One of the greatest
dangers in owning a small business is forgetting that there is a major
difference between big business and small business.
a small business pretends it is a big business, quite often it becomes no
The point was driven home to me
again the other day when I began to look for a designer for a new retail
store that will be opening early next year.
Itís a big store, over 8,000
square feet, and I needed help. In the past, I had done the store designs
myself, in true small business fashion. I made plenty of mistakes,
learning along the way, and got slices of professional help from time to
But now the company had grown and
the project was larger than I could handle. Gee, I thought, I must be
entering the big time. I had better do it like the big corporate types do.
The concept I wanted for the new
store was similar to a chain of stores owned by an international
corporation. They carried many of the same lines of merchandise we would
be carrying. And the layouts of the stores, and their fixtures, were just
what I had in mind.
Also, it turned out that the
independent designer for many of their stores was based in San Francisco.
By coincidence, I had met him a few months ago, told him about my upcoming
project, and he expressed an interest in working on it.
Perfect. I had latched onto the
designer who had created these magnificent stores that had earned hundreds
of millions for an international corporation. And now he would be working
for me to do the same.
We met to discuss the project in
detail a few weeks ago. He brought along an associate and we toured the
site. Then we went back to my office and I glanced through his portfolio
of completed projects, most of which were of the stores I wanted to
beautiful," I gushed, admiring the photographs. "This is exactly
what I have in mind for this new store."
"Thereís no question it
would work very well for you," he replied. "The space is ideal.
Iíve got dozens of ideas already."
We were a match made in retail
heaven. What luck to find this designer, so close and so available to me.
I went through the portfolio again, appreciating his "touch"
more than ever.
"How much does this company
spend on the interior of its stores?" I asked, knowing these looks
donít come cheap.
"In general," replied my
designer, "about $200 a square foot."
I nodded and tried to compute in my
head the $200 a square foot to my 8,000 square feet. It didnít register.
I nodded again, said uh-huh, and subtly hit the keys of my calculator.
"$1.6 million!!!" I
cried, my big business demeanor falling with a thump to the floor.
The designer, reeling, could see
that he was no longer dealing with Lee Iacocca. He backtracked as fast as
"These guys (the
international corporation) really go overboard. They spare no expense. You
could easily do your project for half the cost, or $100 a square
I didnít need my
calculator any more. "Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars," I cried,
blowing my cover once and for all. "Iíd say weíre not in the same
ballpark, but first Iíve got to find your universe."
The designer backtracked
some more, saying there were ways to get the square footage cost down much
lower than even $100. But it was clear his heart was not in it. He was a
designer to the stars and he didnít relish scrimping and saving.
We talked a while longer,
with much less enthusiasm. I asked him to send me a proposal for his
services, which he did the next week. His fees were reasonable, but I had
already decided his style was out of my league.
There was no question he
would have designed a spectacular and, most likely, very effective store.
But Iím simply not ready for his mode. When I met with another designer
the following week, we also clicked on ideas and overall look of the
But there was one major
difference. When it came to costs, he spoke my language. When he explained
how he could use an alternative material at one-fifth the expense and
achieve the exact same look as the real thing, I hired him on the spot.