Home Of The Kitchen Sink!
I've been meaning to write this for over a week now. I just haven't had the time. Sound familiar? That's what everyone says.
But I'm staying late to write this now because I believe it is important for you and for all entrepreneurs and small business owners.
On January 2, 2006, I had lunch with my lovely wife, sister, and parents at the fine establishment pictured on the left. This is Stanlieo's Sub Villa in Huntsville, AL.
As you can see, the place isn't much to look at.
But here's the thing. Stanlieo's is BIG in heart, spirit, and commitment. So BIG that they caused me to think about them 10 days later. I even took noted while I was there.
Stanlieo's is a little Sub Shop Dive. They advertise on the radio. Sean Hannity endorses them - says it's his favorite place to eat when he comes to Huntsville.
That's how my Dad heard about the place. He wanted to check it out - so he brought the whole family.
This is the type of place where you could easily feel uncomfortable. It's not in the best part of town, it's not really all that nice inside. And if the employees gave you a little attitude, I could see how most people would feel like running.
But the truth was quite the opposite.
Turns out, Annette, who was working the register, had more pep, energy, zest, sparkle, interest, enthusiasm, and genuine concern than any cashier they could have possible found. She made us all smile. She made us laugh. She was a character. And she genuinely seemed to love what she was doing.
How is that possible? How can you love running the register and a sub shop?
I order their claim to fame - the Kitchen Sink. It's basically a large sandwich with 4 kinds of meat and 3 kinds of cheese. It was very nice. But that's not the point.
The point is that the experience turned out to be so over the top, that instead of feeling out of place, we felt like we were at home. We stayed for an extended period, order a little more food, laughed at and with Annette, and had a lovely lunch to finish off my visit. It turned out to be perfect. I never would have guessed.
So I asked my father, and Inner Circle member, who is himself an entrepreneur, "Why?" Why does Annette do this? How does she pull it off? How does Stanlieo create this environment and make it stick? (They've been around for 35 years).
Dad answered, "1. They have to have it in them already, 2. You have to pay them well, 3. You have to recognize them for their effort."
I think he's right. And he should know. He's had a long career of successfully motivating and moving employees to proper action.
I'm not going to focus on those three ideas very much. I think they're clear enough. But if you have employees, have you considered that?
Also, I think the "Home of the Kitchen Sink" is great. It's their Gravitational Positioning Statement. It's what makes them unique. It's what allows a passer-by to form a preference in their mind. "Yes...I would like a kitchen sink sandwich!"
Business must be going well for old Stanlieo. The reason I know is because they have a drive-thru which is actually a phone pick up window. I asked about it. Turns out, you can't drive up and order. You must phone first, them driver through and pick up. That tells me they are doing business on their terms.
What little quirks about your business drive you nuts? Can you change them? Can you make your business work in your favor?
The interesting thing is, because of the uniqueness, the quality of food, and the quality of service, Stanlieo can pull this stunt off - make his customers jump through the hoops he wants them to - and come off looking like a champ - not a jerk. He has earned that right. You can't get a duplicate experience anywhere in Huntsville. So if you want Stanlieos, you'll have to call first. Perfect example of someone who is in control of their business.
Finally, his use of celebrity endorsement. Clearly it worked - and on my dad - whose the biggest skeptic. Celebrity endorsements can be had for less than you may expect, and they usually pay off in the long run.
I haven't seen Stanlieo's books, but I would wager that they are pulling down a nice profit.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you this story about a unique business. Perhaps there are some elements of this story you can apply to your business.