What is a business?
Today, I’m going to bake a delicious, sticky ginger cake for my family and friends to eat on Bonfire night.
That’s a promise. I’ll keep it.
Whether or not I’ve lived up to that promise, only time and the reaction of my friends will tell. I’m not asking for payment, so it doesn’t matter that much to me (as long as nobody gets ill), and I don’t have to repeat the process of baking my cake and feeding it to my friends unless I want to.
For a business, however, it’s different.
All the business owners I know work very hard to keep the promises they make.
Take the owners of Maya’s Craft Bakery near me.
They start at 3 am, to make sure they have a counter full of delicious baked goods by 9 am, so that customers can exchange their cash for the chance to relive a holiday moment; treat themselves or a friend; reward their colleagues, or show their boss how discerning they are.
They clearly keep their promises, because pretty much everything’s sold out by 5pm.
Then they start again the next morning.
There are a lot of ways to think about a business – most of which seem to revolve around making money, but it seems to me that the small businesses I know have it right – a business is a system for repeatedly making a promise to your customers and keeping it.
You can tell it’s a system, because the ones that succeed, like the people at Maya’s Craft Bakery, find they’ve built a feedback loop that makes growth happen organically.
It seems simple, but keeping a business system like this going well isn’t easy.