The Equator
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The Equator

Between Idealist vs. Realist, Which One Is Good for Business?

Which one of these two mindsets will serve you well in your venture?

Picture by DocuSign on Unsplash

Over the past years, I have been into several businesses, some of them worked, and some often failed. I spent years learning how a business could work, narrowed in the coffee shop business.

I believed that reading books and looking at the data wouldn’t be enough, so I went into the business itself. I wanted to see more than just what data can bring. So I became a Barista in one of the largest coffee shop chains in the world — Starbucks.

I spent roughly 7 months learning everything I could, doing any technical things; mopping the floor, cleaning the dishes, brewing the coffee, and thousands of other things.

After I went mopping floor for 7 months straight, I received few phone calls from my friends, they were offering me the job to guide their coffee shops — Basically, a job of being coffee shops consultant, if such thing even exists.

I took the jobs, and I was managing two coffee shops in Semarang.

If I could tell you something about how it feels to be a consultant, it is that sometimes the owners can be a pain in the ass. I worked with two owners at the same time in two different coffee shops.

This is where it gets interesting. Two of these owners have lots of money, one of them is the head of a pharmacy company, and the other one had just resigned from an oil company.

I applied the same rules, the same guide to both of the coffee shops, but within months, both of them had grown differently. One coffee shop had made significant progress, while the other one almost went bankrupt.

One owner kept thanking me for a wonderful job that I have done, while the other kept haunting and blaming me. This is where two different mindsets played a crucial of your business future.

Bear with me, let’s hear the story of these two different individuals.

The idealist owner

This is the guy who had resigned from the oil company, also the same guy who almost went bankrupt. The guy had grown a love for coffee before even I was born in this world.

He educated himself as an expert in the field, self-claimed that he had known everything. This is the first fatal mistake, as when you had claimed that you had known everything, you will stop making progress to improve yourself — Or in this case your business.

My age was half of his age, it would be understandable if he treated me as if I was a kid. But by the fact that he hired me to be the consultant, he should have listened to my advice.

My friends would tell you the same thing when it comes to talking, I’m not going to sugarcoating anyone. If I don’t like something, I would tell it, vice-versa.

One day, I asked every customer in his coffee shops, for any feedbacks. Almost 80% of the customers felt that this place has potential but it requires improvement. I noted every feedbacks, and most of them were matched with what I thought was wrong over here.

The coffee beans were too dark, the lights were too bright, and any other things. I tried to deliver all the problems to him, but he wouldn’t just listen. I remember one night we had an argument over something.

“I think the job of the consultant is to push the business, not trying to break my spirit” he said.

“But if the guy is on the edge of the cliff, someone had to stop him, not push him” I replied.

The next thing that I remembered was that he terminated the contract, and I lost my job. I was kind of angry but feel relieved at the same time, as I can focus on one coffee shop.

The realist owner

This guy was the opposite of the idealist owner, he listened to every suggestion and opened to new ideas ahead. My age was also half of him, but he treated me like a consultant rather than just a kid.

He would involve me in every decision, even the smallest ones.

Sometimes his business was booming, and some other days it would be stagnant. But he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it works.

After a few weeks, I checked the coffee shop, then I noticed something changed, he painted the wall a green color. I approached and asked him, then he explained that “Yeah, I painted it green because it shows my support to a specific religious community”.

A little bit shocked hearing what he said, I replied, “You know, the first time, I said that it was better to be painted white because it has psychological reasons, not because I liked the color of white”. He nodded along the way.

As I continued “The dim lights also made the customers feel relaxed and comfortable” He nodded again.

Later that day he painted all the walls back to white again.

The thing is when you were hired to give some advice. Basically, it is their choice to apply it or not, because whether they would apply it or not, at the end of the day, I’m still getting paid. But I had the responsibility to increase the odds and make the business works.

At the end of the year, he had doubled his income, and I was more than happy to hear that.

The bottom lines

To make your business works, no matter what it is, whether you are running an online store, or selling food on the street, the same rules apply.

You need to adapt and willing to open to changes.

The world keeps revolving and the trends keep changing from time to time. It is necessary to make adjustments to the changing world. You don’t have to hire a consultant to make your business works.

Talk to the people who had jumped into the field, learn from their mistakes, and take what had worked from them. They said that experience is the greatest teacher, but losing $30.000 investment to learn that you need to listen more to other people is just plain stupid.

I’m not saying that my business advice is a mantra that could make everything works, but those advices comes from years of trial and error.

Being idealistic is good to make you stick with your business, but being realistic is crucial to make it survive.

It’s hard to say that one person could balance those mindsets, but from my own experience in the field, it always better to choose the realist mindset if you can’t balance it.

Hi, I’m Kenny and I’m writing exclusively for you, join me in a journey of becoming the best version of ourselves.



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