If McDonalds is the international symbol of the USA, I guess 7-11 will soon be the world’s image of Japan. Sure 7-11 started in the States, but the Japanese franchise bought out the US parent company some years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now 7-11 is everywhere. I guess that business model works for Starbucks (I once went to a really big Starbucks that had a Starbucks in it.) but do we really need a convenience store on every block? Does the world really need that much burnt coffee and overpriced beer?
For those diehard readers of this blog you may remember last year I told you about the new 7-11 in my neighborhood. It was built within sight of the old 7-11, no more than a football field away. So, now, when the bulldozers started dozing a new piece of land last month (do bulldozers doze?), I joked that it would be a good place for a convenience store. After all there are only five within walking distance of my house. Imagine my thrill when the beams started going up. Sure enough it was convenience store shaped – a fairly big one with a parking lot the size of Ikea. Do they really expect that many people to need a place to park?
But yesterday our future became just a little brighter here in the neighborhood. the signs went up! That corner property wouldn’t be just any convenient store. No that store would be a 7-11! For those of you who don’t live in my neighborhood here’s a little perspective. You remember those two 7-11’s built a football field apart from each other? Well this one is actually in between them! You can actually play touch football on my street and get a refreshment at every first down. So tomorrow I’m rounding up a touch football team. Slurpees across the board (For those concerned with cultural accuracy – there are no slurpees in Japanese 7-11s).
I live is a large complex on the edge of Nagoya. It was built in the early days of the bubble when buildings were built fast and cheap, but the apartments cost more than a decade’s salary for most Japanese families at the time. Now buildings like mine are considered old, out of favor, and cheap to buy into. Well, they’re cheap when they come on the market, but they aren’t as easy to find as you might expect. In Japan people buy a condo or a house to live in for the rest of their lives. As our complex ages, so does the average age of our neighbors. Two young single guys bought in recently, but most of the people in our tower are over 60.
In a place like this we still do things the old fashioned way. And one of the old-fashioned things we do here is: every three months we get up early on a Sunday morning and go out and clean the grounds. Nobody wants to do it. We do it because the Homeowners Association says we have to. some people… like those two young guys… do skip out, but that’s not seen as neighborly. In these old-fashioned complexes neighborly is a word that still has some value. So every three months we’re out there with our work gloves and half-smiles cleaning the garden too.
Did I mention nobody really wants to do it? So the truth is we really don’t do crap out there. We pick up a few cigarette butts and litter next to the building. Some of the more industrious neighbors pull weeds and sweep away the dirt–usually for about ten minutes, until they get tired. Mostly people just talk about each other and the neighbors who aren’t there, or the weather, or the cats in heat wailing in the middle of the night. Because that’s about all we have to talk about. But at least we’re neighborly. And maybe the whole “cats in heat” topic isn’t particularly earth shattering, but I know if that big quake ever happens, or if some burglars case the joint… their are some neighbors around here who’ve got my back. I guess that’s neighborly. And it’s worth a couple hours on a Sunday morning.
Decisions made by business are not random whims. They are solutions designed to bring about tangible results. Business decisions are considered long and hard, motivated by passion and centered on success.
Let’s look at a clear example of one such decision. This is a picture of the business hours sign at a Yamada Electronics store in North Nagoya. As you can clearly see, the store opens weekdays at 10:30, but in a clever and unexpected business manoeuvre, the store opens on weekends at 10:15. As a result this business gets a 15 minute jump on their competition. I can only imagine how much revenue this agile business move has translated into. If I could think like this, no telling where I’d be now. Maybe I’d even own my own island somewhere. Oh the sharp minds of industry…