So what can we learn from eating pastrami?
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game with my networking group. As I was meandering for a bite to eat, I stumbled upon a familiar sight! Kohn’s deli has a stand INSIDE Busch stadium. Apparently, Kohn’s has had a stand inside Busch stadium since 2013 but I was amused that the deli that is directly next door to my office, is represented as a St Louis favorite. Kohn’s is known for their “Killer Pastrami” and the smell of pastrami cooking delightfully smells up the neighborhood as I walk into our building. I had no idea that the popular grocery and deli next to our office was a popular Busch stadium treat. Truth be told, even though I could walk over to the deli by my office at any time, I never wanted a pastrami sandwich more than I did when I saw that stand!
The experience got me thinking about how this local business became a regional and national favorite. In a world of BIG everything, Amazon, Uber, Wal-mart… running a successful small business is a challenge. What activities does Kohn’s and other similar, successful business offer that we can learn from?
Quality – Your business must have a quality product or service that customers can rely on day in and day out. We take quality for granted. We hear so much about the customer service experience, the measurement of quality may come later…years later for some businesses and products. However, in the case of a vehicle for instance, you can have the best dealer customer service experience but once the car breaks down, it’s likely they will never buy that type of car from the dealer again. In the case of Kohn’s, each time I come in for a pastrami sandwich, it’s as good as the last! Quality is the expectation, not the exception.
Pricing – Small businesses don’t have the economies of scale to compete on pricing with the national chains. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can get that cheaper on Amazon?” So how do you compete and make a living? You compete with positioning your quality product or service, so it stands out in the crowd. Kohn’s not only has high quality but is also the only independent kosher butcher in the St. Louis area. By offering a quality product that is highly valued in a densely populated area of Creve Coeur, Kohn’s can use market positioning to charge an adequate but fair price. Positioning to price is hugely important. Otherwise, businesses will relegate themselves to competing on price and cutting costs and profits along with it until they can no longer sustain the business.
Adaptation – Understanding change and adapting to it is a key to business success. If you want to see a great example, look at the retail industry. Retailers are struggling not only to compete with online retailers but to identify how customers want to buy from them. Retailers whose entire business and product line was built on the customer’s experience in the store are struggling to take that same experience and move it online. Making the right moves that enhance your business and keep your positioning will help you survive in the long-term.
Risk – You can’t play to lose. Playing to lose can look like a lot of things. It’s not opening a second location when it makes business sense to do so. It’s letting an employee go instead of getting out there and promoting your business, it’s blaming others for your business failures instead of looking inwards. Kohn’s has been in business since 1963. Through that time, I’m sure there have been many challenges and opportunities to fail. Taking calculated risks are what breeds success. You can’t reap the rewards if you take no risks.
As I was contemplating my purchase of a “Killer Pastrami” sandwich at the stadium, I had no idea that with it would come a host of thoughts about Kohn’s and how it has run a successful deli for over 50 years. We could learn a lot about the small businesses we see everyday that we take for granted. But for now, I think I will just go next door and grab a pastrami sandwich. All of this writing is making me hungry!