Do or do not do.
While you are known for what you do, it is the things that you choose not do that define your life.
These were headscratching words directed at me a decade ago by brilliant business mentor Walt Winshall, who my partner and I referred to as Yoda.
I try to make note of opportunities I pass up, things I don't do or buy or people I don’t have enough time for. Turns out there are a million things you decide not to do, and weighing them in aggregate leads to some surprising places.
I have always struggled with this, and I don't think I'm alone.
I’ve been doing cheese retailer spot checks just for giggles and awareness for a while. What I’ve seen suggests that there are stores that haven't fully bought into this do/don't do concept. One large-ish local grocery chain nearby does a good business and stocks high quality product throughout the store. But in the cheese case, which is precut only, the selection can be described as blue and brie, little bit of chevre. If you were a consumer who only shopped there you might think those were the only categories of good cheese available beyond processed cheesefood. They do have good selections, within those categories, but why chose from only those categories, when there are so many?
I don't know anything about running this store but it seems that if the store buyer chose more broadly across the cheese spectrum there would be more room in the case for more new varieties, which would give exciting cheese options more visibility and thereby introduce the consumer to more interesting options...which in my admittedly singularly focused mind, would lead to more sales, more consumer interest, more value for the dairy case. But by making the choice to not have broader options available, shoppers can't choose different options. Therefore, the store has defined itself by lack of selection rather than by the choices that they did make. Are the seeds of destruction of this remarkable food revolution we're enjoying now found in ignoring the importance of what we are not choosing. Too heavy? Maybe.
Of course buyers have to stock what will sell, otherwise they won't get to buy cheese as a job anymore. But can it be true that these 3 types really represent 90% of cheese sales? That seems unlikely.
Channeling Walt for a moment (please now visualize an unruly mop of hair above a kind bespectacled face above slightly rumpled clothing and hear him carefully enunciating a complex question in soft tones);
Are buyers reflecting on the choices they are making as they fill their cases with a narrow sliver of cheese varieties available, while opting not to stock other fine options? What would happen if space was made for new choices to provide balance for items that are always there...the chosen ones? Would it change the balance of how that cheese counter, and the store, was defined? Thoughts?
Now I'm going to go do or not do. After all, there is no try.
ps Here's one other wonderful Waltism...I asked him why we always saw him with Dunkin Donuts coffee, no matter what time of day. He said, "They go through all that trouble to put up a sign that says 'Drive Thru'. It's the least I can do."