How are they really doing?

Penny Hunt,  July 2011

I’ve got a sneaky feeling that we might be living in the Emerald City.

The green glasses slipped a couple of times last week and I’m sure I glimpsed the wizards of business.

They were really, really, really small.

It started with coffee.

I was buying a gorgeous double espresso.   Lovely, fuggy atmosphere in the shop, sparkly umbrellas everywhere.  Clearing the table with lots of  ‘oops, sorry, thank you, is that yours?, I wobbled the coffee back to the seat.  What a lively and energetic queuing and coffee experience.

(I was brought up to believe that a positive attitude is much more important than marginal skills like reading.  Old habits and all that.)

You know the deal in a coffee chain.

Pay a (sometimes huge) margin to serve ourselves and clean our own tables. But I adore coffee shops.  I buy into that completely and willingly.

But what may not be so OK is how that coffee business is measuring its success or profitability.

The customers are covering some of the operating costs. If we were to add up all the real costs of serving that cuppa, then would the chains be in profit at all?

Are they successful – or just looking at only part of the picture?

Then it was the printer.

So many online statements and bills and tickets churning out in my house.

And in everyone’s house.  Every single one of us is bearing, again, some of the costs of apparently successful businesses.

With so much of the actual, real costs of running businesses externalised to us, the customers, how can anyone know anymore whether a business is actually sound?

How should we judge success?

It might be time to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

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