There’s safety in doing what the majority is doing: for starters you’re less likely to be admonished or ridiculed if you follow the status quo. However it can be limiting as well, not only that but it makes it harder to think for yourself and act in ways that differ from the norm.
For my regular followers, this post is going to be a bit different and I’ll be straying pretty far off my usual toy-related topics. If you fancy joining me for the next few paragraphs I welcome anything you have to say about. If you’d rather wait for my next toy post then our regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly and in the mean time feel free to check out some toy related posts I prepared earlier ‘How to Play‘, ‘Why are dinosaurs so universal?‘, or my first ever post which was about my son’s favourite toys at the time ‘Pocket money‘.
Today I’m going to be looking at independence in children and in independent businesses (please bear with me, I’ve got genuine reasons for thinking they’re related). For starters there’s the obvious notion that a business is often the ‘brain child’ of some entrepreneur. That said it’s worth spelling out what real parenting is like, since ‘brain child’ makes it sound like it’s something complete, like the job is done, which just isn’t the case with parenting.
Every new parent has absolutely no clue what they’re doing and will rely heavily on the help of others, consulting the advice of other parents, parenting books, blogs and a whole host of other sources. As time goes on a relationship develops and you start to realise that what you’re doing isn’t a job with a list of check-points to tick off but instead it’s a more responsive and evolving role as you provide support and advice that you hope will steer your child in the right direction.
So how does this relate to independent stores? In some ways it really doesn’t, especially the help element, since (for starters) some independent businesses can be so specific that there just won’t be a book/web forum/advice group that fits the bill. That said, most parents eventually learn that something like this is true of their children as well; they’re individuals, what works for one parent with their child might be a terrible idea to try out with another. It’s all about relationships.
One very clear similarity between a child and an independent business is that an independent business (especially a retail business) will start to develop it’s own ‘personality’ pretty quickly. Regardless of what you want people to think about your business they’ll make up their own mind. (I’m basically borrowing/stealing/being-inspired-by an ‘Un-Podcast’ post here). With this in mind independent shops are in a pretty good position to micro-manage their behaviour in ways that bigger businesses just couldn’t.
If a large company makes a mistake in policy which causes them to inconvenience customers (or even annoy them) then it could take months for them to realise and make the required changes. In a small shop it can be as simple as a phone call and you’ve got a happy customer. All the same it can still be hard to keep track of what your business is becoming.
Over the next week (possibly more) I’ll be posting about what I feel stands out about the company I work for: Fun Junction. I’ll mostly be talking about toys, games, books etc. which we stock that I find really distinctive and many of these come from companies that a lot of people may not have heard about. I’ll be posting a link to this blog post on my twitter account, tagging other independent business for ‘Follow Friday’ (today) so if you’ve found your way to this post from there, welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share your own experiences of being on the inside of an independent business. I also welcome comments from readers regarding why they do/don’t shop local. I know it’s a departure from my usual subject matter but I hope it drums up some interesting discussion. Thanks for stopping by, Cheers, John