Picture that happening to you. Suddenly, a small group of experienced barbershoppers want to start a new chapter in a neighboring city. SINKING GUT FEELING #1. "What will we ever do?" This is a totally factual story (as best as my memory and our records might provide). You might be surprised by the result.
The year 2006 -- rural Pennsylvania town, 15,000 population. This 30+ year old chapter has 31 members, up 5 from 2005 and apparently on the grow.
The next year - 2007 - Same town - several members have aspirations that are different from others in the chapter. A new chapter begins to form 14 miles away, drawing away some of the older chapter's members.
Imminent disaster, right? How could an area with such a tiny population ever support two chapters, and especially since one was just getting itself on an upward swing. "The Society has to do something about this!" was the cry.
In late 2007, both chapters asked me to meet with their leadership, which I did on the same day but in separate locations. (I had only had a few email and voice conversations with each but I knew these HAD to be separate meetings.)
Original chapter - Presented an extensive list of the ways in which a new chapter was going to literally put them out of business, recruiting from the same area, stealing their members, stealing their customers, and probably 12 other sentences that started "They are going to do ___ to us."
New chapter - Presented an extensive lists of the ways in which the old chapter was going to ruin their chances of formation, was going to stop them from actually getting started, was going to ruin their chances to have a barbershop experience the way they wanted it, and probably 12 other sentences that started "The are going to do ___ to us."
Wow, it seemed as though they both had some really salient points. Oh, man, what could I advise them to do?
Well, in each case it was obvious what course of action was necessary. I told them: "Ignore them and worry about yourself." Of course, that doubled the length of each meeting, because "you just can't ignore them!" To which we discussed the why's and why not's, and agreed ... Yes, you can.
Fast forward - Today - May 21, 2009
I just signed the charter for the new chapter:
- the new chapter has 19 members, 10 brand new to the Society
- The old chapter has 30 members on the books today, 9 of which joined the Society in the past year
- Two years ago, there were 31 members in this area, several not happy with the direction of the chapter
- Today, there are 49 men singing in two area chapters. All of the additional members joined the Society in the past year
- Personal conversations and emails tell me all members in both chapters are enjoying what they are doing!
If I had followed through with the request of the old chapter and not authorized the license for the new chapter, what do you think would be the profile of barbershop activity in that area today? Based on the clash of philosophies I saw, I guarantee we wouldn't be looking at 49 members in the original chapter. The members who wanted something different would have either left the Society altogether or hung around and let their dissatisfaction seep into the chapter culture.
The primary lesson of the day? Pay attention to the food in your own restaurant. Who cares if they are serving the same menu across the street? Just make sure your offerings are the best they can be and you will thrive.