This past weekend, I went with a colleague of mine to visit another Ontario inn. This inn however, instead of bustling with employees anticipating the arrival of new guests, was closed for business, and for sale. Over the past several years I have seen a number of once popular inns and small hotels either change hands, in many cases under duress, or close.
Walking through a business that has exercised the option of closing it's doors rather than face the prospect of continuing to operate is a sobering experience. In this case, the beds were all still made, a table was set, but the life energy of the place was gone. In most cases, the death of a business is a slow, gradual process that once it actually happens, seems inevitable, but while it is happening, it rarely occurs to the operators until the final hours that something is actually wrong.
Complacency is the first sign. Light bulbs not replaced, out dated decor, poor housekeeping, maintenance projects left undone. And then usually there is some kind of trigger - a family feud, a bank pulls their funding, a government induced poison pill, an employee revolt or deep discounting can spell the beginning of the end for a small business. And of course, customers who have been loyal and supportive for years, seem to disappear overnight.
As Canada's economy continues to show signs of weakness, there will undoubtedly be more casualties in many sectors. We will continue to wake up to the sad news that this hotel, or that store that had become an important part of our lives, is no more. Employees, employers, and customers who care, must watch for the signs and stay alert. The demise of a business can be averted, but the same selfless love and dedication that originally turned an idea into a thriving business, is needed ten-fold to save a business from itself and the changing world around it.