3 Lessons In Micro Markets & Marathons

Aug. 11, 2016

In long distance running, the wisest athletes start out the first half of their run conservatively so that they have enough energy to make it the full distance. Those who begin their race faster than they prepared for more often than not end up burning out before the end of the run. The same can be said for the business world...especially those operators investing in and installing micro markets.

While recently out for a run I recalled several conversations I had with micro market operators who had learned a lot about micro markets by sheer trial and error. They fell, made mistakes, learned on the job and continued installing micro markets—or in some cases, scaled back the number of markets they were placing. It got me thinking that the lessons they learned from micro markets aren’t all that different from marathon training.

Growing too quickly

Every athlete needs to build a base of training before jumping into race-day. The majority of marathon runners take months to increase mileage, find the best nutrition and clothing to prepare for race day. They take their time researching, learning and preparing for the final event. This is a lesson some micro market operators learned the hard way. One operator in North Carolina had been excited to grow in the micro market segment. His customers were loving the concept and he was placing markets left and right—until he discovered that he was spending a fortune on them. He realized it wasn’t sustainable, so he slowed down placement, began finding cheaper solutions and became pickier about where he placed markets. The takeaway: Growing too quickly can be painful and cause setback. Make sure you’re prepared to handle all that comes with investing in a new segment.

Mistakes are part of the process

There are plenty of mistakes you can make in the marathon, including not hydrating properly or wearing new shoes the day of the race. But from every experience you’ll learn a lesson on what to do differently the next time. Everyone is a newbie at something the first few times they get into it, but as time and experience go on you learn from your mistakes. Take, for instance, the act of installing a micro market. Many operators have to learn how and where to set up shelving, the process of installing a kiosk, and the confusion of mounting security cameras and systems. Most operators new to the micro market segment will encounter hiccups with the first few installs, but with time and experience the mistakes will become less and the process will become smoother. The takeaway: Learning is all part of the process and mistakes are inevitable.

You can’t plan for the unexpected

When lightning delays the race or a bloody nose stalls progress, it can be surprising to athletes and have the ability to throw them off course. Problems like this can make them second guess themselves and the work they’ve put into the event. In reality, there are just some things you can’t prepare for. For example, one California operator described not having micro market stored value cards on the day of the grand opening. There was nothing the operator could do to get the cards to the location that day, and the grand opening was already set. Rather than stress about the unexpected, she apologized to her customers and held the grand opening anyway. She came back the next day with donuts and the stored value cards and all was well. The takeaway: Rather than stress about something that can’t be controlled, stay focused on the goal and remember that it’s an exciting day of accomplishment.