Tips for entrepreneurs: Add a chair... or remove one

Making a small change in business has the potential to create a drastic outcome.

Chairs (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
I’m a big fan of Paco Underhill and his best-selling book Why We Buy; the science of shopping. One of the simple lessons he shares there, and which has proven itself time after time, is the simple science of “adding a chair.”
I’m allergic (figuratively, not really) to the fruits and vegetables isle of the supermarket. While I enjoy grocery shopping and spending time with the family, spending 15 minutes between tomatoes, carrots and celery has me eagerly and anxiously waiting to move along and start getting to the parts of the store where I can actually, you know, buy stuff.
Now, imagine that near the fruits and veggie section there would be someplace to sit. Imagine that, as Paco puts it aptly in the book, “When people go shopping in two or threes, with spouses or friends along for the trip, seating is what keeps the non-shopping party comfortable and contented and cared for and off of the shoppers back.”
Now, they may find a way to purposefully make the seating such that it would be a bit uncomfortable after five to 10 minutes, much like fast-food restaurants do. They’d do this because instead of people coming and going, one lonely person might start using it for a few hours each day, not exactly what the store would appreciate.
But then again, in a jewelry shop, or at a trade show, wouldn’t having someplace for people to sit and rest their feet while they look at the merchandise attractively displayed around the seating be a good thing? Giving people a place to put down their tchotchke-filled bags, or store them in a secure locker while they walk the floor and shop, for that matter, might be something that would attract people to come, stay longer, share their information and visit again?
When you think about the wisdom behind seating, where it is and why it is placed in the surroundings it is, you start to become aware that it’s not just random. It’s planned. Things take on a new meaning about why that type of chair exists at that place and why it helps (or on occasion hurts!) profitability.
The reason many malls have a waterfall near the seating is not just because it’s inviting to see the waterfall; it’s also because the husbands can use their cellphones to make calls in the privacy of the water sounds. Waterfalls act as “white noise,” blocking out conversations nearby. Knowing the environment means there’s no eavesdropping going on while the wives shop allows the husband the opportunity to conduct his business as well. It also keeps his mind on his phone call and not on the charges being racked up on his credit-card bill while he’s sitting and chatting.
In copywriting, something I do for clients, is to practice what I’ve billed as the “give a chair” method of keeping people reading along. It means simply always provide a smile, a nugget of extra value and hooks of joyful insight to keep the environment one in which it is a pleasure to be in.
I actually bought sturdy, fancy new chairs. My old chairs were not “dream chairs.” Will the new chairs encourage people to sit longer? Will it affect the number of referrals? Testimonials? I certainly hope so. I’m banking on it. Yep, I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how people react. And who knows? Maybe I’ll put back the old ones if people start sitting for too long in the new chairs.
Always test things and see what seemingly insignificant tweaks you could make, and see how they make a difference. There’s a reason Walt Disney has two trash cans between benches instead of one, and why they don’t sell gum at Disney. Because those two small tweaks lower maintenance and cleaning costs tremendously! People don’t throw gum on the floor and they don’t throw trash on the floor because the trash can is just a few steps away at any given time from any location you might be standing in.
Tweak something in your business, anything. Just test. You might uncover something so stunningly simple that you’ll be amazed it took you this long to do it. And let me know how it goes. I look forward to your insights and sharing them with others. Thank you.