloring outside the lines, we’ve been hesitant to take the leap necessary to be a true entrepreneur. Most of us got our creative gene trampled by a kindergarten teacher more interested in conformity than innovation. It’s years later, and now the workforce yields to the norm rather than take a few chances.

Running any business is not a science fair project. It is all about meeting the customers’/ members’ needs in order that they will pay money for our product. Whether a credit union, a frozen custard stand or one of the blue-chippers on the NYSE, the same basic premise exists. Even at a quaint, almost after-thought of a breakfast nook in a strip mall, the owner is assessing how to create goods or services that people will readily pay for.

I was out of town recently and needed to break the fast of a restful night. When traveling, my desire is to stay away from prominent, national retailers of food stuffs. I know what they are and what they look like (isn’t every Cracker Barrel exactly the same?). But, what goes on with the locals in a place called Café Beignet? Now that can provide storytelling fodder for years.

The sign on the window gave me a clue as to what the entrepreneur who started it was thinking. The hours of operation were stated as “6:30ish to Noonish.” Probably indicates that a laid back sort of atmosphere with a twist of comedic value is for the taking.

Think the size of your living room at home filled with the pungent smell of hot grease, and you have Café Beignet. The smell was so striking that you could almost feel the heat of the fryers. Visitors were there for one reason… beignets. No menus, no signage, and no price list other than one banner: “12 beignets for less than $10.” A couple of tables, a few chairs, a roll of paper towels on each table and a coffee pot rounded out the décor. The walls were decorated with paint – nothing more.

I ordered a “couple” of beignets and a cup of coffee. Turns out a “couple” is an order of three. When they came to the table, delivered by the same guy who cooked them, they were steaming hot dressed in an ample covering of powdered sugar. Included in the experience were a paper plate and a stick for poking holes to cool them off. They and the coffee were fabulous. Grand total: $5.06.

During my 30-minute stay, the barista of beignets sold about a hundred. The smallest order was mine. Everybody else wanted a minimum of a dozen. As rudimentary as it was, this guy had met the formula for a good business. He had a product that people wanted to pay money for. No ambiance, no shtick. Just good food at a great price.

There were a number of lessons learned that day. 1) Success comes in many different forms; 2) Like not taking a knife to a gunfight, never wear black pants to eat beignets soaked in powdered sugar; and 3) Don’t wear business attire to sit in a place for 30 minutes that smells like grease. It lingers all day. Maybe the smell was a marketing tool. The guy was smart.

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