Is offence the best defence? (Part 2)

Aren't they the sweetest?

[This continues from Part 1, here.]

After a few minutes’ ride on their brooms (they were turbo charged) The Soup Witches & the wizard arrived at their destination. There was no signboard on the  simple hut with its pretty garden front, but the wizard recognized it immediately. It was the original tea + cake hut in the kingdom. Many tea + cake huts were fashioned after this original place (he found inspiration for his own cakes here too) Almost everyone there recognized the Soup Witches. Warm hellos greeted them as they walked in.

After the Soup Witches introduced the wizard to Alma, the witch who owned the hut, they all sat down at a corner table together. An assistant brought over some cakes & a large pot of tea. The wizard was awed by the thought of sharing the table with the original tea + cake hut owner, but he wasted no time to ask the witch if she had been upset when her first copycat competitors showed up.

“Of course I was angry!” She replied. Then her face softened, “But what good would staying angry do me? It was more important to ask myself what was I going to do about it.  So I started looking more closely at my cakes & how I served them. I listened to my friends.” She smiled at the Soup Witches. “First thing I did was register my best cake designs & recipes. Then I made sure I let my friends & customers know that I did. Whenever they spot a copycat, some of them even went so far as to tell them to be careful because they’ve made a copycat of a registered design.” She sighed. “Sometimes I think my friends have too much fun at playing investigators.” She chuckled as she poured the wizard more tea.

Looking around him, the wizard saw many colorful goodies. What struck him more was how relaxed the customers were, chatting with each other & with Alma’s assistant about recipes & recommendations on how else to enjoy the lovely cakes. “Surely you’d have no problems with recipes & design,” he said. “You’ve got so many!”

Alma put her cup down. “Of course I do. What good would it do me if I hadn’t explored new designs, created more recipes & improved my cakes? If I just stayed with what I had, the copycats will one day catch up & may actually come up with something better.” She looked at the wizard, “I can’t have that, can I?”

“N-no, of course not,” he replied, after hesitating. “But I have so many people complaining to me about my designs & how my cakes don’t taste as good as they did before,” he continued. Alma nodded. “So what are you doing about that?” She asked him. “Pardon me?” The wizard sputtered, “What am I doing about what?” The old witch smiled & asked, a little differently this time-“What do you say to the people who come to you with comments?” The wizard put his fork down firmly next to his cake, “I tell them to take their comments home with them. I don’t have time for those things. My true customers like my cakes & will keep on buying from me.”

“Really?” Said the witch, “Then how will you know how well your cakes are doing compared to the copycats? How will your customers know that you care about their suggestions? Have you considered who they will talk to about their experience at your hut? You’ve just got rid of a great way to spread good news about your tea & cakes AND a great source of learning from the people who matter – those who buy your stuff. Aren’t they be the ones you’d want to continue to buy from you & recommend your goods to their friends?” She asked. He looked at her, unsmiling & silent.  She went on, “Now they’ll just tell the people they know that they didn’t have fun at your hut, & you don’t care about their advice when all they want to do is help you improve. That’s such a waste, isn’t it?” Alma asked, before taking a sip of her tea. The wizard’s face got redder & redder as she spoke.

The wizard dropped his cup to its saucer with a clang. “I’m leaving.” He got up & went out of the door, his robes whirling after him.

The witches looked at each other. “Oh dear,” said one of the Soup Witches. “That didn’t work well, did it?” Their old friend smiled. “Give the young lad some time to cool down. He’ll be all right.”

Will he?


4 thoughts on “Is offence the best defence? (Part 2)

  1. Faz:

    Rockin’ post, as usual. I’ve been waiting for Part 2 🙂

    I think the wizard will be all right if he changes his mindset. Right now, it seems he doesn’t believe that he can grow and improve his business through his own efforts. To the contrary, he seems to feel entitled to what he hasn’t put effort into. When those things aren’t not forthcoming, he thinks it’s because of circumstances beyond his control (how dare they not work themselves out, he seems to be thinking).

    The wizard should take a look at the great book, Self Renewal, by John W. Gardner. What’s written there about societies applies to businesses and individuals as well:

    “[W]hat matures is a system or framework within which continuous innovation, renewal and rebirth can occur …. Some things are being born, other things are flourishing, still other things are dying – but the system lives on.”

    The wizard will be all right if he chooses to take control of his system – determining, through his own thoughts and actions, how to guide his system’s evolution, i.e. what to initiate, what to nurture, and what to let fall away.

    This is the essence of what we all do, in all facets of life. Once the wizard sees this, he’ll realize there’s nothing excepting him out of the way of the world. Then he can get to work. 🙂

    What do you think?

    Great post, Faz, as always. Thank you.


    • “How dare they not work themselves out” is playing in his head in a loop, Susan. He sees himself as the victim & believes that everyone is conspiring to see him doom. He’s sulking somewhere now & surrounding himself with people he calls his ‘true friends’ but whom I call acolyte – they will not point out that he stands a big chance of having a more successful venture (& a sustainable business) by maximising all interactions with his customers now. They are telling him that the people who matter will stick with him no matter what, & he doesn’t need to take the advice that doesn’t sit well on him right now, especially senseless recommendations like thinking up new designs & improving on the freshness of his cakes.

      I am hoping against hope that he will be brave to listen to his own heart & not lose the venture that he has toiled hard to build.

      Happy to see you here Susan – you rock!


      p.s. I’ll tell him about the book 🙂

      • Yes, Faz, do tell the wizard about the book.

        Listening to the input of others and knowing when to act on it (or not) is a skill. Like all skills, we get better with practice.

        There are different schools of thought on listening to input. Two authors come to mind: 1) Hugh MacLeod (whose book, Ignore Everybody, says it all, by title alone); and 2) Eric Reis, founder of the Lean Startup movement (hugely input oriented).

        Both approaches have their place and applications. It’s important know about both and decide for ourselves when they apply in our own circumstances.

        As for the wizard, please also mention to him the famous grocery market in New York, which used to enjoy exclusivity on Broadway, but now has competition cropping up all the time. A certain long-standing customer (me) is getting a little tired of not being listened to, so she’s starting to try out the new stores in the hood, and liking them a lot, because they listen !!!!

        Great post, Faz, thanks.

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