It was interesting to see that the majority of businesses in Crete, both in the main city of Heraklion and the outlaying communities, are all being operated by families. Aside for the occasional super market, the stores,restaurants and hotels appeared to be owned by individuals with their extended family members providing the extra hands to keep the doors open. Other people may also be working there but often there was a “family friend” connection. And if you asked, you learned about the wonderful Greek family culture.
Compared to the USA Business Model
That’s a real difference from how business is done here in the USA. The small business owner just can’t compete on any significant scale with the box stores and the chain restaurants here in the United States. Just look around you. Every mall in every community seems to have basically the same stores often built right next door to each other. A Best Buy is next door to PetCo which is next door to Barnes & Noble. It doesn’t change much whether you are traveling in Seattle, passing through Phoenix or stopping in Washington D.C.
And restaurant chains are the same way . . . you can find an Olive Garden, Claim Jumper, TGIF anywhere. Starbucks and McDonald’s have become incredibility successful offering the same products with the same brand of service anyplace you go. Same with hotels who offer creative rewards programs to encourage you to stay in their same hotels (even the floor plan is the same) no matter which city you are traveling too.
But do we really feel loyal to those big box stores, restaurants and hotel chains? Only to the extent that we always know what to expect – what we’re buying – no surprises. It’s a given. That’s very different in Greece. When a business is owned by an individual there is a very different feel as soon as you, as the customer, walk in the door. It looks different, it’s unique and the people helping you seem to be more interested.
What makes the difference? When we as customers get the chance to meet the business owner and chat to them a bit about their business there is real observable shift in energy. Now you’re helping an individual, a family, a business stay afloat by doing business with them. You know where your money is going – not just off to corporate headquarters.
The result? People do business with people they know and like. The Greeks patronize their favorite cafe houses, taverna and shopping spots stores because they know who owns them and they want to support those businesses. And if you are invited for a coffee and conversation in the back of the store that’s even better. That’s where I’ll spend my money each and every time.