Being authentic isn’t easy lets just get that out in the open right away.
Do you know how hard it is for individuals let alone entire businesses to just do what THEY want to do, create what THEY want to create, be who THEY want to be?
Well, if you don’t know how hard it is, let me tell you it a’int easy and I am still working at it one day at a time.
We are living in a time not unlike many others where it is important to “fit in”. The only difference is now in 2019-2020 we are consistently bombarded with information and suggestions of the person (or business) we should be. Heck I even heard a podcast from CBC interviewing Chris Buck one of the two Creators of the Disney smash hit FROZEN and they were reporting on whether or not the movies creators should establish one of the characters as a lesbian due to a public out cry for more LBGTQ+ representation in Disneys films.
Disney was feeling some pressure here but what did they do? Nothing. They didn’t conform to what a large segment of the population was asking for. While LBGQT+ is a topic that deserves a ton of space and respect I fully support how Buck and his colleagues reacted. And I feel that so many of us as individuals, but also as businesses, should take notice of moments such as these.
Just because millions of people (or 5, or 12, or 1) want you to do something that isn’t inline with your vision for yourself or your business I support you in not doing it.
In the hospitality industry for years we’ve been told that “the customer is always right”. However with industry leaders such a Danny Meyer stepping up and saying those days are done has left some room for restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars, you name it, to really do what they want without having to necessarily conform to what the public is calling for.
Now here is the tricky part. You’ve got to pay the bills.
If you own a pizza joint and you love making square pizzas, and you’ve always wanted to make square pizzas. Heck you have square pizza dreams, and you’ve set up your shop as the only square pizza shop in your town. But there is a catch, in this scenario no one is coming through your door. The town isn’t ready for square pizza quite yet. So with every ounce of disdain you conform to the pressure and you start slinging round pizzas and all of a sudden business is improving.
But, for how long?
Here’s where it gets even trickier.
The thing with authenticity is it may take a little longer but that the business that hang on a little longer, remain authentic and resist the urge to meet societies demands are the ones that add something to the culture and create progress where there otherwise might not be any.
Fife Bakery & Moving Coffee here in Vancouver for me is a great example. They are a small spot that offers arguably some of the cities best bread and coffee. Their coffee offering is pretty phenomenal but does have a hitch, they don’t ever offer cream and sugar. Just last week I saw with my own two eyes a customer order a regular drip coffee and then ask for cream and sugar. Guess what happened? Nothing. The shop owner mentioned that they don’t offer cream and sugar. Then the customer left.
While I fundamentally understand that cream and sugar aren’t nearly as important as LBGQT+ issues the principles are the exact same. By sticking to your vision, by creating and offering what you yourself want there is power, beauty, and truly a ton of respect in that.
There is a fine line that I do respect and maybe that fine line means offering some square pizzas along with the round pizzas for example if it means the difference between your business staying open or having to close up shop. However I do feel very strongly that in the current environment the more authentic you can be the more likely you are to get a following and support like never before.
People, myself included, aren’t interested in cookie cutter anymore, There is a demand for realness and if a business within the hospitality space is ready and willing to be real I find it very hard to believe that they won’t be a success.
***Side note if you’re reading this and you’re thinking “Brad, I am being as real and authentic as I can be but still nothing!” I’d suggest one of two things":
You can probably get even more authentic in your offering and how you do business.