My friends Mike Butler and Lauren Anderson were over yesterday afternoon, and in the course of the conversation Lauren mentioned that she had always wanted do run a used bookstore. She knows, of course, that there is little money in this, especially since she would refuse to stock the kind of trash fiction that is the primary sustenance of these stores. I mentioned to her that I have long had a similarly inefficient business model in mind, one where I would only sell things that interest me particularly.
As I was saying this, it occurred to me that what Lauren and I really want to do is to reverse the standard business model by taking literally the idea of going into business for ourselves. Most businesses, of course, are not in business for themselves. They are in business for their customers, at least to the extent that they need to provide what their customers want in order to make any money. They are not in business for themselves. They are in business for other people in order to make money for themselves. If they could afford really to be in business for themselves, they would likely have very different businesses than they do.
By way of example, here is what my business model would be:
I would sell books and films and music, whether new or used, and I would loan these things also, maybe for a minimal fee. I would sell coffee and tea and preserves and cheese. I would sell beer and wine and scotch and pipe tobacco. I would sell seeds. I would also have film screenings and canning bees and scotch tastings and book readings. Some nights I would also be a restaurant, but only now and again, when I felt like it, and the menu would only be what I wanted to cook that evening. My hours would be irregular in the extreme, but customers could always come by the house and ask for the store to be opened if they needed something in an emergency. There would be comfortable chairs and a bar, but there would be no televisions or wireless internet.
I would not be in the business of supplying either necessities or desires. I would not be in the business of enabling either amusement or labour. I would not be in a business where the customer was always or even often right. I would not be in the business of efficieny or profit. I would be in the business of sharing the things that I love. I would be in business for myself.