Article Date: 4/1/2009

Three Lessons for Tougher Times
lessons learned

Three Lessons for Tougher Times

What can a stranger, a restaurateur and a parrot teach us?

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

"Would you be willing to donate money to help a poor widow?" a stranger asked me. "She has three children and no income. And she is about to be thrown out of her apartment unless she can raise $475 to pay for back rent."

"That's mighty kind of you," I replied. "You must be a mighty good friend to be raising money for her like this."

"Not really," he said. "I'm her landlord."

Like the landlord, O.D.s also are searching for ways to survive their financial problems during this economic recession.

The restaurateur

But there's an old story you might ought to remember during your search for how to best adapt:

Enrico Ricci was an immigrant who had to leave school in the fourth grade to go to work. He began selling hot dogs on a street corner.

He treated his customers fairly, was friendly to them, used top-quality ingredients, and made certain his hot dogs were well prepared. Thus, Enrico built a large following and by the time he was 25 years old, he had saved enough money to open a restaurant .

He continued to make certain that he gave his customers good food and good service, and soon he had one of the most successful restaurants in town.

As Enrico and the restaurant prospered, he was able to give his only son, Henry, the educational opportunity he had never had. He sent Henry to Harvard to obtain an MBA degree, so that he could advise Enrico on how best manage his business.

Henry's advice

"If we buy new kitchen equipment, hire an additional waitress, redecorate, and add new items to the menu, I think we can give even better service and build an even bigger clientele," said Enrico to his son as they made future plans following Henry's graduation.

"Don't be stupid, Pop!" remonstrated Henry. "Don't you see that we're in a recession period? Instead of expanding, now is the time to start cutting expenses so that we can still show a profit."

Bowing to his son's superior education, Enrico discharged one waitress, cut out free seconds on coffee, found a cheaper cook, and began buying lower quality food. Sure enough, their expenses came way down.

But business gradually decreased. As it did, they made further steps to cut expenses in order to economize. And business declined a little more.

Further economizing and further reductions in business continued, until finally the restaurant had so few customers Enrico had to go out of business.

"I sure am lucky to have such a smart son," said Enrico. "If it wasn't for him warning me, I would have spent money on improving food and services instead of economizing, and would have lost even more money than I did."

The parrot

If you're not careful, you can overlook the best solutions to such problems. Like the man who bought a parrot. The third day, the parrot became listless and quit talking.

The man went back to the pet store, where the proprietor sold him a toy he thought might stimulate the parrot's attention. Still no improvement. Over the next few days, he bought all kinds of entertainment devices to try to revive the parrot's interest, but still the parrot kept getting more listless.

Finally on the seventh day, the parrot lay feebly on his back, and weakly asked, "Don't they sell birdseed at that store?" OM


JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@AOL.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2009