Editor’s note: Eric Jackson, a technology consultant and developer, is a regular contributor to Local Tech Wire. His column appears on Tuesdays.The design thinking series, which I am putting off for the second week in a row, focuses on ways to undertake new things. This week, however, I want to focus on old, even ancient things.
I finally had the opportunity to wander around old Jerusalem yesterday. It was fascinating to see the mix of ancient and modern, to imagine what it might have been like a couple thousand years ago.
As I was dodging my way through the narrows of one of the street bazaars, it struck me that the scenes I was seeing were probably not all that different from what they had been in ancient times. I realized too that this wasn’t something unique to the place — even the modern mall in the U.S. is not all that different from a public market of the ancient world. Sure, we’ve tweaked the social rules a bit, and added a layer of technology to it all, but underneath we are pretty much the same as we have always been.
As I sat today at my regular cafÃ© down the street from my hotel, I tried to gather my thoughts to write this column. I wanted to juxtapose my observations above with our tendency, especially in hi-tech arenas, to focus on the new, on progress and change, and to forget that most principles of good business are actually quite old, a tendency that has gotten us in trouble many times, not just in the heady days of the late nineties.
I was having some difficulty figuring out where to go with this, when Nir Chanono, the proprietor of the Fritz CafÃ© where I was sitting, came by to ask how I was doing. On hearing my dilemma, he immediately sat down to help. He suggested that I might find something to write about his cafÃ©, a brand new place, open only two weeks, in a renovated Bauhaus structure just a few blocks from the shore of the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv.
Nir began to tell me of his vision for the place. Born in Jerusalem, he lived for some years in New York, and hopes to create something new here, a thoroughly Israeli place with a touch of New York, a place both beautiful and homey, with a focus on service.
The cafÃ© is indeed nice. The spaces are well designed, successfully combining a modern, somewhat sparse look with a sense of comfort and warmth. Everyone is friendly, and the food is very good. And it manages to look classy while offering prices that are quite low.
But those are just the basics, really. I suspect the cafÃ© will be successful, not because of its dÃ©cor, or the quality or price of the food. It will be successful because of the focus on the tiniest details that make the customer feel at home.
The second time I stepped into the Fritz CafÃ©, Nir approached me to welcome me back, to introduce himself, and to express his hope that they would be seeing a lot of me. He has gone out of his way to greet me, by name, every time I walk in. In our conversations, he has talked about the small touches he tries to maintain. The ash trays must be on the other side of the condiments as you approach the table from the door, available but not dominant in the view. The waitresses are trained to say “Of course, I’ll be happy to” instead of “No problem” (or the equivalents in Hebrew). Nothing is too small to be thought about, for it is the small things that add up to create the overall experience.
When he began to talk about his business, Nir emphasized that he was out to create something new.
I beg to differ. In fact, the most important part of what he is doing is not new at all. It is as ancient as the places I had seen in Jerusalem the day before. It is the willingness to look at and think about even the tiniest detail of what is needed to make a customer feel welcome and special. It is a formula that worked in ancient days and one that works today, in any business.
Ideas? Suggestions? Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Jackson is the founder of DeepWeave. He has built his career pioneering software solutions to particularly large and difficult problems. In 2000, Eric co-founded Ibrix, Inc. He is the inventor of the Ibrix distributed file system, a parallel file storage system able to scale in size and performance to millions of terabytes.